Los Angeles Sentinel
October 7, 2004

By Dr. Bill Releford

Imagine a world with out diabetes. Cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell disease, Parkinson’s, HIV/AIDS, osteoporosis, and spinal cord injury.

Envision California as a world leader in the discovery of life-saving medical breakthroughs that could eliminate these diseases.

Consider achieving this vision while protecting California/s budget and taxpayers and helping the economy.

Then visualize yourself voting YES on Proposition 71, because that’s what the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative will offer Californians this November – an opportunity to change the quality of life for millions of people stricken with debilitating disease.

By funding California-based stem cell research, Proposition 71 has the potential to create cures and treatments that could improve and save the lives of millions for whom there is otherwise no hope.

Stem cells provide the body’s basic building blocks. Many disease and injuries result from the destruction from essential groups of cells that within our bodies. For example, diabetes can result from the destruction of insulin-producing calls in the pancreas. Medical researchers believe that stem cells can replace diseased cell populations within patients, effectively reversing the symptoms of a disease and perhaps even curing it.

Proposition 71 also includes stringent ethical standards that protect patients and our society. Human reproductive cloning is already banned under existing California law, and this initiative reinforces that ban. And while it embraces the full spectrum of stem cell biology, any embryonic stem cell research funded though Prop 71 would be subject to strict ethical controls, including provisions requiring the conformed consent of research donors and protections of patient safety and privacy. Importantly, Proposition 71 includes language which expressly forbids the direct compensation of research donors so that there will be no financial inducements involved with the procurement of biological materials like unfertilized eggs or even stem cells themselves.

Prop 71 authorizes tax-free state bonds that will provide an average of $295 million per year over ten years to support stem cell research at California’s universities, medical schools and research facilities. These bonds will be self-financing during the first five years, with no cost to the state’s general fund during this period of economic recovery.

Prop 71 has the potential to save the state of California billions of dollars through new tax revenues, royalties, and by reducing California’s skyrocketing healthcare spending costs, which now total more than $110 billion per year. If the research funded by Prop 71 leads to new cures that reduce our health care costs by only one percent, the measure will pay for itself. The initiative may also generate between 5,000 to 22,000 new, well-paying jobs for our State each year.

This is why Proposition 71 is endorsed by a broad coalition that includes more than 20 Nobel Prize winning scientists; doctors and nurse; Democrats and Republicans including Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Speaker Emeritus of the California Assembly Herb J. Wesson, California Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally, U.S Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, Los Angeles Councilmember Martin Ludlow, Los Angeles Councilmember Jan Perry and Los Angeles Councilmemebr Bernard Parks; California’s top fiscal officers and business groups including the California Black Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce, the California State Chamber of Commerce; and organizations like the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Diabetic Amputation Prevention Foundation, National Medical Foundation (representing the interests of more than 25,000 African American physicians and the patients they serve), Parkinson’s Action Network, Alzheimer’s Association California Council, American Nurses Association of California, California Medical Association, and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

In case you’re not convinced, let me remind you of the realities of disease in our community. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and accordingly, cardiovascular disease rank the No. 1 killer of African Americans, claiming the lives of 27 percent of Blacks who die each year.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins report that African Americans with vascular disease are up to four times more likely to have lower limb amputations than those of other groups with the same medical conditions.
African Americans face a heightened risk for diabetes and HIV/AIDS. We are more likely to develop diabetes-related complications and experience greater disability from its complications.

Finally, in the United States, most cases of sickle cell disease occur among African-Americans and Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry, and about one in every 500 African Americans has sickle cell disease.

By limiting federal funding for stem cell research, our nation’s leadership has halted the efforts of our best and brightest to enhance quality of life and to increase like expectancy.

If we can hope for a world without disease and suffering in which our families, friends and neighbors can live their lives to the fullest, then we can unite as Californians and take our health into our own hands by voting YES on Proposition this November.

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