Friday, October 27, 2006

Excellent Explanation of Amendment 2

Blue Girl, Red State provides the best explanation of what Amendment 2 (the Stem Cell Initiative) says and does, and doesn't say or do, that I've read anywhere. No hysterics about human cloning, no unfounded claims of certain miracle cures. Just the process and promise explained in laymen's terms.

First lets clear up a huge misconception. Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) is technically "cloning" - up to a point. In the sense that cloning means replication. But it stops there.

The amendment specifically outlaws human cloning. When the opposition says it legitimizes cloning, they are disingenuous at best, and more likely they are flat-out, intentionally, being dishonest.

In SCNT, eggs are extracted and the nucleus is removed from the egg with a very tiny glass pipette. The same procedure is used to remove the nucleus of a host cell, and the nucleus is injected into the vacated egg cell. If we say just the right magic words in the perfect pitch and cadence, this cell will begin to replicate. At five days, we have a blastocyst of stem cells, and we can harvest those undiferentiated cells. Remember that word. It is going to be revisited a bit down the page.


If Amendment 2 is not passed, members of the Missouri legislature would be able to outlaw therapies that are developed that use embryonic stem cells. Those with private insurance or resources could gain treatment out of state, such as Massachusettes or California. Those who are reliant on Missouri Medicaid (a high percentage of disabled and diabetic patients) will be out of luck. The state won't pay for the treatment. So the bottom line is the state legislature could pass laws that prohibited low income people from accessing cures available to those who are better off.

I don't believe that the opponents are intentionally discriminating against these future patients. I don’t think they have even thought about them, but they should. Especially since they are not only picking up the tab for long-term treatment, they are consciously denying them any hope for a cure, possibly without even realizing it.


Embryonic stem cells are undifferentiated. In other words, they can become anything. Let's say that you or someone you love has diabetes and is facing a future of insulin dependence that will lose effectiveness and it will lead to amputation, organ failure and death. Embryonic stem cells can, in theory, be used to grow healthy cells for implantation into your pancreas. The idea is that healthy cells can be introduced and will replicate to replace the unhealthy ones. This is the only hope that currently exists for a cure for diabetes and many other diseases, as well as spinal cord injuries.

I'm diabetic. I have Type 2 Diabetes. I'm insulin-dependent and am supposed to inject one type of insulin twice daily, and a short-acting type of insulin before every meal. I also take pills twice daily for my diabetes. So yes, I have a very personal interest in Amendment 2. I don't want to lose my eyes (absolutely necessary for the work I do) nor my feet or legs.

My father has Parkinson's. I've watched his decline. The last time I saw him I told my mother I thought his trembling wasn't as bad. Now I know, that means the disease is worse, not better.

I'm happy to agree to disagree on many ballot initiatives and many candidates. Amendment 2 is NOT one of those. Voting against Amendment 2 is, essentially, voting for death for some people. Please. Carefully consider your vote. Read the text of Amendment 2. It is NOT about cloning humans. That is specifically prohibited by the Amendment.