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The Stem Cell Scam
November 1, 2004

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

The near bankrupt state of California is asking taxpayers to participate in a $6 billion corporate giveaway and ethical ruse. The scam goes by the name of Proposition 71.

The Yes on Prop 71 folks have been outspending the No opponents 100 to 1, so unfortunately they've been able to mislead the public without getting a whole lot of resistance.

The reality, though, is that cloning is at the core of the proposed state constitutional amendment. Believe it or not the Frankenstein-like effort received relatively scant attention until very recently when actor Mel Gibson entered the debate.

"I found that the cloning of human embryos will be used in the process and ... I have an ethical problem with that," Gibson explained in an October 28 interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Gibson has unearthed several of the dirty little secrets about Proposition 71. I've been able to work alongside him, sifting through the pro-71 campaign dirt.

"I would find it difficult to look at myself in the mirror if I didn't take a stand against this disingenuous proposition, particularly in light of the fact that in 23 years of research with embryonic stem cells not one single cure has been obtained," Gibson told me. Thanks to a first-rate group of experts, the code words, underhanded tactics, and emotional manipulation that promoters have been using to hide the agenda and hoodwink the public have been laid bare.

Language contained in the official voter's guide claims that Proposition 71 prohibits reproductive cloning. But in a statement regarding the initiative, Gibson pointed out, "That's what it says-'somatic cell nuclear transfer.' And that's a scientific term for cloning."

Evidently, the qualified wording is an attempt to trick people into believing that the measure isn't about cloning. But cloning is exactly what it's about.

The wiggle word here is "reproductive." The Prop 71 explanation makes the case that the cloning of embryos, i.e., the creation of human life, is not for implanting and eventual offspring purposes.

But cloning is involved nonetheless, and apparently we're supposed to believe that experimentation, killing of an embryo that's in the process of development, using its vital parts and then disposing of its remains is somehow okay.

In a clever concealment of the facts and attempt to manipulate emotions, Prop 71 television ads have been bringing the late Christopher Reeve, the suffering Michael J. Fox and the caring Brad Pitt into our living rooms to garner voter support.

Of course, a majority of folks are opposed to cloning and as awareness builds so does opposition to the measure. Because the truth is, when most people thumb through their mental dictionaries, Dolly the Sheep's picture is what pops to mind right next to their cloning definition. So it really comes as no surprise that promoters are trying to conceal their aims.

Basically, proponents are trying to claim a distinction without a difference. They're attempting to distinguish between so-called experimental cloning and the reproductive kind by asserting that there's a difference between the two because their objectives vary.

In reproductive cloning, the embryo is implanted in a woman's uterus in order to produce a birth. In so-called experimental cloning, the human embryo is cloned using the same biotechnology that produced Dolly the sheep, where the nucleus of a skin cell is transferred into an egg and transformed into an embryo, only here the embryo is allowed to develop for about a week and then it's disassembled.

Those who seek to advance this type of research also like to play another semantic game. They intentionally avoid using the words "embryo" and "embryonic, opting instead for the sophisticated sounding term "pluripotent stem cells." And human embryos that come from fertility clinics are referred to with the clinically sounding words "surplus products of in vitro fertilization."

If passed, what Proposition 71 would do is amend the California Constitution and force the people of the state to engage in and subsidize a huge cloning experiment. Gibson brings up a good question: "If cloning human embryos for destruction is so promising, why aren't private companies paying the $6 billion?"

Well, private companies aren't paying because the costs involved in embryonic stem cell research are exorbitant, and the only thing that the over two decades of research has yielded is a load of failed experiments and a record of rejection, mutation and tumor creation. It hasn't produced one single solitary human cure.

Meanwhile, what's being ignored in the measure and the general discussion are the positives about adult and umbilical cord stem cell use. These cells have been used to treat several dozen diseases and serious medical conditions like spinal cord injury, Parkinson's disease, stroke, cardiac damage and multiple sclerosis. Part of the reason for the success story is that adult stem cells avoid the problems of tissue rejection. The hope they offer is real.

The cash-strapped state of California is in no position to spend $6 billion on totally unproven therapies that involve unethical techniques or on a plan that benefits biotech companies which, incidentally, hold key patents to the cloning research.

The way I see it, rather than being compassionate, Proposition 71 is a cruel hoax. It raids public coffers so that fat cats don't have to risk their own cash. It disregards the real promise of tomorrow by ditching the effective adult stem cell route and taking the embryonic dirt path. And in a truly despicable fashion, it callously peddles false hope to millions of patients and their families who desperately await cures.

Why Mel Gibson is voting NO on PROP 71

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Copyright © 2004
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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