Santa Maria Times
October 14, 2004

The importance of stem cells

Christopher Reeve fought about as hard as a human being can fight to live. In the end, a kind of infection that plagues those with paralysis killed him.

But if he could have chosen a time to die, Reeve probably would not have been disappointed with how his passing coincides with an important vote on stem cell research. He was tireless in his efforts to get Congress or just anyone else to authorize funding for a full investigation of a science that could help make people like himself whole again.

The stem cell research question appears statewide on the Nov. 2 ballot as Proposition 71. If approved by voters, it would establish the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the chief responsibility of which would be to issue grants and loans for stem cell research. Prop. 71 also authorizes the issuing of $3 billion in general obligation bonds.

It's an expensive way to go. Paying off the bonds will take 30 years, and cost taxpayers another $3 billion or so. That rings a bell with Prop. 71's opponents, who argue that adding more debt to the state's massive borrowing, intended to balance the budget, is not fiscally responsible.

Our counter-argument would be that while taxpayers are paying the hefty bill, they and their loved ones are likely to reap enormous benefits. Science experts believe stem cell research will lead to cures for a wide range of diseases.

The process involves taking unspecialized cells from either embryos or adult stem cells, putting them into the sick or injured person's body, where the new cell becomes specialized, replacing damaged tissue. Scientists think stem cell research could be the breakthrough that erases many of the physical ills that plague humankind.

It's a risky, costly investment, but one that could pay incredible dividends in terms of ending the misery and anguish of loved ones who can now only helplessly watch the debilitating effects of a paralyzing injury or a crippling illness.

What would you pay to have your husband, wife, son, daughter, mother or father whole again?

Opponents are correct that $3 billion in additional state borrowing is not the most responsible way to go. But it's money that could change life as we know it. We recommend a "yes" vote on Proposition 71.

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