Bioethics Review: Stop Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research

The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Abuse of Power
by Rabbi Louis J. Feldman, Ph.D.

Forcing people to perform acts contrary to their religious convictions is one of the most egregious forms of abuse of power. History is replete with reports of religious martyrs who died horrible deaths rather than violate the tenets of their faiths.

Coercing people to pay for acts or institutions that are contrary to their religious convictions is a very serious manifestation of abuse of power. The Embryo Cloning and Stem Cell Research Bond Act (Proposition 71), which California voters passed in 2004 is a stellar example of abuse of power.

First of all, if there was any real promise from embryonic stem cell research, the private sector would have pounced on it like a sumo wrestler at a smorgasbord. Lacking this promise, a time-tested remedy was applied: “If you have a ‘lemon’ that nobody wants to buy, get the tax-payers to finance it.”

This is exactly what happened: a sum of $2.6 million was spent on a campaign to qualify Proposition 71 for the ballot. The public was duped by tales of the potential for the disabled to leap from their wheelchairs. Proposition 71 would be financed by the issuance of general obligation bonds averaging $295 million per year over a period of ten years. This adds up to a staggering $3 billion before interest and $6 billion over the 30-year period of repayment.

None of the promises has been kept. Obscenely high salaries and a facility in the “high rent district” have nearly devoured the allotted monies. If those who financed the campaign for Proposition 71 really cared about their cause, they would have raised funds for a privately financed institute of regenerative medicine that would have been leaner, more efficient, and more productive. Most important of all, it would have avoided trampling upon people who find embryonic stem cell research to be morally repugnant and forcing them to pay for this venture.

Unfortunately, the same porkers will be returning to the trough for more taxpayer dollars. Let us hope that the voters of our debt-crushed state will have the sense and integrity to say “no”!

Forcing people to perform acts contrary to their religious convictions is one of the most egregious forms of abuse of power.

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