On November 4, 2008, Michigan electors will vote on a citizen initiated proposal to amend the State Constitution to allow for research on human embryos and the creation of new embryonic stem cell lines in the State of Michigan.
Stem Cell Research in Michigan
The State of Michigan currently has some of the most restrictive laws in the nation respecting human embryonic stem cell research. It is illegal for researchers to conduct non-therapeutic research that jeopardizes the life or health of a human embryo, fetus, or neonate. Non-therapeutic research is defined as scientific research that is not designed to improve the health of the research subject. This definition encompasses research on embryos to derive human embryonic stem cell lines. Michigan law also prohibits the cloning of a human embryo for both reproductive and research purposes. Violating Michigan law prohibiting research on a human embryo is a felony with punishment of up to five years in prison. Violating Michigan’s law against human cloning is also a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10 million fine.
Michigan law effectively prohibits researchers from creating new human embryonic stem cell lines in the state, but it does not keep scientists from conducting research using embryonic stem cell lines created outside of the state. Michigan researchers may also study adult stem cells because that work does not involve the destruction of human embryos.
Research on human embryos and embryonic stem cells is not restricted by federal law; however President Bush’s policy restricts federal funding to research on human embryonic stem cell lines created prior to August 9, 2001 (the date that President Bush announced this policy). This funding policy was viewed by the administration as a compromise because it provided funding for research on embryonic stem cell lines already in existence while limiting future research on human embryos and the creation of new embryonic stem cell lines. Additionally, federally funded stem cell research must be conducted on stem cell lines derived from embryos that were created for reproductive purposes but no longer needed and donated with the informed consent of the donors without any financial inducements. Embryonic stem cell research conducted with federal funding is regulated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the federal government’s leading biomedical research facility.
Federal regulations do not restrict embryonic stem cell research using state or private funds. While this may not seem to place very stringent limits on embryonic stem cell research, federal funding is very important to scientific research and provides support for many researchers. According to the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan, federally funded research is preferable in many instances because it ensures that the research and results adhere to the highest ethical standards because they are subject to federal oversight, rules, and regulations.
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