A friend of mine emailed me this letter from Rachel MacNair. It’s nice and easy to understand – and worth reading, especially if you find yourself having to defend your position against embryonic stem cell research and Amendment 2.
Amendment 2: A Big Business Power Grab
With millions of dollars, Big Business is running ads portraying their war on disease the way wars are usually portrayed by their promoters: a clean and neat victory, all casualties ignored.
They promote stem cells as wonderful for cures. Are they? Most definitely. They’ve already treated or cured more than 70 diseases and conditions (see Benefits of Stem Cells to Human Patients). Exciting new developments are reported constantly.
But this has nothing to do with Amendment 2!
These advances are all from “adult” stem cells, including umbilical cords. Nobody, but nobody, has any problem with this research. The legislature is not going to interfere, except for the rules that apply to all research such as informed consent.
Amendment 2 is about “embryonic” stem cell research — while it covers the adult form also, only the research that destroys embryos is controversial.
So, how many cures have come from embryonic stem cell research? Zero.
When will cures come? Years at least. Some supporters say decades. Problems include creation of tumors in mice, along with things related to tissue rejection.
Their hope is to address this with “somatic cell nuclear transfer.” That’s normally called cloning, but Section 6(2) of Amendment 2 redefines cloning so it’s banned only if you put it in a womb to grow — not if you use it for research as provided in Section 6(13)(ii).
This requires hundreds or thousands of human eggs to make the attempt. That means giving women drugs and surgery. Among other problems, up to 10% will get Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome, painful and occasionally fatal – several women have already died. See: Keep Your Hands off Our Ovaries!
Scandal has already erupted on this, as Korean researcher Hwang Woo Suk was shown to have pressured assistants and low-income women into donating eggs. He claimed advances, published in Science, that turned out to be total frauds. (Documentation on the web is easily available by putting his name in a search engine.)
Amendment 2 is asking us to reduce public oversight over research that shows little promise, would take a long time, and would have many casualties along the way.
Why? Embryonic cell lines are a product and therefore, technically, something they can patent! And patents bring higher profits. Adult stem cells, doing as well as they are — well, they’re just a technique. You can’t patent a technique.
But medical research, by digging deep into our bodies as it has to do, has a long history of scandal which from the 1800s on has especially targeted the poor and marginalized. It’s an especially dangerous area to give more impunity to big business.
So I’ll be voting no. I hope others find these facts and reflections helpful.
Rachel MacNair, Ph.D.