Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 11, 2004
Stem cell debate rages on
Confronted with the choice of life from another's death this author would say 'No'
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
New Jersey is the first and only American state to create and fund a stem cell research facility. This is good. Stem cell therapies hold such promise for treating conditions like Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, arthritis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, to name a few.
Stem cells can be derived from a vast number of sources from bone marrow to umbilical cords, from skin to cadavers to embryos. Only embryonic stem cell sources are controversial because they require the killing of a human embryo.
Ethical dilemmaThe New Jersey research program is expected to be involved with embryonic stem cell sources: this creates an ethical problem for many seriously ill people. How can a person opposed to abortion - a person who knows the biological fact that human life begins at conception, and believes in the equality of human life, accept a therapy that requires the taking of another human life?
Why would a government fund research that it knows will exclude a constituency of its citizens from benefitting (like many devout Catholics)?
The most promising stem cell research to date involves non-embryonic sources and that would benefit everyone. So why would New Jersey allow tax funding to go to fetal stem cell research?
We should not be too hard on New Jersey. The Canadian government is willing to give tax dollars to embryonic stem cell research too. What if fetal stem cell research develops a cure or effective treatment for progressive multiple sclerosis? My MS is slowly destroying me.
Only my left arm remains unaffected by disease.
Should I look the other way in order to be delivered or helped, knowing my deliverance is on the back of another?
For more than 20 years, I have publicly supported human rights and protections for every human being beginning at conception to natural death.
What an interesting quandary. What a diabolical temptation.
No! Sadly I would have to turn from a hideous therapy that capitalizes on unwanted human life. It is better to remain in my half-dead body than to resurrect lost function and lose my humanity. I don't want deliverance from degenerative multiple sclerosis at that price. It is too high. At the end of my life, how would I face the God who knows both consumer and consumed?
Catholic teaching is unequivocal about the value of human life beginning at conception: "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2270).
Then, "The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation" (CCC, n. 2273).
If this is true (and it is) then I must not accept embryonic stem cell therapies. An embryo must die to glean its stem cells, so that I may live.
My Christianity and Catholic faith expect more from me than compromising fundamental moral principles for the sake of self-interest.
Christ calls humanity to a higher standard. Jesus calls us away from seeking affirmation and toward affirming the worth of others at every stage and state of the life spectrum. He did not die for just some - he died for all in all generations. I believe this with all my heart. At this stage of advanced multiple sclerosis, it's all I have left that really matters.
Stand firmThis month I will be in New Jersey to deliver the keynote address at a critical life issues conference sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen. I will take the opportunity to encourage my fellow Catholics to stand firm in unshakeable faith and testimony to the inviolable dignity of every human life. Human rights begin when human life begins.
I will remind them that the Church teaches: "Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community" (CCC, n. 2238).
A society that feeds on the discarded bodies of unwanted embryonic human life engages in evil. It is right for Catholics of Canada and New Jersey, and all good citizens of good will, to encourage and expect their governments to fund only non-embryonic stem cell research.
I will encourage the attendees of the New Jersey Conference on Critical Life Issues to courageously stand in the face of a culture of death in favour of a culture of life under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
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