Battle With GOP Lawmakers Over Stem Cells Could Cost U-M State Aid

Tim Goral's picture
Friday, March 23, 2012

A battle is heating up between a Republican-led state House panel and the University of Michigan over whether U-M must disclose its number of embryonic stem-cell lines.

It's the latest in a series of disagreements in recent months about everything from university funding to unionization of graduate student research assistants.

This time, Republicans on the subcommittee are upset with what they call U-M's "thumbing of their nose" at requests for information about embryonic stem cells. Several lawmakers said that if they don't get the information -- required under language passed in last year's budget -- they'll look at docking U-M's state aid.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman said the university doesn't have an exact number of stem cells. She said it's important, instead, to place the work in the context of medical advances stem cells are leading.

Leonard Fleck, an ethics professor at Michigan State University's Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, said he doesn't believe lawmakers should legislate with the budget. He said that will be especially true as a better understanding of human genetics transforms medicine but runs afoul of some religious convictions.

Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, admitted the issue is about more than stem-cell research.

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