Letter to the Michigan State Medical Society
April 22, 2008
Michael Sandler, MD, President-elect
Dear Dr. Sandler and MSMS Leadership:
We the undersigned members of the Michigan House of Representatives strongly encourage you, as incoming president of the Michigan State Medical Society, to lead your membership in a process of reconsidering the Society's current support for embryo destructive research. There are a multitude of both scientific and public policy reasons why the MSMS should devote attention to such a review.
Currently there is a great deal of misinformation encircling the public discussion of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), fostered by inaccurate media reporting as well as some intentional distortions by advocates of ESCR. First and foremost, the recurring calls to loosen Michigan's "severe restrictions" on ESCR is a falsehood, as there are no restrictions on research using embryonic stem cells. The existing law does prohibit destroying more embryos to create new stem cell lines. However, research has been ongoing for years in our state using embryonic cell lines that are readily and affordably available from numerous sources around the country.
Beyond the fact that there is no ban on ESCR, rapid advances in other avenues of stem cell research are showing that pluripotent stem cells are available without the necessity of killing human embryos. Creating and culturing useful induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) through cell reprogramming has already been shown to have the identical potential of embryonic stem cells in laboratory/animal models. Likewise, the techniques of Altered Nuclear Transfer and embryo biopsy are proving to be opportunities for acquiring pluripotent stem cells without killing embryos.
From a public policy perspective, continuing with most embryonic stem cell research avenues will lead to serious dead ends in terms of ultimate treatments and cures. Using "surplus" embryos from infertility treatment will not supply enough embryos for all the research and treatment demands. That will require that more embryos be purposely created with the intent that they will later be destroyed. This in turn will create pressure to have more and more women donate eggs to further the research. There are a host of ethical and medical problems this demand for eggs creates. Additionally, if embryonic
Lastly, "adult" stem cell research is already showing tremendous results and even more future potential. Paralyzed patients are regaining some function, immune disorders of various kinds like lupus and scleroderma are being stymied, even reversed, heart patients are showing improved ejection fractions, sickle cell anemia and leukemia are being cured - all with "adult" stem cells - improvements and cures that are happening now.
The changes being sought to Michigan law to allow "more embryonic stem cell research" deal only with the ability to use live human beings as laboratory subjects. For 30 years the policy of this state has been that human life should not be used as research material. We do not believe any proposal for scientific or medical advances justifies using human life in this way, particularly for a speculative science fraught with technical as well as ethical hurdles.
The public places immense trust in the members of both our professions: doctors and statesmen. An organization such as MSMS, respected widely for its devotion to healing and service to its members, should be careful in supporting medical practices based on incomplete research and inconclusive science. Historically, doctors have enthusiastically supported procedures developed through evidence-based medicine. The theory of embryonic stem cell research - which has yet to yield any cure - is one where prestigious medical organizations such as yours should remain neutral.
We strongly urge the Michigan State Medical Society to undertake a broad and prospective re-examination of this issue.