Madam Speaker, I too would like to start by giving my support to the amendments proposed by my colleague from Mississauga.
I want to talk generally about Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction act and begin by saying that there is always an important ethical question inherent in any discussion around embryonic research.
Embryonic stem cell research inevitably results in the question that was raised earlier by our colleague from St. John's, that being the death of the embryo, early human life. For many Canadians, this violates the ethical commitment to respect human dignity and it is a hard question for many people in relation to this bill.
It is an incontestable scientific fact that an embryo is an early human life. It has the complete DNA of an adult. The DNA is present at the embryo stage. Whether that life is owed protection is really at issue. Other members made the argument that life should be protected, and I would agree with that. That is one of my great concerns with the bill. While the bill attempts to regulate human reproduction, it raises many questions of this ethical nature by members on all sides of the House.
For that reason, many of my colleagues have suggested in earlier speeches that we focus on adult stem cell research instead. In doing so we would take away the divisive nature of the embryonic stem cell research debate altogether.
Adult stem cells are a safe and proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. Sources of adult stem cells are in the umbilical cord, skin tissue, bone tissue and many others. We recently have seen some companies develop the ability to preserve the umbilical cord should it be needed in the future, not only for that baby but also for any other family member who might be in need of stem cells. That is a resourceful answer to this question as well, one that should be explored and expanded upon.
Adult stem cells are easily accessible and they are not subject to immune rejection if they are the individual's own stem cells. Embryonic stem cell transplants are subject to immune rejection because they are foreign tissues while one's own adult stem cells, which are used in different therapies, are not subjected to the same rejection question.
As my colleague for Calgary—Nose Hill just noted, adult stem cells are being used today in the treatment of Parkinson's, leukemia, MS and other conditions.
On a personal note, our own son is battling leukemia right now and has been for a number of years. I know my colleagues in the House have been very supportive of that. I thank them for their words of encouragement and thoughtful comments and prayers. I also thank my constituents and my board at home. Our son will be undergoing a transplant very soon so this is a question that is of utmost importance to me personally. He will be receiving transplant from another donor. He will be receiving adult stem cells.
Medical technology has taken us a long way from where we once were and leads us to all kinds of promise. However we need to frame these important questions, ones that seek to put in context those ethical questions I raised earlier. If we do focus on adult stem cell research, we alleviate a lot of those questions and concerns individuals have about issues of life which have been raised and will continue to be raised.
I know my colleague from Vancouver Island mentioned earlier, and I am loosely paraphrasing, the ability to patent different technologies with embryonic stem cell and that ability to patent them was not easy to do. Thereby the whole issue of profit in developing medical technologies with stem cells becomes a driving force behind whether we pursue adult stem cell research or embryonic stem cell research. That should not be the question, a profit driven question, that leads our medical researchers down one path over another. The adult stem cell path is one that satisfies the ethical question and provides hope for many people in treating many diseases, and in the whole area of human reproduction as well.
I would urge the government, in strong terms, to focus on that path in pursing Bill C-13.
As my colleague noted, we are one of the last countries to address this question. It certainly should have been addressed much sooner. Individuals have been calling for this for many years. We are behind because of the low priority the government has put on this topic.
We should examine the bill in detail. We have pointed out the considerable problems we have with the bill, some which have been addressed through amendments. Upcoming amendments will be talked about in Group No. 6 in the next part of the debate.
Before supporting the bill, we should ask the right the questions. In asking the right questions, we must ensure that we get a bill that puts us on the right path and does not unlock doors about which we have not thought. When a bill is before us in the House, it is incumbent upon us to ask hard questions and to get it right, particularly in such sensitive area as embryonic stem cell research and assisted human reproduction. If we do not get it right now, we know the process will be long and convoluted to remedy it. We need to get it right the first time.
We are generally not supportive of the bill because there are many questions that remain unanswered. If the bill is passed in its current form, down the road it will open all kinds of unlocked doors in terms of ethical questions and in terms of putting us on the right footing.
I would encourage all members to look closely at the bill. I urge them to tell the government that it needs to put in place a framework that focuses on adult stem cell research, not embryonic stem cell research.