Frist’s Twist

Written by Drew on November 1st, 2006

Last week, Senate majority leader Bill Frist expressed his support for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, a controversial process that ends in the destruction of human embryos. Frist, who plans to run for president in 2008, is at odds with President Bush, who vetoed legislation earlier this year that would have supported experimentation on embryos produced through in vitro fertilization at taxpayers’ expense. Speaking of these embryos, the president said, “These boys and girls are not spare parts.”

Frist, who is also a medical doctor, maintains that his support of embryonic stem cell research does not in anyway compromise his pro-life position on abortion. After stating that he believes life begins at conception, he drew a parallel between what is happening to frozen embryos and the decisions that have to be made by doctors who perform heart-and-lung transplants:

“If the destiny of an embryo is to be discarded, or buried the next day, or thrown away, whatever words are used,” he said, “in the same way that I take a heart out of one individual to give another potential life, doesn’t it make sense to take three or four cells out of that embryo that would buried the next day, in order to give potential healing?”

The analogy does not alleviate Frist’s inconsistencies. First of all, organ-transplant doctors do not take healthy organs out of patients who have the potential for life. I’m an organ donor, and, as I understand it, my organs will not be used until every effort has been exhausted to save my life. Frozen embryos have the potential to live, making stem cell research a very different scenario than organ-transplant surgery.

Moreover, Frist’s role is that of a legislator in this case, not a physician. As a legislator, he has the power to write bills that could prohibit the discarding of these tiny human lives. (I’m using his definition of life.) Instead, Frist is using his influence to take us one more step away from rescuing these lives by stumping for laws that would allow experimentation upon them.

Another thing: Frist begs the question when he states that frozen embryos provide “potential healing” to patients suffering from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other incurable diseases. As of yet, there is no evidence that embryonic stem cell research holds the key to these ailments. Meanwhile, adult stem cell research, which does not involve the destruction of human life in anyway, has yielded numerous successes.

Hopefully, the Republican party will see through the rhetoric when it comes time to choose a candidate who will run for president in 2008. The next president will face many challenges. One of them will be the ethics of funding research that destroys human life. We need a man who will remain consistent, even if it means losing political capital. Bill Frist is not that man.


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