Mr. Speaker, once again it is a pleasure to participate in this important debate today now that we have an amendment before the House stating that the House declines to give second reading to Bill C-56, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, since the principle of the bill does not recognize the value of non-embryonic stem cell research which has had great advancements in the last year.
The amendment gives me an opportunity to further expand on some of the comments I made earlier today in terms of my concern that the bill, as it is presently before the House, does not represent the broad bases of science that are available to us in Canada and around the world particularly relating to stem cell research. Those of us who have concerns about the bill would like to bring to the attention of hon. members that the legislation should be sent back to committee for a more balanced approach in terms of the best science we can get from embryonic and adult stem cell research.
All of us want to see cures for some of these debilitating diseases, diseases that can be terminal such as ALS and others. I would not want to be responsible for not allowing the science to go forward within some kind of regulatory framework that would allow for a cure, if indeed there was a cure, to be found through adult stem cell research. We do have an ethical dilemma surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells. We do not have the same kind of dilemma with adult stem cell research.
I must say I was struck by the comments of my hon. colleague from Hamilton, a former McMaster graduate who I went to school with. I was taken by his comments about the use of adult and embryonic stem cells and particularly, the fact that we would not want to see any stone left unturned in this whole debate to allow the science to go forward. Indeed, he made the comment that if a life had to end to give new life to someone else, he would be in favour of that.
I am in favour of seeing tissue and organ donation come forward. The only thing I want to say to him about that is that the fetus and embryo do not have a choice. They do not have the opportunity to make a choice as to whether or not they will be a donor, in effect giving life to someone else through their death. We do have an ethical concern surrounding that issue and we need to spend more time on that. I am sure hon. colleagues will take that into consideration when they are thinking about this issue.
We have talked about the issue of ALS, Parkinson's and others. An article in the Reuters News Agency on April 8, 2002, stated:
A transplant of his own brain cells have treated a man's Parkinson's disease, clearing up the trembling and rigid muscles that mark the disease, researchers reported on Monday.
The researchers believe they isolated and nurtured adult stem cells from the patient's brain, cells that they re-injected to restore normal function.
“We definitely need to do more studies,” said Dr. Michael Levesque of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who led the study. “This is the first case that shows a promising technique may work. It is an experimental procedure and has to be investigated further before it becomes accepted procedure.”
More than two years after the experimental treatment, the man has no symptoms of Parkinson's, an incurable and fatal brain disease that starts with tremors and ends up incapacitating its victims.
That is fantastic. If indeed we are seeing those kinds of advances in medical research today and if in this case, as in some others we could cite, it has come about because of medical research with adult stem cells, then it is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to ensure we do all we can to bring all of the research available in this field into the legislative equation. We must not go overboard on one aspect of stem cell research which seems to be the case in the present legislation.
There is also the whole business of donor consent. Those children who are born through artificial insemination do not at the present time have access to the medical records or the background of the donors. The legislation is absolutely faulty in that regard.
I recently spoke on the telephone with a constituent back in Nanaimo. This young lady is 20 years of age. She is wonderfully healthy and a productive member of society who is the result of artificial insemination. Her concern is that she does not have access to the medical records and histories which could be helpful to her as she goes into adulthood and wants to raise her own family.
The government, through this legislation, is unwilling to open the door to this particular kind of thing. Her suggestion was, and I pass it on to the rest of the members of the House and particularly to the committee, that we should only be considering donors who are willing to be identified to those who, at the age of majority, need to have this kind of information about their birthing parents in terms of artificial insemination.
There are a number of considerations that come into play. When we compare it to adoption there is indeed legal recourse for finding out this kind of information. People who at this point in their lives want to find out where the egg or the sperm came from that created them through artificial insemination need to have the same access to that kind of information that people who were adopted have. Indeed there should be a level playing field in that area.
There is a real need to clarify some important points in this legislation. We are hoping that when it goes back to committee it will indeed be prepared to accept amendments that bring this legislation into an even stronger position to protect those who are looking for protection in the bill and who are looking for cures that at this point are not available.