The case of the People’s Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation v. the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee (ICOC) has ended with the California supreme court denying LLDF’s petition to review the case.(1) One justice, Kennard, indicated she was of the opinion the case should be reviewed. Unfortunately for the unborn, the California taxpayer and the women who will be exploited for their eggs and put in harm’s way in order to facilitate such research, (2) Justice Kennard’s was the lone vote to hear the case.
What is next for Californians who oppose the funding of embryonic stem cell research and cloning with the use of state funds?
The issue of state funding for controversial clone and kill research (3) could potentially be settled without controversy due to a recent development in stem cell research. The Associated Press recently reported that “three independent teams of scientists” produced the equivalent of embryonic stem cells in mice without the use of embryonic stem cells. (4) Ordinary skin cells were manipulated by these scientists to behave like stem cells. The AP article speculates that if the procedure could be replicated using human stem cells, it could lead to treatments while eliminating the debate surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells.
Time will tell how the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will act in response to this recent development. (5) For the taxpayer, it will be telling to monitor the disbursement of three billion dollars in public funds approved for expenditure by the ICOC’s Finance Committee for CIRM’s “scientific research.”
The amicus brief filed in the trial court in support of the plaintiffs in this case may give us the information needed to make an educated guess as to the direction CIRM will head in light of this recent development. (6) One of the issues presented in the brief was the financial motivation of Proposition 71 proponents: “Some of the same scientists from the field of gene delivery research, having made millions of dollars from university faculty start-up companies, are now the entrepreneurs of hESC research. Previously, scientists were also touting miracle cures of single-gene, singledisease cures, including cure for diabetes through insulin gene delivery. Even one of the most studied of the single-gene, single-disease candidates, hemophilia, has not been successfully treated by gene delivery. Enthusiasm for gene “therapy” was dampened by the unfortunate death of Jesse Gelsinger in 1999. In 2002 the FDA halted several gene therapy trials after a boy in France developed a leukemia-like disease three years after receiving gene therapy bringing this line of research to a virtual dead end.
During the public debate on Prop 71 Stanford Professor Irving Weissman, cofounder of Systemix (Novartis) and Cellerant, a noted supporter of the initiative and a stem cell researcher stated that the intent of the proponents was to “corner the market” on “products” derived from hESC, either obtained by cloning or from in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics. His statement shone a light on the troubling language of the proposition that granted the ICOC the right to modify federal guidelines of human subjects protections to “suit the promission and objectives” of the CIRM, making clear that the initiative was a drive to commercialize these “products” for the financial benefit of selected interests.” (7)
Will the CIRM continue with controversial embryonic stem cell research or will it choose to quell the debate and take the road that might just lead to cures in deference to hESC objectors? Not likely, based on the financial boon associated with Proposition 71. Add to the mix the fact that only stem cell research not funded by federal tax dollars can be funded with CIRM funds, and seems the predictable course for CIRM will be to continue to fund hESC. (8)
To learn more about the issues that Californians now face due to publicly funded embryo farming, you can attend a discussion panel on November 9, 2007, which is sponsored by LLDF and the Center for Bioethics and Culture, “Trading on the Female Body.” Or you can come to our annual dinner the following evening and hear David Prentice speak on the issue of cloning. Details are available in this edition of Lifeline and more information will be available as these events draw near. Keep your eye on www.lldf.org.
1. People’s Advocate v. ICOC was a suit for declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent expenditure of public funds on embryonic stem cell research and cloning, spawned by Proposition 71, an initiative passed by the California voters in the 2004 general election.
2. Conservative estimates mean millions of donated eggs, which for women can mean Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome, the side effects of which can include organ failure, stroke and death. Other side effects are reproductive cancers and infertility. See http://www.handsoffourovaries. com/pdfs/handsoffbrochure.pdf.
3. “Embryonic stem cell research requires cloned human embryos.” Ethics and Medicine, Vol. 22:3, p. 133, Fall 2006, C. Ben Mitchell, PH.D., Human Egg “Donation”.
5. As of the date of this publication, California’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine has not issued a news release regarding this recent development.
6. The brief was submitted by five pro-choice scholars and practitioners from a variety of backgrounds representing sociology, economics, history, medicine, science and technology transfer.
7. Alameda Superior Court, Case No. HG05 206766, Beeson Amicus Brief, p. 6 [Attorney Steven N.H. Wood of Stoddard, Bergquist, Wood & Anderson, LLP].
8. Rumor has it that the Bush Administration is considering funding this new stem cell methodology which replicates embryonic stem cells