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Ignoring that New Jersey voters recently rejected a $450 boondoggle bond issue to pay for embryonic stem cell research, New York State is funding the research to the tune of $600 million without even giving the people a chance to vote on the issue. And those behind the effort have no intention of letting nonsense like ethics get in the way. From a column by members of the New York Task Force on Life and the Law:

In April, with little discussion and no public input, New York passed Public Health Law Article 2, Title 5-A, creating the Empire State Stem Cell Board to oversee the funding of a $600 million, 10-year stem cell research initiative. Several other states have had major public ethical debates about stem cell research funding. New York’s statute does not delineate ethical limits on stem cell research except to prohibit attempts to bring a cloned human being to birth. Instead, the ESSCB comprises a funding committee and an ethics committee, with the ethics committee legislatively charged to make “recommendations to the funding committee regarding scientific, medical, and ethical standards.”
Even this minimum level of checks and balances is apparently too tough for the funding committee:
The ethics committee is extremely diverse in its views about these substantive issues. Nonetheless, we unanimously recommended to the funding committee that while this first RFA could permit research on existing human embryonic stem cell lines under current national or international guidelines, funding should not cover the creation of new embryonic stem cell lines or undertake the controversial activities listed above until the ethics committee had the opportunity to deliberate and make solid recommendations. The ethics committee made clear that this brief moratorium did not represent its considered substantive judgment, and that it would make definitive recommendations within six months. What mattered to the ethics committee was that ethics mattered.

On Dec. 13, the funding committee rejected the ethics committee’s call for a temporary moratorium, arguing that it would “send the wrong message to scientists.” On Jan. 7, Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced that the first round of funding had been awarded.
So the blank check mentality continues among the powers that be without risking direct approval by the people or even taking time to consider appropriate ethical checks and balances. After all, we mustn’t give “the scientists” the wrong idea that ethics matter.

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