Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Primer on Stem Cell Options

From the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, here's their brief "lesson plan" on embryonic vs. adult stem cell research. Very good.

1. What are human embryonic stem cells and how are they obtained?

Human embryonic stem cells are the cells from which all 200+ kinds of tissue in the human body originate. They are typically derived from human embryos -- often those from fertility clinics who are lift over from assisted reproduction attempts (e.g. in vitro fertilization). When stem cells are obtained from living human embryos, the harvesting of such cells necessitates destruction of the embryo.

2. Why should we value the human embryo?

Underlying the passages of Scripture that refer to the unborn (e.g., Job 31:15; Ps. 139:13-16; Luke 1:35-45) is the assumption that they are human beings who are created, known, and uniquely valued by God. Genesis 9:6 warns us against killing our fellow human beings who are created in the very image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Furthermore, human embryonic life -- as well as all of creation -- exists primarily for God's own pleasure and purpose, not ours. (Col. 1:16).

3. Is it ethical to allow the destruction of a few embryos in order to help the millions of people who suffer from diseases such as Parkinson's and heart disease?

No. Many proponents of human embryonic stem cell research argue that it is actually wrong to protect the lives of a few unborn human beings if doing so will delay treatment fro a much larger number of people who suffer from fatal or debilitating diseases. However, we are not free to pursue gain through immoral or unethical means such as the taking of innocent life (Deut. 27:25). The medical experiments in Nazi Germany should serve as just one remainder of the consequences of doing evil in the name of science. We must not sacrifice one class of human beings (the embryonic) to benefit another (whose suffering from serious illness). Sripture resoundingly rejects the temptation to "do evil that good may result" (Rom. 3:8).

4. Is there promising research that does uphold human dignity and life?

Yes" Adult stem cell research is where all the medical successes are currently taking place. Embryonic stem cell research has yielded no successful treatment to date. The 60 human medical conditions helped by stem cell treatment have all used adult stem cells -- a true life=affirming approach!