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Loosen stem cell research limits, diabetic urges panel

Associated Press
Published January 26, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - For 13-year-old Gilles Attipoe, the promise of stem cell research is simple, if the science isn't. It means a few less pinpricks.

As a diabetic, he has to prick his finger to check his blood sugar so often that he's figured out he'll have to do it more than 140,000 times by the time he's in his 60s.

Stem cell research, hailed by some as the potential key to any number of diseases, could one day make diabetes a thing of the past, Attipoe said Wednesday, urging legislators to approve a bill to promote the research and set aside state money for it.

Attipoe told the House Health Care Regulation Committee, "You have the power to open a door to a cure for diabetes."

But with objections that the most promising stem cells used in research are harvested from human embryos that are destroyed in the process, the idea faces opposition from churches, and a number of legislators who believe destroying an embryo amounts to killing a person.

Gov. Jeb Bush also takes that position, having called it "the encouraging of the creation of life to take life."

The bill (House Bill 233) considered Wednesday would allow the use in research of embryos that would otherwise be discarded by in vitro fertilization clinics.

It would provide for $15-million a year in grant money for the next decade to fund it. "The choice would be throw them in the garbage or use them in research to help save human beings," said Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Weston, the bill's sponsor.

But opponents argue that throwing them away is wrong too, and the promise of the research shouldn't outweigh the way the cells are obtained.

"These are human beings; that's kind of a biologically indisputable fact," said Michael Sheedy, the Florida Catholic Conference's health care policy representative. Sands asked the committee to delay a vote on his bill when it became obvious it didn't have the votes to go forward.

[Last modified January 26, 2006, 01:01:17]

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