Slick campaign will try to sell killing and cloning to voters
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
YOU HAVE to give them points for cleverness. And for nothing else.
If you have enough money, you can put just about any law on the Missouri ballot even if you don't have a snowball's chance in August of getting it through the state legislature. And if you are clever enough and rich enough, you stand a good chance of getting it passed.
First, think up a motherhood and apple pie name for yourself. Something like "The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures" will do nicely.
Then you hire people - preferably clean-cut college kid types - to stand with petitions in front of supermarkets all over the state, asking registered voters to sign quickly if they are in favor of "Lifesaving Cures."
All you need is 150,000 signatures or so, not a daunting task given that more than 2.7 million Missouri voters cast ballots in the 2004 governor's race. Voila! You got yourself a state constitutional amendment on the ballot.
The next step is getting it passed. It certainly helps if you've got lots of money to hire a PR firm and get the bullhorn of the state's mainstream media behind you long before you have even printed up the petitions and hired the college kids.
And it helps tremendously if that bullhorn starts off by echoing your insults of people who might not agree that destroying human beings for the false promise of "Lifesaving Cures" is the greatest idea to hit Missouri since Lewis and Clark climbed into their canoe. Anyone who stands in the way of "Lifesaving Cures," according to coalition honorary co-chair, the Rev. Jack Danforth, as quoted in The Kansas City Star, is merely trying to bring "religious doctrine into statutory law."
Funny how "Thou Shalt Not Kill" works.
Our Catholic Church tends to take those words quite seriously. It teaches that human life begins when it begins and shouldn't end on this vale of tears until God says so. The moment a human embryo begins dividing and growing, it becomes both "human" and "being." What a radical concept!
Thus, if you take a living, growing human being and kill it to extract its essence - its very stem cells - based on the faint hope that some time in the distant future, some scientist somewhere might find a way to use them to cure something, well that's not very sound moral logic, according to the teachings of our church.
But how dare we inject moral, ethical or even scientific reasoning into this debate, says The Star in its endorsement of "The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative," written before the ink barely had a chance to dry on the "Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures" press release it received.
Judging by its Oct. 16 lead editorial - titled, "End obstructions to vital research" - The Star's editorial mind is already made up. Concerns to the contrary just don't matter any more.
Listen to the language The Star's editorial used to characterize any argument against this initiative and the people who might voice it: "unreasonable," "hostile," "misguided," "destructive," "obstructionists," "incorrect," "hampers."
Now listen to how The Star described the arguments in favor of the initiative and those who hold them: "move forward," "patient advocates," "Missouri becomes a thriving center for medical research," "help patients with debilitating diseases and injuries," "legitimate," "lifesaving," "promising."
The editorial ended with a sentence straight out of Sophistry 101: "Missourians who want their state to be a place of hope, scientific progress and economic possibility should do all they can to help get the necessary changes made in the state constitution."
Well, excuse me, Star. But this particular Missourian does want his state to be a place of hope, progress and economic possibility. I happen to think that the legalized killing of human beings runs counter to hope, progress and economic possibility.
This might also surprise The Star's editorial board, but I want to help patients with debilitating diseases and injuries. I can't help it. I'm Catholic. Our founder told us quite clearly to take care of the sick.
I watched both my parents die slowly from Alzheimer's disease. I still won't sign this petition, no matter how many times you put Alzheimer's in the laundry list of diseases you think that embryonic stem-cell research might someday cure. Again, I can't help it. I'm from Missouri. You've got to show me.
Show me a single laboratory rat, let alone a human being, who has ever been cured of anything using embryonic stem cells. Scientists first isolated stem cells from mouse embryos 20 years ago, and human embryonic stem cells nearly 10 years ago. Four years ago, President George W. Bush pumped the first federal dollars into embryonic stem-cell research. Last year, Californians approved state tax dollars for embryonic stem-cell research, and this year, Illinois - also by executive order - became the second state to publicly fund this research.
This comes on top of tons of private money - including dollars poured into the highly-funded Stowers Institute in Kansas City - that have long been shoveled into laboratories doing embryonic-stem cell research all over the world.
So far the results from all this research and all that money are zero, zip, nothing, nada. Not a single cure. Not a single patient helped. In fact, one of the most common results from embryonic stem cell science has been the discovery of new ways to grow cancerous tumors in previously cancer-free laboratory rats, an obstacle that will, no doubt, have to be overcome before embryonic stem cells are ever tried on people.
Meanwhile, scientists who are researching therapies using adult stem cells - cells that can be obtained without causing death because they are present in every human body and other sources such as umbilical cord blood - are publishing peer-reviewed results with astonishing frequency. They can point to real, live people no longer suffering from the very conditions on the embryonic research "diseases we will cure someday" laundry list.
Embryonic stem-cell research holds the best hope against Parkinson's disease? Tell that to Dennis Turner, a California man who experienced an 81 percent improvement from his Parkinson's symptoms using his own stem cells to treat diseased areas of his brain.
Spinal cord injuries? Tell Laura Dominguez of San Antonio, Texas, that she should have stayed in bed until embryonic stem-cell research does its magic. She is walking again with the aid of leg braces, years after an automobile accident left her paralyzed, because of a therapy she received in Portugal that injected her own stem cells at the point of her injury.
How about leukemia? A Canadian woman, Patrizia Durante, was pregnant and given six months to live. After the birth of her daughter by Caesarian section, Durante was given an infusion of stem cells from the umbilical cord that once bonded mother and child together. Her leukemia has been in full remission for three years.
They are but three of thousands of people suffering from 70 different diseases and injuries who have been helped and even cured because of research that focused on adult stem cells.
This is what this "unreasonable, misguided, hostile" Missouri voter doesn't get: You've got one area of scientific research with no moral issues surrounding it whatsoever that is producing all kinds of good results. You've got another fraught with moral problems that hasn't produced a doggone thing except new tumors. So how come the research that has yet to produce its first positive result in a rat holds all this "promise" and "potential"?
And why isn't the "Missouri Coaliton for Lifesaving Cures" pumping its money and energy into the research that is producing real "lifesaving cures" instead of an initiative campaign that starts off by calling me names because of my religious beliefs?
Here's an idea. Let's all work together to make Missouri "a place of hope, scientific and economic possibility" by turning Missouri into the adult stem-cell research and treatment center of the world.
If we did that, maybe people like Laura Dominguez wouldn't have to fly all the way to Portugal to be able to walk again.