Money isn’t everything, but for a state in an economic mess like Michigan’s, it has to be an eminent consideration. Add that to the list of reasons why the state’s draconian laws against embryonic stem cell research are outdated and must be repealed. With more and more states putting their funds into the stem cell research industry, Michigan is falling behind. Choosing morals over money is usually justifiable, but not in this case, where the purported system of morals opposing embryonic stem cell research makes no sense.
Embryonic stem cell research has plenty of potential. All but the wackiest scientists agree that the undifferentiated state of embryonic stem cells makes them especially promising in the search for new treatments and comprehensive cures for diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes and cancer. True, other research avenues – like adult stem cells drawn from the spinal cord and the recent discovery by researchers in Japan and at the University of Wisconsin at Madison of a process that could deem skin cells just as malleable as embryonic stem cells – also have potential, but embryonic stem cells are the most readily available, flexible and understood choice.
Restricting research on embryonic stem cells and pushing researchers toward more restrictive adult stem cells or nascent techniques not yet fully understood only serves to delay the considerable medical benefits that could lead to cures to some of the most debilitating diseases of our time. With cancer alone killing half a million Americans every year and recently becoming the leading cause of death in some states, we don’t have time to drag our feet.
Opponents of embryonic stem cell research cling to morality as their basis for condemning what they see as the destruction of human life. However, the blastocysts from which embryonic stem cells are drawn are from fertility clinics and would be discarded anyway. There is no chance that the blastocysts that are destroyed to extract embryonic stem cells would otherwise be allowed to mature into actual human beings: There are too many embryos being harvested, and the vast majority will inevitably be thrown out. What exactly is immoral about using blastocysts to research ways to save the lives of half a million or more people in this country alone?
It’s no surprise that the strongest opposition to embryonic stem cell research comes from states that are traditional religious conservative strongholds, like Louisiana and Arkansas. Michigan cannot risk ignoring true morality and economic pragmatism by remaining on the list of states with laws most hostile toward embryonic stem cell research.
The tide on this issue is turning: There is a push in many states to loosen laws restricting embryonic stem cell research and designate more funding for such research. If Michigan remains among the few states that ignore all modes of reason to stand by outdated laws, it risks losing top researchers to states with more permissive laws and tax revenue from high-tech companies. What a crippling hit that would be to top research institutions like the University – and to a state economy that has already suffered so much at the hands of outdated policies and irrational politicking.