National Catholic Register

Commentary

Conning Michigan Voters

BY Donald P. Condit, M.D.

October 26-November 1, 2008 Issue | Posted 10/21/08 at 9:56 AM

 

Michigan citizens are seeing a $20 million campaign to deceive them about stem-cell research. Using misleading rhetoric, the Cure Michigan campaign preys upon hopeful patients, families and the general public who may lack understanding of this threat to human dignity at its most vulnerable stage.

On Nov. 4, 2008, Proposal 2 will seek to change the state constitution. Michigan law since 1978 prohibits killing human embryos and cloning. Those behind this effort have been unsuccessful in working through elected representatives to achieve their goals of unlimited human embryo research and cloning, using the normal legislative process. This past summer, Cure Michigan paid people, per signature, to get their constitutional amendment on the ballot. Proponents of this proposal want taxpayers to support their projects.

Proposal 2 will begin with the words “Expand use of human embryos for any research.” The last line reads: “Prohibit state and local laws that prevent, restrict or discourage stem-cell research.” This gives scientists the right to create and destroy at will using taxpayer money with no redress.

Scientists have benefited mankind in countless ways. But when science runs amok, disaster follows. At the end of World War II, 23 German doctors and scientists were charged with crimes against classes of humans deemed “unworthy to live,” or “going to die anyway.” Similar arguments are used today to justify research that kills human embryos. At Nuremberg in 1947, 16 of the doctors were found guilty and seven were sentenced to death. We mustn’t create a “reverse Nuremberg” that rewards the same behavior.

Any suggestion this proposed constitutional amendment is all about cures is suspicious. Scientists are already doing human embryonic research here. The University of Michigan Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research website boasts the activity of over 40 researchers and untold students. Some scientists in Michigan stand to financially gain from stem-cell research through companies formed to profit from stem-cell research. Californians generously voted for a $3 billion bond proposal for scientists in 2004. New Jersey and New York taxpayers are paying for similar research.

Voters should not believe the deceptive stories about cures from embryonic stem cells. There have not been any.

Scientists rely upon taxpayer funding for human embryonic research because it has not led to cures or treatment. In contrast, promising adult stem-cell research attracts investment. Adult stem cells do offer considerable potential for disease treatment and do not require killing human embryos. Techniques are available to change adult cells into stem cells for research and potential treatment. For example, recent reports of adult pancreatic cells being changed into insulin producing cells for diabetes are promising. Stem cells have even been found in wisdom teeth.

The Michigan Citizens Against Unrestricted Science and Experimentation coalition (MiCause.com) which I help direct was started by the Michigan Catholic Conference and Right to Life of Michigan to inform citizens and encourage them to vote No on Proposal 2. Our efforts follow the U.S. bishops, who in 2007, reiterated Church Tradition that “direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life, such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos, are intrinsically evil” and “must always be opposed.”

Our campaign tells Michigan citizens that Proposal 2 “goes too far” in allowing unrestricted research on human embryos and the difference between human embryonic and adult stem-cell research.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Spe Salvi (Christian Hope), wrote, “Every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs; this task is never simply completed. ... Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet, it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces that lie outside it” (No. 25).

Michigan is a moral battleground this fall. Those seeking to create and destroy human life, ostensibly in the hope of cures, have an advantage in the most recent polls. Those committed to the sanctity of life pray in hope.

Donald P. Condit, M.D., MBA, is an orthopedic surgeon in Grand Rapids, Mich., and an associate professor at Michigan State University.