November 2, 2006
Amendment 2 Debate Centering Around Question ‘To Clone or Not To Clone’
Before we vote yes or no on Amendment 2 on election Tuesday, many readers may find this information educational.
For starters, what is a stem cell?
According to Vitae Caring Foundation a stem cell is essentially a “blank” cell, capable of becoming another more differentiated cell type in the body, such as a skin cell, a muscle cell, or a nerve cell. Microscopic in size, stem cells are big news in medical and science circles because they can be used to replace or even heal damaged tissues and cells in the body. They can serve as a built-in repair system for the human body, replenishing other cells as long as a person is still alive.
Amendment 2 on the November 7th ballot is proposing a change to the Missouri State Constitution largely to do with stem cells. The proposed law change has become one of the most embattled issues as the election approaches as stem cell research proponents square off against anti-cloning arguments.
But what the average reader may not know is that the two sides of the debate are arguing a far wider number of issues related to the initiative.
“We’re extremely pleased that Missourians will be able to decide for themselves if they want to protect their right to access the same stem cell research and cures as other Americans,” said Donn Rubin, Chairman of Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures. “Some politicians in Jefferson City have repeatedly tried to take away that right, by proposing legislation that would ban and criminalize promising types of stem cell research and cures in Missouri. The Stem Cell Initiative will prevent any such unfair bans. It will protect the right of Missourians to have access to any stem cell research and cures that are allowed in our country and available to other Americans.”
Members of Missourians Against Human Cloning (MAHC), one the groups spearheading efforts to defeat the amendment, are urging voters to say no to Amendment 2.
The group’s mission statement calls the MAHC a coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting ethical science, advancing realistic medical treatments with adult stem cells and opposing the practice of cloning human beings for research purposes.
The MAHC is not alone in approaching the amendment as a cloning issue.
2Tricky.org, a website funded by the Life Communications Fund, says the issue does simply boil down to the question to clone or not to clone. However these opponents of Amendment 2 derived the name for the informational website from the belief that the ballot issue is written in such a “tricky” manner that the average voter may be confused. The group argues that the confusing ballot language may trick voters into believing a yes vote on the issue will ban human cloning. The group actually argues that passage of Amendment 2 does just the opposite, granting constitutional protection of cloning.
“Amendment 2 only outlaws reproductive cloning, which no one in Missouri (or anywhere else on earth) is doing,” 2Tricky.org states. “Meanwhile, it protects anyone who wants to clone human beings for science experiments. Amendment 2 glosses over the issue of lab-created human life with complicated phrases like “Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer.” But cloning is cloning, and Amendment 2 would put this ethically questionable practice beyond the reach of state law.”
The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures says a yes vote on Amendment 2 does ban cloning while also offering legal protection for stem cell research to develop medical cures for diseases.
The organization argues that stem cells could provide cures for many currently incurable or common diseases and injuries, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, sickle cell disease, cancer, heart disease and spinal cord injury.
These medical conditions affect hundreds of thousands of Missourians – including a child, parent or grandparent in over half of all Missouri families.
“I’m pro-life. During my entire career, I voted pro-life,” said former Senator John Danforth, the honorary co-chair for the coalition. “I strongly support the Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative because it will save lives and because it respects the sanctity of life.”
However opponents of the bill cite the lack of success found in embryonic stem cell research, which the amendment would allow, as compared to the more successful adult stem cell research which is already occurring in the state.
The to Vitae Caring Foundation states that adult stem cell research has produced 72 cures and treatments while embryonic stem cell research and human cloning has produced no cures and treatments.
This is a key area of disagreement between the issue’s two sides.
“Stem cell research offers the promise of cures, the possibility of improved treatments for so many devastating illnesses, like Alzheimer’s disease. We in Missouri cannot stand to lose that hope. Please vote YES on 2 to help find cures and save lives,” said Dr. Consuelo H. Wilkins, of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis.
However Dr. Celeste Miller-Parrish offered a counterpoint in a recent letter to the editor in the Memphis Democrat. She stated “I believe the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cure Initiative is falsely representing its position of being benign, and necessary for our future health. It ignores the proven science we have in Adult Stem Cell research that already is making a difference in many medical illnesses. Developing embryonic stem cell research is a waste of money that could be used to further adult stem cell research, which is giving early results. Embryonic stem cell research destroys life at its earliest and most vulnerable stages, and continues the process of de-valuing life. If we pass this Initiative, we ourselves will become responsible for killing the most vulnerable of our society.”
Still proponents of embryonic stem cell research point to the possible economic impact passage of Amendment 2 could have on the state.
The Coalition for Lifesaving Cures states that Amendment 2 does not ask for or require state funding for any type of stem cell research. The group says that in fact, it will generate new state revenues and quality jobs by ensuring that Missouri medical institutions can keep and attract private funding for stem cell research. In addition, the development of stem cell cures for costly diseases like diabetes would significantly reduce health care costs for patients – and help reduce taxpayer-funded Medicaid costs.
A newly released study titled “The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative: An Economic and Health Care Analysis,” conducted by Joseph H. Haslag and Brian K. Long is being championed by proponents of Amendment 2. The study, was conducted on behalf of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures.
“The Stem Cell Initiative does not require any state funding for stem cell research,” said Professor Haslag, “but its approval by voters will protect research and treatments that could not only benefit hundreds of thousands of Missouri patients, but also reduce health care costs and benefit our state’s economy.”
The study reports that five of the medical conditions that researchers consider to be likely candidates for early, or embryonic, stem cell therapies and cures are Parkinson’s disease, stroke, heart attack, spinal cord injury and Type 1 diabetes. It denotes that approximately 285,000 Missourians currently suffer from these five conditions with a total of 860,000 family members sharing the financial and emotional burden of the diseases and injuries impacting one of every 6.5 citizens in the state.
The report also notes that Missourians spend about $2.8 billion per year to treat the five conditions and Missouri state government is estimated to pay about $299 million of this amount each year, primarily through Medicaid.
“If successful early stem cell treatments are developed for one or more of these five conditions, the health care cost savings to Missourians would be significant,” Haslag states in the report. “Under the most conservative projections, if an early stem cell treatment becomes available 15 years from now and reduces the total health care costs associated with Parkinson’s disease, stroke, heart attack, spinal cord injury and Type 1 diabetes by just one percent, Missourians’ health care costs would be reduced by more than $150 million over the following 10 years.”
But opponents of the bill are pointing to a money trail in the other direction.
“Already the biotech special interests behind the deception that is Amendment 2 have spent $30 million; it’s an attempt to buy an amendment to the Missouri Constitution,” said Cathy Ruse, chief spokesperson, Missourians Against Human Cloning, on the amount of money spent by forces pushing the passage of Constitutional Amendment 2. “They’ve spent such enormous money because Amendment 2 is an attempt to deceive the people of Missouri into actually writing the practice of human cloning into the Missouri Constitution.”
Opponents argue that the lawyers who wrote Amendment 2 work for giant biotechnology labs that plan to make billions of dollars by cloning humans for research.
The pros and cons from both sides go on and on. To read more about the issue visit these websites: