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Archive for Saturday, March 25, 2006

House rejects ban on human-animal hybrids

March 25, 2006

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— A proposed ban on creating human-animal hybrids died Friday when the House cut the heart out of a bill and ended debate early on the issue.

The vote was 63-52 against the proposal from Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee, to make it a felony to create or attempt to create a hybrid embryo or "nonhuman life form" with human brain tissue. A first offense would be punished by up to five years and one month in prison and a fine of $1 million.

Concerns about such hybrids, or "chimeras," are part of a larger debate over human cloning and medical research with embryonic stem cells. Pilcher Cook offered her ban as a substitute for a bill creating a new legislative committee on biosciences.

Some House members questioned whether any such research is being conducted in Kansas, but Pilcher Cook said her review of medical literature suggests it's happening elsewhere. A chimera, mentioned in her amendment, is a mythical Greek creature with a lion's head, a goat's body and a snake's tail.

The House disposed of her proposal in less than half an hour. In an unusual move, members struck the bill's enactment clause, killing the bill and Pilcher Cook's substitute language.

Critics said the issue needs more study so that legislators don't unintentionally hinder the state's efforts to nurture cutting-edge biosciences research and industry.

But Pilcher Cook said medical research is moving too quickly for legislators to delay, even if the debate conjures images of mythical creatures.

"It goes to the core of what it means to be human," she said. "There's a real danger in people not taking the issue seriously."

Pilcher Cook offered her proposed ban the same day the House voted 121-4 to approve a bill containing another one of her initiatives on cloning and stem cell issues.

The measure would set up new state funds to finance research with adult stem cells or blood from newborns' umbilical cords, then grant a tax break to Kansans who contribute to either fund.

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