Local family’s loss makes case for stem cells
June 9, 2007
This week’s congressional debate about stem cell research is intensely personal for at least one local family, and probably many more.
Heber residents Linda and Leo Witt believe that additional funding for embryonic stem cell research could have saved their 9-year-old twins. The boys died last month from Batten Disease, a degenerative neurological disorder that ultimately led to respiratory failure.
But the grieving parents are hoping the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act currently moving through Congress will help other families avoid the same fate. The legislation would looosen the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research
Stem cell research, though, treads on controversial territory. The harvesting of stem cells from human embryos, in particular, has touched off a series of religious and philosophical debates and has polarized politicians within both parties. In general, conservatives have aligned with the Christian Right who claim allowing the gathering of embryonic stem cells is a ‘right to life’ issue.
But in recent years many conservatives have come to believe that embryonic stem cell research and therapy could ultimately save lives like the Witt twins. Utah Senators Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch for instance, voted for the current stem cell legislation. So did Utah Rep. Scott Matheson. But Utah Representative Chris Cannon and Rob Bishop are opposed.
Bishop and Cannon these days are in the minority in both the House and Senate, nevertheless they have a powerful ally in President George W. Bush who has indicated he will veto the bill.
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Early on in the stem cell debate, Hatch stood courageously on his own high ground by supporting stem cell research. Had the president and other politicians demonstrated the same foresight, Logan and Tyrel Witt might be alive today, and others with a broad range of genetic disorders could be experiencing healthier lives.
This week’s vote in Washington, D.C., indicates that politicians have heard their constituents’ pleas to fund additional stem cell research. Now is the time for citizens to make sure the president gets the message too.
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