I love technology. In fact, allowing me to browse in an online computer catalog is the equivalent of letting Imelda Marcos loose in a shoe store. I also have great respect for the medical profession. And, I’m putting my money where my mouth is by sending two of my children to medical school. So I hope I won’t be accused of being anti-technology or anti-medicine when I say I heartily disagree with President Bush’s recent waffling on research involving embryonic stem cells. I understand he was under intense pressure from liberals in Congress, their allies in the liberal press and also by well-meaning scientists eager to find cures for disease. However, killing human embryos for medical research is just plain wrong, no matter how tempting it may be to imagine the benefits that could result.
According to the White House press release, “The President’s decision will permit federal funding of research using the more than 60 existing stem cell lines that have already been derived, but will not sanction or encourage the destruction of additional human embryos. The embryos from which the existing stem cell lines were created have already been destroyed and no longer have the possibility of further development as human beings.” This decision is political compromise at its worst. If President Bush truly believes in the sanctity of life, then the research that produced these cells was murder. However, it’s okay to profit from it now because it’s already done. Am I the only one who finds this totally disgusting?
One disturbing thing about this whole controversy is that the American public is not getting a chance to hear both sides of the story from the mainstream press. We hear (or read) how research on embryos is the only hope for paralyzed people such as Christopher Reeve to walk again. We are told that the embryos are just “extras” that will have to be destroyed anyway, or that they are not really potential human beings, but only collections of cells called “blastocysts.” People relying only on these information sources are probably not aware of two important facts: First, stem cells are found not only in embryos, but also in adults, most notably in bone marrow. Also, the medical advances achieved thus far have been made by research on stem cells taken from adults. To date, there have been no breakthroughs using stem cells derived from embryos. In other words, we can continue research on stem cells without killing our children.
For another view to balance out what we are being force-fed, please go to this Web site: www.stemcellresearch.org. It is sponsored by a group called Do No Harm – The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, a national coalition of researchers, healthcare professionals, bioethicists, legal professionals and others dedicated to the promotion of scientific research and healthcare which does no harm to human life. It contains information giving an alternative view of this subject that no thoughtful citizen should ignore.
Here are two insightful passages from resources linked to this site: Wesley J. Smith, writing in National Review Online, says: “Senator Orrin Hatch, former Senator Connie Mack, and other ESCR [embryonic stem cell research] supporters who self-identify as pro-life, have taken to asserting that life doesn’t really begin until actual implantation in the mother’s womb, thereby seeking to hold on to a thin thread of consistency with their previous anti-abortion advocacy. (Hatch put it rather indelicately, stating, ‘Life begins in the womb, not a refrigerator.’) The idea that life begins in the mother and not a Petri dish may reflect a metaphysical belief system to which these anti-abortion politicians are surely entitled. But it isn’t biology. Biologically, an individual human life commences as soon as sperm merges with egg. At that point, its entire genetic makeup of a human individual has been determined. The rest is simply a matter of time and development.”
Andrew Sullivan, writing in the on-line edition of The New Republic: “One criterion to distinguish a real human being – with rights and dignity – from an embryo or a fingernail might be viability. The blastocyst, while clearly the same species as the rest of us, cannot survive independent of scientific paraphernalia, a freezer or a womb. Hence it’s not a human being – and can morally be experimented on. That’s a clear line – but it opens up a host of other possibilities. If ‘viability’ independent of a mother or others is the criterion, why shouldn’t the physically incapacitated or the very old be consigned to medical experimentation?…They say a blastocyst is so unformed that it cannot be equated with a fetus, let alone with an adult. But it remains a fact – indeed one of the marvels of creation – that the embryo contains exactly the same amount of genetic information as you or I do. To extinguish it is surely not to extinguish something other than us. It is to extinguish us.”
For those of you who still are unsure, check out the following Web address:
It contains a very brief description of my point of view on the subject, in just a few words and pictures. I repeat – we can continue medical research on stem cells without killing our children. Please check out the facts on this vital issue for yourself and don’t be influenced by so-called experts mouthing politically popular scientific opinions.