Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad Stem Cell News!

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on January 26, 2012

By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

Hype over embryonic stem cell research has been maddening. The media bias, extreme. And many in elected office, intent on using the sector as a special interest source of campaign funds — and believing the cures meme — have been decidedly uninterested in hearing any ”bad news” about the sector.

Then there was the slush fund created by Proposition 71 to fund embryonic stem cell/human cloning research using borrowed money from the taxpayers in impecunious California. The leaders of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine have stated they will come back to the voters in 2014 asking us to put millions more on the state credit card.

But would it be money well borrowed? Perhaps an objective investigation could be conducted? Not in California. From “Stacking the Deck on the Stem-Cell Program” published in the LA Times:

What are the chances that the prestigious Institute of Medicine will get an objective and balanced view of California’s stem-cell program when it takes public testimony about the program at a hearing Tuesday in San Francisco? About 418 million to one. That’s the estimation of the California Stem Cell Report. The report’s proprietor, David Jensen, toted up the value of the grants received from the program by Tuesday’s witnesses or their employers. Total: $418 million.

But what about critics? Surely a thorough investigation would allow them to express their reservations. Ha!

The hearing will open with more than three hours of presentations from officials of the program. These witnesses include CIRM Chairman Jonathan Thomas and its president, Alan Trounson. They’ll be followed by witnesses from UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, UC Davis and Stanford, which have collected those millions in grants from CIRM over the years.

Jensen says he asked the IOM why no objective witnesses were on the hearing list. An IOM public relations person directed him to a survey form members of the public could fill out (though the link for the form on the IOM’s website was dead when I checked it). Members of the public will also be permitted to address the IOM panel at Tuesday’s hearing. They’ll each get up to five minutes. The insular character of the stem-cell research community always has made objective evaluations of CIRM difficult — most of the experts in the field are in a position to seek grants from the program or work with it on grant review. The IOM study could have been a counterbalance to that. But that doesn’t look like it’s about to happen.

Of course. Thar’s money in them thar stem cell hills! The last thing the establishment wants is objectivity. The point is to keep the money flowing. Don’t nobody bring me no bad stem cell news.

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