08/15/05 — Bill Frist: Doctor and senator has been steadfast

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Bill Frist: Doctor and senator has been steadfast

Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist has been lambasted by some critics on both sides of the aisle and by segments of the national media for “flip-flopping” on the issue of embryonic stem cell research.

Frist, a widely respected heart surgeon, had supported President Bush’s position of limiting federally funded stem cell research to the 78 stem cell lines that were in existence at the time — four years ago.

Since then, there has a been a decline in numbers and quality of the cell lines available for research. The number is down to 22 with some of doubtful quality.

A proposal in the House of Representatives would expand federal funding for research beyond what the president — and Frist — had favored. Under the proposal, only cells from “surplus” embryos would be used in the research. These are frozen embryos created outside the body and frozen for couples who no longer need them and have been made available for research.

These embryos, we are told, simply would remain frozen, unused and ultimately destroyed.

The House legislation would not provide funding for research on cells taken from embryos created for harvesting and research.

In short, Dr. Frist says now that he favors using the existing embryos — which are destined for deterioration and destruction — for stem cell research.

That is not a departure from his earlier position that he opposed federal funding for “creation of embryos for research” but that he favored stem cell research from existing embryos that “would otherwise be discarded.”

Stem cell research is seen by many in the medical science field as offering possibilities of far-reaching advances in the treatment of some illnesses and medical problems regarded today as incurable.

Bill Frist speaks as a dedicated leader of the Senate, and from what he sincerely feels is a response to the highest calling of the medical profession. There can be sincere differences of opinion on the issue of stem cell research. But any fair examination of Sen. Frist’s position today and four years ago clearly will show he has been honest and not inconsistent in his views.

Published in Editorials on August 15, 2005 11:11 AM