Massachusetts support of stem cell research

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The Massachusetts Medical Society, the statewide association of physicians with some 18,000 members, has offered testimony before the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies in support of Senate Bill 25, An Act Promoting Stem Cell Research.

Eric Ruby, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician from Taunton who has been practicing in Massachusetts for 28 years, testified on behalf of the Medical Society. Written testimony was also provided to the Joint Committee.

Dr. Ruby, who was also a catalyst for the establishment of the state’s Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund now coordinated by the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Public Health, offered the perspectives of not only a physician but also a parent: his 29-year old son is a T-6 paraplegic. Dr. Ruby believes stem cell research may hold hope for treatment and possible cures for such disabilities.

The Society’s testimony echoed its policy on stem cell research, adopted more than two years ago by its House of Delegates. At that time, the Society’s delegates approved a resolution that stated “that the Massachusetts Medical Society supports in principle the concept that, to further the well-being of humanity, it is ethically imperative that federal funding for ethically conducted medical research involving human embryonic pluripotent stem cells, including cloning for therapeutic purposes, should not in any manner be limited or restricted for any reason other than ordinary budgetary constraints.”

In its testimony before the Joint Committee, the Society said it “wishes to be recorded in support of Senate Bill 25, which would specifically establish the fostering of research and therapies involving the derivation and use of human and embryonic stem cells, human embryonic germ cells, placental and umbilical cord cells, and any human adult stem cells, including somatic cell nuclear transplantation” as the policy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The Society noted that this important work would be conducted under the ethical review of academically affiliated institutional review boards or ethics committees and with the informed consent of the donors and that the legislation also bans the for-profit sale of human embryos and human reproductive cloning.

The Massachusetts Medical Society said that support of stem cell research was in accord with its charter as an organization more than 200 years ago. Written in 1781, the Society’s charter included among its purposes to “do all things as may be necessary and appropriate to advance medical knowledge.” In those two centuries plus, the Society continued in its testimony, the cause of medical science has been advanced enormously, giving rise to expanded life spans and improved health status as a result of the adoption of advances in scientific knowledge -- advances that were sometimes seen in their day as controversial.

Stating that the “case for embryonic stem cell research is a strong one,” and that “we are not at the end of our quest to mitigate and eliminate the ravages of disease and disability,” the Society said that “embryonic stem cell research is a new frontier of medical science that needs to be explored and conquered.”

“MMS applauds efforts to make Massachusetts a leader in such research,” said the Society.

“Embryonic stem cell research can have a tremendous impact on the future of patient care. Such research may result in cures for many diseases that carry considerable mortality and morbidity risks, including cures that are not limited by problems of transplant rejection. It is possible to conduct such research in an ethical manner, and this legislation provides for appropriate safeguards.”

http://www.massmed.org/

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