Stem Cell Debate Continues
How much do we value life? That is the question members of the Missouri Coalition for Cures Without Cloning are asking.
The group launched a campaign last month to prohibit human cloning in Missouri.
"No matter what potential good may come of it, you know, you can't create and destroy human life for research," said Chelsea Zimmerman from Cures Without Cloning. "It's just wrong."
A car accident nearly eight years ago left Zimmerman in a wheelchair, but this did not change her view of embryonic stem cell research.
"Obviously, I would love to walk again, I would love to see other people out of their suffering," Zimmerman said. "We aren't trying to limit research, and we are in favor of cures, and there are cures and treatments happening with adult stem cells and adult stem cell research."
The Coalition for Cures Without Cloning filed paperwork with the Secratary of State's office proposing a constitutional amendment they hope will be added to the 2008 ballot. The initiative would change the Missouri Constitution's definition of cloning.
Cloning is currently defined as a process that requires implantation of an egg into a uterus by means other than fertilization. This definition does not allow reproductive cloning in the state of Missouri, but it does allow theraputic cloning of cells.
Cures Without Cloning members said they would like to see all cloning banned.
"Human cloning is dangerous, it's been unproven to have any medical benefits," said Dr. Michael Acuff of Cures Without Cloning. "And it's unfortunate that currently human cloning is allowed in the state of Missouri."
But not everyone agrees. In a debate this heated, the passion runs deep on both sides of the spectrum.
The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures is fighting the proposed ballot initiative. They support all kinds of stem cell research.
"This is not a contest between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells," said Coalition for Lifesaving Cures spokesperson Connie Farrow. "It's a contest between society and disease."
Members of the Coalition for Lifesaving Cures say embryonic stem cell research is important because of its flexibility. An adult liver stem cell cannot be changed. It can only be a liver stem cell.
Embryonic stem cells, however, can be manipulated into becoming several types of stem cells. For example, an embryonic stem cell could be turned into a liver stem cell, lung stem cell, or any other kind of stem cell the patient needs.
That flexibility is what spinal cord patient Bob Pund of the Coalition for Lifesaving Cures is counting on. He hopes research will find a cure for his injury and he opposes the ballot initiative.
"All I want is to gain some independence back... To be able to feed myself, to write, to hold somebody else's hand," Pund said. "There's so many things that i'm missing out on."
Pund's been in a wheelchair since 1989, and he said he does not wan't to rule out any research that could help him to walk again.
"We don't know where research will lead us," Pund said. "I'm not for sure if this research will work, but I do know if it's denied it won't work."
Whether or not embryonic stem cell research and theraputic cloning is ethical remains a heated debate, And an issue Missourians may be voting on again.
Once the ballot language is approved the group can start collecting signatures for the petition process to get the initiative on the ballot. Opponents have a 10-day period to challenge any legal issues in the initiative..