Christian scientists and conservative groups today were "severely disappointed" after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced this morning his support for a bill providing increased funding for embryonic stem-cell research. In a speech before the Senate, the majority leader said, "I believe today—as I believed and stated in 2001, prior to the establishment of current policy—that the federal government should fund embryonic stem-cell research."

"We're very disappointed on this," said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior bioethics policy analyst for Focus on the Family, "primarily because his statement distorts the pro-life position."

Frist told the Senate. "I am pro-life. I believe human life begins at conception. … An embryo is nascent human life." However, Frist also said, "We should federally fund research only on embryonic stem cells derived from blastocysts [a 4-day-old human embryo] leftover from fertility therapy, which will not be implanted or adopted but instead are otherwise destined by the parents with absolute certainty to be discarded and destroyed."

"I don't know how to combine those two statements," said Bob Scheidt, chairman of the ethics commission for the Christian Medical and Dental Association. "We're shocked, because we as Christian physicians thought Frist was one of us.

"We feel this is terrible mistake," Scheidt said. "In our opinion, it is doing evil that good may come."

Empty promises

Frist, like other supporters of stem-cell research, says the cells have a unique potential to cure a host of currently incurable diseases, such as juvenile diabetes and Parkinson's disease. "Unlike other stem cells, embryonic stem cells are 'pluripotent,'" Frist said. "That means they have the capacity to become ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.