Monday, December 12, 2011

It’s time for proponents of killing human embryos to tell the truth

In 2008, voters in Michigan passed Proposal 2, a constitutional amendment which allows researchers in Michigan the ability to kill human embryos for research.

The organization which put the proposal forward was called “Cure Michigan” and an organization which was set up prior to proposal’s introduction to begin advocating for the killing of human embryos is named “Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures.”

The main thrust of these organizations and their campaign was the promise of cures: cures to Parkinson’s; cures to spinal cord injuries; and cures to diabetes. You name a prominent disease and they promised the passage Proposal 2 would help lead researchers to finding that disease’s cure. They paraded countless individuals (including some teen and child patients) suffering from various ailments in front of the cameras and claimed voting against Proposal 2 would be voting against cures to their diseases. Pro-Proposal 2 ads stated “Vote Yes on Prop 2 as if lives and families depended on it.”

While prolife advocates pointed out the numerous flaws with the proposal’s language and noted the numerous scientific (immune system rejection and the formation of tumors) and ethical (the killing of human beings) problems with embryonic stem cell research and the unlikelihood of them ever leading to cures, the majority of voters couldn’t say no to the “best hope” for cures to little Ellie Clark’s diabetes and Lauren Jackson’s paralysis.

Three years later, it is clear the promises of Proposal 2’s unending cures aren’t going to materialize.

After studying human embryonic stem cells for more than a decade and spending in the neighborhood of $150 million on it, a biotechnology company called Geron recently ended the first FDA approved clinical trial on humans using cells created from embryonic stem cells. This is a huge blow to the field of embryonic stem cell research. The experiments were supposedly halted because Geron could no longer afford to continue the embryonic stem cell research program and instead would focus on cancer research.

When they closed the clinical trial, Geron’s chief executive noted there were “no signs” that any of the patients they treated were being helped by the treatment. So much for that “best hope.”

As the research progresses and alternatives to killing human embryos arise, former prominent advocates of embryonic stem cell research are turning away from the field due to the scientific implausibility and monetary impossibility of the cells ever being used in large scale ways to cure diseases.

Ian Wilmut, who used cloning to create Dolly the sheep, recently addressed a stem cell conference in California and urged fellow scientists to shift their focus away from embryonic stem cells and towards newer and safer forms of research.

While leading scientists shift away from killing human embryos, some researchers in Michigan are still killing human embryos and using tax dollars to experiment on cells taken from these tiny human beings. The promises of right-around-the-corner cures just aren’t heard as often now.

To learn more about ethical forms of stem cell research which don’t require the destruction of human embryos, please visit