School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

SOM hosts Proposal 2 debate

Joe Schwarz, M.D., former member of Congress, speaks in support of Proposal 2.

Joe Schwarz, M.D., former member of Congress, speaks in support of Proposal 2.

State Sen. Tom George explains why Proposal 2 contains flawed language.

State Sen. Tom George explains why Proposal 2 contains flawed language.

Sen  Tom George, WSU President Jay Noren and Joe Schwarz, M.D., share comments after the forum

Sen Tom George, WSU President Jay Noren and Joe Schwarz, M.D., share comments after the forum

Dean Robert M. Mentzer Jr., M.D., welcomes the panelists and audience members

Dean Robert M. Mentzer Jr., M.D., welcomes the panelists and audience members

The Wayne State University School of Medicine hosted a lively debate on Proposal 2, which seeks to amend the state constitution to permit research on embryonic stem cells in the state. Voters will decide the ballot issue Nov. 4.

Two Republicans squared off over the proposal during the Oct. 30 forum, hosted by WSU President Jay Noren, M.D., Dean Robert M. Mentzer Jr., M.D., and the School of Medicine.

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, M.D., made the case for the proposal, while state Sen. Tom George, M.D., who chairs the Senate Health Policy Committee, opposed the language in the current proposal.

Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Ron Dzwonkowski served as moderator.

“We wanted the forum to offer both perspectives about the proposal,” said Dean Mentzer. “This is an important issue, a hotly debated one, and the School of Medicine felt it valuable to offer this forum.”

Dr. Schwarz noted that Michigan is one of only five states restricting embryonic stem cell research. While President George Bush has twice vetoed legislation that would fund an expansion of embryonic stem cell research, Dr. Schwarz said, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have endorsed pending legislation that will be one of the first bills placed before the new president.

“It will pass,” Dr. Schwarz said. “I don’t want Michigan to be left out of the game.”

While adult stem cell research – the only type now allowed under existing Michigan law – offers possibilities, Dr. Schwarz said, embryonic stem cell research offers many more possibilities for future cures, and researchers and residents would be remiss not to explore them.

The state Legislature, Dr. Schwarz said, will eventually develop oversight rules and guidelines for embryonic stem cell research.

Sen. George praised Wayne State University for inviting the opposing view to be heard, noting that other universities had not done so during their forums.

While not saying he opposed embryonic stem cell research, Sen. George contended that the language in Proposal 2 is “fatally flawed,” and should be defeated. He said state residents who support embryonic stem cell research should still find reason to reject this specific proposal.

Sen. George pointed to the phase “for any research,” indicating that is too broad a license to allow researchers without oversight. He also objected to amending the state constitution to allow such research, claiming Proposal 2 would prevent legislative regulation of the industry.

“We regulate hospitals, hair stylists and soon tattoo artists,” he said. The language, as proposed, would create “an industry that wants a special shield,” he added.

President Noren, while noting that his position prevents him from speaking for or against Proposal 2, said he favors embryonic stem cell research. He also said that if voters approve the language, he would expect WSU researchers to press him to fund embryonic stem cell research, and he would seek ways to provide that funding.

Jeffrey Loeb, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurology and associate director of the Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics at the School of Medicine, seemed to sum up the feelings of the many researchers in the audience who favor lifting state restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

“Those embryos not implanted during in-vitro fertilization would be lost,” Dr. Loeb said. “Shouldn’t we use those embryos to save lives? To save somebody’s life, that’s why we went into medicine, and if this can save a life, that’s pro-life.”

The forum attracted widespread media attention. It can be viewed at http://www.med.wayne.edu/news_media/streamingmedia/somevents/index.asp

Bookmark and Share