Friday, July 29, 2005

Frist and embryonic stem cell research

If a new method of creating stem cells goes through and proves viable (a method called altered nuclear transfer [ANT]) perhaps politicians like Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) wouldn’t have to make such political sacrifices. Frist has just announced his support for a bill that would expand federal financing for embryonic stem cell research–a bill which the White House has threatened to veto. "It's not just a matter of faith,” Frist says. “It's a matter of science.” And this has prompted a quick and negative response from several conservatives.

As I mentioned before, ANT works by transferring an altered nucleus into an egg (oocyte) which then prompts the egg cell to produce pluripotent cells, thereby bypassing the embryonic stage. In other words, no embryo is created through this method and this seems to resolve the ethical dilemma created by the present method of embryonic stem cell research in which an embryo is destroyed in order to harvest its stem cells.

Ethics and Medics recently printed a description of this method. It can be technical, but you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll gather from this write-up.

But then there’s also the issue of suffering. "As a physician, Sen. Frist has a moral calling to save lives and alleviate suffering. He honors his Hippocratic Oath today by recognizing the unique healing power of embryonic stem cells," said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts).

I think those who suffer from debilitating illness deserve more encouragement and support than those words from the senator. And they certainly deserve more than from an ethically questionable method that may or may not even bring about their healing. They deserve people who are with them in their time of pain and testing and to help them pass through their suffering. There is a profound meaning to suffering, as Pope John Paul II wrote several years ago in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris.

A greater way to alleviate suffering is to find meaning and hope in it. And that’s what John Paul has done.

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