Embryonic stem cell research, right or wrong?

By Molly Reuter - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - The ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research has been lifted. President Obama signed the order lifting the ban Monday morning. The President invoked what he called "medical miracles", but that's not enough to satisfy some critics.

This is, of course, an incredibly controversial issue and we talked to people on both sides. We start with an East Texas soldier who was wounded in the line of duty. He said that he would rather stay in his wheelchair than take stem cells from an embryo.

It's a lifestyle retired army staff sergeant Tommy Guinn of Overton has learned to get used to. He admits it's still hard getting up and down this ramp, but considering what he went through he's just happy to be alive.

"[I] broke my back at T-9 and T-10 vertebra and cracked my skull in two places," said Guinn.

In March of 2006, Guinn was helping in the earthquake relief effort in Pakistan when the accident happened. He was repairing an army helicopter when all of a sudden the propellers started, pushing him 16 feet off a ledge. It's people like Guinn President Obama hopes embryonic stem cells can help, but Guinn says he won't have it.

"Embryonic stem cell [research], I don't believe in," said Guinn. If they can do it from my stem cells without me having to go overseas then I would consider it, but embryonic stem cells, I would just assume be in a chair."

Doctor Steven Idell is the vice president for research at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Tyler. He says stem cells are master cells of the body that can basically go anywhere, which is especially helpful for people like Guinn.

"[It] turns out the cells of the spinal cord don't multiply," explained Dr. Idell. "So that if the injury occurs, there is usually a gap in the spinal cord, which needs to be filled with something. They can become the "grout" if you will to fill the hole in the spinal cord and actually give you a functioning spinal cord."

Idell said stem cells can also help those suffering from diabetes, Alzheimers and different forms of cancer. Sounds promising for some, but Guinn said he'd rather depend on his family and church than science.

"I don't believe, basically, in killing newborns, said Guinn. "I'd rather not. It's just my beliefs."

Doctor Steven Idell said he understands the morality issue surrounding embryonic stem cell research. It's the reason scientists have begun finding other ways to harvest stem cells, for example from fat cells.

Some East Texas pastors we spoke with are also torn on the stem cell issue. Some say they are for advances in stem cell research, just not science that uses embryos. Others believe it's time our God given talents are put to good use.

"We are the United States of America, and I think some of the greatest minds are here in the United States," Reverend Jerome Milton of Pleasant Hills Baptist Church. "We should not be hampered from doing anything, from helping our God given abilities to helm man kind."

"There seems to be other ways to do it that seem to be ignored now," Pastor Doug Clark of Grace Community Church. "Now, I realize it's new, but it sill ought be investigated before taking life for the sake of finding life in someone else's life."