by John Dunsford
September 4, 2006
LifeNews.com Note: John Dunsford is a professor of law at St. Louis University.
It is strange that an organization identifying itself as a "Coalition for Lifesaving Cures" needs to sponsor a professional advertising campaign at a cost of millions of dollars seeking to persuade Missouri voters to support stem-cell research.
If prospects for life-saving cures are so bright, why do private investors find it too risky and shy away? No one has ever yet been cured of a disease by the research sought in this initiative, yet the impression is conveyed by its sponsors that a range of terrible diseases such as Parkinson’s, cancer, multiple sclerosis, etc. will soon be conquered.
Unfortunately, the proponents of the initiative have chosen to advertise the plan with the hype of a commercial for lottery tickets. That inevitably generates further suspicion that something must be going on that is not being disclosed. Are the voters being misled on matters they ought to be aware of when they cast their votes Nov. 7?
Is the public aware, for example, that the goal of the initiative is to allow the production of human embryos through cloning to produce cells that can be "harvested" with the inevitable result that the embryos are destroyed? Or, in other instances, to procure leftover human embryos from in vitro fertilization procedures and "harvest" their cells in the same way and with the same results.
As the public has come to know, stem cells are building blocks in the body that come in two different types. One type comes from adults, children, fetuses and are called adult cells. These stem cells are obtained from tissues and organs, and have the capacity to become more differentiated cells (skin, muscle, nerve) to heal damaged bodies. While considerably less flexible than the other type, they have nevertheless produced a number of medical advances. Moreover, they can be obtained without destroying human life.
The second type, embryonic stem cells, are obtained by harvesting living human embryos that are 5 to 7 days old. They are multipotent, potentially able to differentiate into any tissue in the body. However, the removal of the cells in research means the destruction of the embryo. There are also some concerns these cells may later produce cancer in recipients.
In its very title, the initiative proposal uses sleight of hand in maintaining that its object is the preservation of stem cell research and cures. In fact, stem cell
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