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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Leading legislator supports lifting stem cell research rules

By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff

A leading legislative voice on health affairs today applauded public-health authorities for moving to scrap restrictions on stem-cell research -- and took some not-so-subtle swipes at the former administration of Mitt Romney.

State Representative Peter J. Koutoujian, chairman of the House Committee on Public Health, urged the state's Public Health Council to follow the recommendation of administrators to abandon stem-cell regulations adopted last August under the Romney administration. Governor Deval Patrick last month also decried the restrictions.

"It is wonderful to be working with a new administration with a commitment to public health," said Koutoujian, a Waltham Democrat. And he said that as the Public Health Council considers rolling back the restriction, it should engage in a discussion driven by scientific evidence "rather than one that would be pressured by an external political agenda."

Critics charged that politics figured prominently in the Romney administration's directive to limit stem-cell research.

Scientists worried that the regulations adopted last summer could subject them to criminal penalties if they engaged in certain kinds of laboratory work.

The Public Health Council, the panel that sets health policy in the state, also got a primer today on stem cell research from Dr. David T. Scadden, who specializes in the field at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The council won't vote on the proposal to lift the regulations until at least this summer, after a series of public hearings.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 02:54 PM
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