Editorial: Unnecessary Lawsuits Hold Up Vital Stem Cell Research

    With the passage of Proposition 71 by nearly 60 percent of voters in 2004, California suddenly found itself at theforefront of embryonic stem cell research nationwide as the only state with a taxpayer-funded grant program.

    By Priscilla Lazaro
    A Drop From the Ink Well

    However, immediately after the initiative passed, groups launched attacks on its constitutionality, holding up the $3 billion California Institute of Regenerative Medicine’s ability to effectively issue research grants and thus keeping California’s pioneering first steps mostly symbolic.

    But symbolism became reality this month as CIRM finally handed out 72 long-awaited grants totaling $45 million to scientists across the state – several of them here at UCSD – conducting projects that could hold the key to curing devastating diseases that affect millions of Americans, including Alzheimer’s disease and paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries.

    Although a superior court judge ruled last year that Proposition 71 was constitutional, the litigation continues as the California Family Bioethics Council, the National Tax Limitation Foundation and the People’s Advocate have taken the issue to the 1st District Court of Appeals in San Fransisco for review and have threatened to take their case to the California Supreme Court if necessary, reasoning that stem cell research is immoral because human embryos are destroyed during the research process.

    This legal mess has forced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to obtain a state loan to allow CIRM to distribute the grants. Schwarzenegger has said that as long as the issue is tied up, he will continue to obtain loans to support CIRM.

    It’s time for the courts to dismiss the issue now so CIRM can stop relying on loans and start doing what Californians approved it to do: advance medical technology to potentially eradicate diseases that kill people every day.

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