Killing human embryos for research was legalized in Michigan after embryonic stem cell advocates put forth a constitutional ballot amendment and continually promised cures to numerous diseases including diabetes and Parkinson's.
When push came to shove, the consensus was that ethics had to take a back seat to science. At the time, the scientific case for allowing "therapeutic cloning" and research on human embryos was overwhelming. There were politicians and voters who had qualms about the commodification of human life involved in killing embryos, but the experts assured them that the medical potential was dazzling. The loss of a few human embryos was a small price to pay.
In effect, there was an implicit pact between the public and stem cell scientists: we'll swallow our misgivings and provide the funding; you provide the cures.
But what happens when the pact falls apart? Because this seems to be what is happening. Embryonic stem cell research is looking increasingly like a dead end. Last week, after many false starts and a year after launching a human trial for spinal cord injuries, the California-based biotechnology firm Geron pulled the plug on all of its embryonic stem cell research to focus on cancer drugs. It had to: it was going broke.