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“What’s that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it, Brick? Didn’t you notice the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?” From Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The line quoted above, uttered by Big Daddy to Brick, is one of my favorite lines in any play. It came to mind this morning when I read the latest mendacity emanating from the propaganda smokestack of Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures.

It isn’t that its leaders support human cloning research that gets my goat. I understand why people would believe that this research is the best way to go. But the human cloning issue is one of those rare controversies that are truly epochal. And in deciding how to proceed, basic respect for democratic processes requires accuracy in definitions and a clear respect for distinctions so that people will know what it is that is being discussed—and what is not being discussed—so that they can make ethical and political judgments based on facts—not lies.

But MCLC won’t have that! It might lose. So, its advocates engage in the worst kinds of public deception—which shows utter disdain for those on behalf of whom they claim to be serving. The latest example is this op/ed piece by Donn Rubin, the chairman of MCLC. He writes:

Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures lauds the stem cell advances occurring around the world as tremendous steps in medical science’s ongoing battle to cure disease, and we eagerly await further discoveries as scientists continue the ethical exploration of this new medical frontier

An excellent example is last month’s widely covered advances in Wisconsin and Japan where scientists were able to reprogram an ordinary skin cell to assume much of the versatility of embryonic stem cells. And, even more recently, this month scientists in London used embryonic stem cells to develop a stem cell “patch” to repair scar tissue from heart attacks and American scientists used embryonic stem cells as a novel way to test the safety of drugs...

If stem cell research opponents had their way, none of this outstanding science would have been possible. Ironically, they would have blocked the very groundwork that led to the technique they now seem to embrace—the reprogramming of ordinary skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells.

Well, at least Rubin used the term “embryonic” stem cell instead of the usual “early” stem cell euphemism generally employed by representatives of MCLC. And we won’t get too deeply here into the far more dramatic advances in adult stem cells, including the treatment of heart disease in human patients, that are being made continually. (If you want to be startled, go to the Do No Harm Coalition Web page to see the many advances being made.) Be that as it may, the experiment Rubin is talking about with the heart patch is purely in Petri dishes, not in patients—a point he should have mentioned because an uninformed reader would think from his writing that the treatment is now available.

But more to the point of this post, if the opponents of Amendment 2 in MO had gotten 100% of their way, it would not have stopped the development of the new reprogrammed cells, the ESCR theoretical “heart patch,” or the drug testing. None of that work directly or indirectly involved stem cells derived from human cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer), which has not yet been done in humans. ESCR per se is not the subject of a proposed initiative to outlaw all human cloning in MO and hence all of the research successes Rubin mentions would have been unaffected. Those are scientific facts, not opinion.

Rubin’s mendacity continues:
Those whose aim it is to ban all embryonic stem cell research in Missouri cannot have it both ways. They cannot continue to oppose the very research that is required to achieve the lifesaving goals that they now claim to embrace. Those who threaten to repeal Missourians’ access to stem cell research should step back and allow scientists to conduct the work necessary to achieve the goals that I hope we all share—to cure disease and improve the lives of patients and families.
I repeat, there are no proposals to “ban all embryonic stem cell research” in MO. There is a plan to ban all human cloning in MO. That is not the same thing and Rubin knows it or he has no business being chairman of MCLC.

And the powerful and obnoxious smell of mendacity continues to fill the room...

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