Debating Missouri's stem-cell research initiative

We were dismayed by David Prentice's Dec. 27 Opinion piece, "Missouri's stem-cell mistake." Mr. Prentice is certainly entitled to his opinions, but his inaccurate description of Amendment 2 regarding stem-cell research falsely portrays a measure that passed with the endorsement of the Missouri State Medical Association and dozens of patient advocacy organizations.

Contrary to what Prentice wrote, Amendment 2 creates clear ethical and oversight guidelines for stem-cell research conducted in Missouri. The research procedure called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is not the same as human cloning. The medical purpose of this procedure is to make embryonic stem cells in a lab dish for use in seeking new treatments and cures – not to make babies.

Opponents of stem-cell research claim that producing stem cells in a lab dish with the SCNT procedure is the same as human cloning. But in fact, Amendment 2 makes cloning or attempting to clone a human being a crime subject to a jail term of up to 15 years and/or a fine of up to $250,000. By adopting Amendment 2, Missouri stands with many countries in outlawing human cloning while encouraging medical research with SCNT.

We are pleased that a majority of Missouri voters were not swayed by misleading claims. Instead, they voted to ensure that all stem-cell research allowed by federal law could occur at Missouri research institutions.
William B. Neaves
President and CEO, Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Kansas City, Mo.
Steven Teitelbaum
Professor of pathology and immunology, Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis

In response to David Prentice's Dec. 27 Opinion piece about stem-cell research in Missouri: Several groups did a very good job of raising the issue of possible cloning regarding the recent amendment in Missouri. This was very effective with people who are against cloning, and it almost worked to keep the ballot initiative from passing. Unfortunately, the groups against cloning probably missed those who may not have an issue with cloning or those who reject or mistrust any message with a religious undertone.

If they wanted to keep Amendment 2 from passing, I believe these groups should have focused more on publicizing the difference between embryonic-stem-cell research and adult-stem-cell research.

More important, the groups should also have focused on the staggering cost of stem-cell research. A California measure passed in 2004 allocated $3 billion for embryonic stem-cell research. That's an astounding amount of money out of tax payers' pockets. The groups against Missouri's Amendment 2 should have identified more productive ways to spend the money that would go toward stem-cell research. This might have had an impact on a wider audience.
Bill Bruno
St. Louis

Member nations' flaws reflected in UN

Regarding Tom DeWeese's Dec. 22 Opinion piece, "The UN is not just dysfunctional – it's a criminal enterprise": While I agree with much of what Mr. DeWeese writes regarding the United Nations' dysfunctions, I challenge him to name one nation that does not suffer from some level of the same faults. Instead of attacking the UN, DeWeese should examine how leading UN member nations' own flaws have become embedded in the UN. This would be a "root cause" way to examine and possibly address the issues he raised.
Andreas Bahm

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