Tuesday, August 29, 2006

nothing new about the "new technique" of extracting embryonic stem cells

Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) has recently developed the so-called “new technique” of extracting stem cells from an embryo without its destruction.

This "new" technique involves extracting a single cell, called a blastomere, from a few-days-old embryo. This blastomere will then be used to generate stem cells.

Meanwhile the embryo, minus the one extracted cell, is said to be largely unaffected by this procedure---its life being preserved.

As a result ACT's Dr. Robert Lanza has declared that "For most rational people this removes the last rational objection for opposing this research.”

Well, this misses the core rationale behind the objection to embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) and specifically to this “new technique”:

This research violates the dignity and the integrity of the embryo which (logically, biologically, genetically) already possesses in itself the status of being a member of the human family.

Additionally, some have missed the Church’s position, as well as the position of those outside the Church but who are likewise scandalized by ESCR, that tinkering with the embryo in any way--no matter how seemingly noble the objective is for patients, for science, for society--eventhough the embryo’s life is preserved, still constitutes a crime.

Those may seem to be tough words for some. But in matters involving life or death, on matters as grave as this, there can be no equivocation. The universal principle that human life cannot be taken and exploited for the service of another is still being violated by this “new technique.”

Additionally, there is really nothing new about this technique. This procedure, as Dr. Lanza himself has admitted, has been used many times as part of the in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. It's called the pre-implantation genetic diagnosis which is used to test the viability of an embryo. In other words, this technique is part of a procedure (IVF) which the Church already finds morally objectionable.

There is nothing new here. I suspect there is some "spinning" going on to make it seem as if a “breakthrough” has been found.

I feel sad for the patients who are being promised that from all of this a cure is forthcoming---a cure (if at all possible) that is most likely years away.

Admittedly there is prestige and money involved in stem sell therapies. For instance, just a few months ago the BBC reported that people with life-threatening illnesses are being swindled out of thousands of pounds by a company in the United Kingdom, offering them false hope by using stem cells.

What I would truly like to see is a good national discussion and debate on the status of the embryo, employing logic, genetics, philosophy, biology, medicine: because the question of who is a human being/a human person is ultimately a philosophical one. To this question certainly the latest data from medicine and science can only help.

When the discussion takes this route I am certain more people will begin to see why the Church teaches as she does, and why she minds the well-being of these “little ones.”

And as a result, hopefully more people will recognize how eerie and chilling are these words from a mother calling a radio program at NPR at which Dr. Lanza was recently the guest.

The caller asked:

“I went through IVF and got pregnant and I have leftover embryos…and I wondered how do I give them to somebody for stem cell research….and is it better to save one of those for me for stem cell lines or is it better to save the baby’s core blood?”

Here is a mother asking Lanza to help her figure what to do with her “leftover” children.

Forgive them for they know not what they ask.

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