Thursday, September 14, 2006

Gotta love our objective, non-partisan press that puts out articles like this. Headline? : "Stem cell defeat could cost Missouri billions, proponents say". Oh, I guess it is objective, since the headline writer tacked "proponenets say" on to it. I look forward to the similarly headlined articles presenting the other point of view.

Cherry-picking some passages:

Proponents of a Nov. 7 ballot measure that would protect controversial stem cell research in Missouri today launched an economic salvo: A report claiming billions of dollars in lost economic opportunity for the state if the measure should fail.
(Emphasis mine)

Protect is one of the words the press is liking to use in describing this intitative. Who could argue with protection?

The report was commissioned by the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, a group of more than 100 patient, medical, faith and civic organizations.

The article doesn't mention that it's mostly funded by one family.

It also says banning such work, as has been attempted by state lawmakers in recent years, would put a chill on biotech research of all kinds, stifling a promising industry.

And drug laws put a chill on drug dealing, stifling a promising industry that could lift people (mostly minorities) out of poverty.

The Coalition’s study makes broad economic and scientific assumptions, which critics are sure to challenge.

You think?

But I guess that's kind of the point. While we waste our time and energy trying to refute their bogus numbers, they'll run more ads with darling children and poor disease victims who have a chance to beat their disease, but only if you vote for Amendment 2 (don't give up on hope!). These numbers are a distraction. Most voters will (probably correctly) assume that both sides are inflating their numbers a bit, and fall for the emotional story. We'll argue over who'd statistics are better rather than having the real conversation we need to have over what is ethical, and how do we compassionatley respond to disease victims.

For example, the study assumes embryonic stem cells will lead to effective treatments for five conditions that combined affect about 285,000 Missourians: Parkinson’s disease, stroke, heart attack, spinal cord injury and Type 1 diabetes.

If so, the state could save about $299 million a year it spends on treating these diseases, primarily through Medicaid, the study said. What’s more, these patients could return to work or be more productive, contributing to the state’s economy.

Nevertheless, it's hard to ignore ridiculous assertions like this. Would the cost of administering these treatments really be zero? And would they really be instnantaneously effective such that they could immediately return to work? And they would require no other treatment? Really?

Pro-lifers are often criticized for failing to be realistic. But to assume that if we only allow stem cell treatment, than we can eliminate all costs associated with treating a host of diseases even though no such treatments have yet been developed, is completely foolish.

A more direct impact comes in Kansas City, where the Stowers Institute for Medical Research is considering a $300 million expansion – but only if the ballot measure passes, ensuring unfettered research opportunities for the world-class researchers it hopes to employ.
(emphasis mine)

Those 500 scientists would be expected to receive the same average $72,500 in annual salary and benefits received by the 350 already working at the institute, adding to Missouri’s tax base, the study said.

And who would be paying these salaries? Wouldn't they be coming from our taxes,since this is state-funded research we're talking about? So, the cost of their salaries is not a cost, but the 10% of their salaries paid to taxes is a benefit. Right...

Scientists "don’t have to be doing stem cell research to be impacted by an anti-science environment," he said. And workers in all types of industries might hesitate to come to Missouri if they fear a lack of access to potential medical treatments.

Regulatory uncertainty also could keep the best and brightest scientists away from Missouri’s universities and research-based businesses, the report said.

This is the type of argument cultural conservatives make and have dismissed all the time. Remember, "how does it hurt your marriage if two men want to get married?" Can you find a mainstream writer who would refer to the Culture of Life without scare quotes and a snicker? But we're supposed to believe that an aerospace engineer wouldn't want to work at Boeing because we didn't change our constitution to ensure that no ethical considerations will get in the way of Progress.

If Amendment 2 should fail, and lawmakers subsequently banned stem cell research, that "could lead to a general and widespread exodus of scientific research from the state," it said. "Essentially, researchers could take the view that Missouri laws are unpredictable and antagonistic to the research environment."

I've taken on this before, but isn't it also possible that people who might be vulnerable might not want to live in a state whose constitution explicitly says that there can be no interference in using some people for research? In addition to attracting the "best and the brightest," might we also want to attract people who are concerned about others' rights, who don't see people as means to their ends?

In addition to the dishonesty, this approach is deeply insulting to those opposed to the measure -- it pretty much says, "I know you won't set aside your ethical concerns to save people's lives, but maybe you will if it will lower your taxes and improve the national economy." Yeah, I guess that makes it not killing.

More proof that the other side doesn't get pro-lifers at all.

UPDATE: Right now, the front page of STLToday has this paraphrase of a press release tagged as "BREAKING" news. I certainly hope they'll stay on top of the breaking story of an advocacy group faxing them a report.

UPDATE: The article has been revised. The headline now reads, "Stem cell proponents cite money," which is considerably more honest (though it does have the error of conflating embryonic stem cell research with adult and umbilical stem cell reseach, but that's so common it's hardly worth mentioning).
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