After writing this post about the proposed Missouri constitutional amendment banning human engineering, I started to wonder what the people of Missouri must be thinking. A lot of the language in the amendment is technical, and there are a lot of new and confusing ideas, especially in the section covering exceptions. Let’s run through them and clarify, shall we?
Section 4. Exceptions. The following are not prohibited by this Article:
(a) Any therapeutic procedure performed on a nascent human life that is intended to benefit that individual human being by correcting a genetic abnormality prior to birth;
No enhancement, but correction. This of course raises a very thorny question: what is normal?
(b) In vitro fertilization with unaltered human gametes wherein the resulting nascent human life is forthwith implanted into the womb of an adult human female with the intention of giving birth to a live born human child;
In vitro is ok, as long as it only produces one embryo (defined as a life rather than a clump of cells) or several embryos that are all implanted. That’s great, but current in vitro techniques don’t really work that way.
(c) Any therapeutic or experimental treatment performed for benefit of an individual human being using human stem cells extracted in a manner for which there is less than a one percent risk of significant harm to the individual human being from whom the stem cells are extracted;
Adult stem cell therapy is ok as long as you can be almost completely certain that no one will be hurt. I think I agree with this one, but I’m not sure where 1% comes from, and if that’s a standard yardstick in medical research.
(d) Any therapeutic or experimental treatment performed for benefit of an individual human being using stem cells extracted from a human embryo, in the blastula stage or within the first 30 days after cell division, provided all of the following are true:
Embryonic stem cell research might be ok? Let’s read on…
(1) Animal experiments, and subsequent human trials, utilizing the technique for extracting embryonic stem cells demonstrate that there is at least a 70 percent chance that human embryo will still be viable after the stem cells are extracted and the embryo is forthwith implanted into an adult human female, where the viability rate is determined by the lower limit of the 95 percent confidence level calculated according to the appropriate statistical tests;
Oh, maybe not. There’s that messy ‘implanted into an adult human female’ bit again. There must be a lot of women looking to get knocked up in Missouri for all the embryos that are going to have to be implanted…
(2) the treatment addresses a disease that affects at least one in 100,000 persons;
All you folks with rare degenerative diseases will just have to suffer.
(3) experimental tests of the same treatment on at least three species of mammals have demonstrated that the treatment resulted in at least a 50 percent cure rate in each of the three test species and involved no more than a five percent fatality rate, where the cure rate is determined by the lower limit of the 95 percent confidence level calculated according to the appropriate statistical tests; and
Again, I’m not sure how these numbers compare to normal regulation around treatments and research.
4) no other treatment is available with similar or greater expected cure rates; and
This one is the real catch-all. Who gets to decide when other treatments are available and what the cure rates are? Opponents of embryonic stem cell research have shown that they are very willing to lie about the possibilities for adult stem cell research, and they’re quite clearly calling the political shots in the U.S. south. Promising research could be constitutionally banned by junk science produced by activist researchers.
(e) Any other procedures that may subsequently be defined by the people of Missouri through a constitutional amendment of this section.
Well, at least they won’t be stuck with it forever.
One other note:
Proponents of transhumansim, neoeugenics, and human engineering have proposed ideas that would drastically alter society in known and unknown ways. Among other proposals, proponents of human engineering have suggested the following:
- the cloning or creation of modified clones that would be mutilated or destroyed to secure organ transplants for the benefit of the original cell donor;
- the genetic creation of a half-human slave race to serve humankind;
- the genetic creation of specialized humans who would be designed to undertake dangerous environmental or combat situations;
- the design of a genetically “superior” super-race with the concurrent elimination of genetically distinct groups of average or sub-average human beings whom proponents of human engineering would classify as genetically inferior.
So the first time most people in Missouri hear of transhumanism, there will be very little mention of its real goals and beliefs, but an implied connection to neoeugenicists and heavy-handed connections to Brave New World. That does not bode well for transhumanist thought in the U.S. south.