In January New Jersey became the second state to legalize stem cell/cloning research. In April USA Today reported that in 33 states, 100 bills, including California's $6 billion Prop 71 ($3 billion in funding & $3 billion in interest) are being considered on the issue of stem cell research.
My guest on Friday's show this week is Jennifer Lahl, Executive Director of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, discussing California's Prop 71 which will be on this November's ballot. Are Californians, and for that matter the other 32 states, ready to vote on this emotionally charged issue?
When we hear that stem cells can be used to grow new organs or cure heart disease, diabetes, and the other devastating diseases known to mankind, who wouldn't be in favor? I certainly am.
Those who advocate the use of adult stem cells versus embryonic stem cells for research because of moral and ethical reasons, run the risk of being labeled "against scientific progress", or "religious fundamentalists." I personally think there are solid ethical questions regarding the use of embryonic stem cells. In a nut shell, is an embryo a person? And...does that matter to us?
But that debate aside, there are other unanswered questions that we also need to know about regarding stem cell research, so we don't rush to vote "yes" simply led by the promise of research. This issue needs wisdom.
For instance, the question, "Are stem cell treatments going to be safe?"
WebMD answers: "This is a very important question, and there are no good answers at this point. If the stem cells came from another person, they could carry infections that that person has. This is a significant concern nowadays, particularly because of HIV/AIDS, but it is not likely to be a problem. Doctors already screen blood thoroughly for HIV and many other diseases, and they would definitely screen stem cells for things like HIV and other potential problems. A bigger concern may be cancer. Most normal cells divide a certain number of times and then die. When cells are grown in the laboratory, as stem cells will be, they can get "immortalized," that is, they can go on dividing endlessly -- similar to cancer cells. Immortalized cells are not cancer cells, but they are one step closer to cancer cells than normal cells. Thus, it is possible that they may someday form a cancer. Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure without actually doing stem cell treatments."
What about the question, "What restrictions will be in place regarding the use and disposal of stem cell 'products'?"
As summarized in our booklet, "Facts, Stats & Other Useful Info I": "New Jersey is the one place in the United States where it is legal to create, implant and gestate a human clone for the purpose of obtaining their embryonic stem cells - as long as you dispose of it at birth or soon after. Their new law also allows human adult stem cells to be obtained from cloned or normal embryos. But these cells don't develop for several weeks and since the science to grow an embryo outside of a woman's womb to this stage does not yet exist, normal or cloned embryos would have to be implanted into a woman's uterus and then later aborted. Also written into New Jersey's law and passed by their State Senate with a yes vote of 25-0 and their Assembly with 41-31, is a provision to market embryonic and fetal body parts by allowing "reasonable payment" for "removal, processing, disposal, preservation, quality control, storage, transplantation, or implantation of embryonic or cadaveric fetal tissue." Is this provision in your state's proposition?
There is a plethora of factually based articles out there on the subject. Are you availing yourself of this information so you can be an informed voter? And not only on this proposition, but all the rest? Just thought I'd ask, because it's too important of a question not to.
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