Senate Bill 148 saves lives

Staff editorial published by The Rockdale Citizen
March 3, 2007

The controversial nature and confusion over stem cell research could sideline an important Senate bill that should be made law because of its potential to effect cures and save lives.

What is lost on the general public is the distinction between “good, nondestructive” stem cell research and the “bad, destructive” stem cell research.

The “good” involves the use of cells from adults or umbilical cord blood, and the “bad” is research that involves embryos, which necessitates their destruction.

Republican Sen. David Shafer of Duluth has introduced the bill, which is cosponsored by more than 30 senators, that would establish a 15-member Saving the Cure Commission by June 30, 2008, to work in partnership with institutions such as universities, nonprofit groups, private industries and, of course, hospitals.

The commission would direct development of the Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Bank, which would store stem cells donated by parents of newborns. A year later, by June 30, 2009, physicians and hospitals would be required to begin notifying mothers of their opportunity to donate postnatal tissue and fluid to the bank.

Dr. David C. Hess, chairman and professor of the Department of Neurology at Medical College of Georgia, stated in a letter in support of Shafer’s bill, “Post natal stem cells, specifically umbilical cord stem cells, are already being used in treatments for anemia, leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease and Krabbe’s disease.”

Hess also wrote, “Stem cell therapies from nondestructive stem cell research are in clinical trials for multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, myocardial infarction, stroke, lupus and spinal cord injury.”

Dr. James Carroll, professor and chief of Child Neurology at Medical College of Georgia, emphasizes the “great need for banking umbilical cord stem cells” in order that Georgians of all economic groups will have access to such treatments.

Part funding of the umbilical cord blood bank would come from donations Georgians would make on state income tax forms.

Opposition to language in the bill that expresses concerns about embryonic stem cell research should not cause its removal. Complete clarity should be embedded in the law that this support of furthering non- embryonic stem cell research is not and was not intended to open the door to research in which embryos are destroyed and used.

In Georgia now, babies’ umbilical cord, the placenta and amniotic fluid are treated as waste. With passage of this Senate Bill 148, these items would be obtained with the permission of parents and preserved for very important use by physicians and researchers. Lives would be saved, not destroyed.