Santa Cruz Sentinel September 22, 2004

As We See It: Stem cell measure makes sense

PROPOSITION 71: Despite those who fear this new medical technology, we urge a yes vote.

Proposition 71 results from the passion of a Palo Alto developer whose son suffers from type-1 diabetes. Robert Klein, who’s also a lawyer, responded to his son’s illness by learning all he could about stem cell research, then writing Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. The measure would provide tax-exempt state bonds worth nearly $300 million a year for 10 years to help fund stem-cell research in California.

He, like many people touched by various serious diseases, hopes that funding research into stem-cell technology will result in medical miracles — and a healthier life for all those who suffer from chronic disease.

We agree Proposition 71 is worth supporting, and encourage its approval on Nov. 2.

Opposition to Proposition 71 is varied, and consists of a wide variety of those who have some reasonable concerns about the controversial field of stem cells. Others say that stem-cell science is far from certain, and they doubt money should be given out by the government. Others say that certain ethical issues aren’t being considered, and that Proposition 71 could lead to research into human cloning.

We agree that there are risks, but we also see the potential of letting science move ahead. That’s why we support Proposition 71.

Stem cells are different from regular cells in that they can serve as a repair system for the body. Human embryonic stem cells appear in an embryo about a week after conception. Typically, scientists take the cells from extra embryos that have been donated for research by parents trying to conceive a child at fertility clinics.

The measure would establish a California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which in turn would grant awards and loans for stem-cell research and facilities.

Some opponents argue that the extra state money isn’t necessary, because the science of stem cells hasn’t advanced far enough. If it had, they say, private facilities would be funding them already, and that the state money is in reality a kind of corporate welfare.

But we side with those who think there’s a better future ahead for those suffering with a variety of diseases, like cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease and others. Already, scientists in other countries are moving ahead with research into stem-cell technology, and we see no reason for this state to wait for others to find significant medical cures.

The issue is an emotional one for those who wait for treatment. The California Medical Society is but one of the medical associations that supports the measure.

We understand the fears of those opposed to this measure, but we agree that it’s never a mistake to move ahead on medical research. We also think that it makes sense for California to take the lead in this issue, because the federal government appears to be in gridlock as to whether to move ahead or not.

Perhaps the opponents are correct when they say that those affected by serious disease are putting too much hope into stem cell research. But hope is part of making medical progress, and we think that our society will err if it backs away from opportunities posed by this emerging field.

We urge people to vote yes on Proposition 71.

Paid for by YES on 71: Coalition for Stem Cell Research and Cures, #1260661
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