As South Dakota considers repealing the state ban on embryonic stem cell research, this issue is receiving more and more attention on a national level.
President Obama came to the White House last month carrying the campaign promise that he would reverse President Bush’s 2001 ban on taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research (except for a few specific lines of embryonic stem cells already harvested).
The fact that Obama has not yet done so is a matter of consternation for those eager to destroy innocent human life in the hopes that stem cells derived from them might, maybe, someday cure various diseases in other humans. There may be some eagerness for those tax dollars and research grants, too.
Even as some work to put the taxpayers on the hook for this destruction of innocent human life and to lift state bans, adult stem cell research has for a number of years been producing successful treatments for various illnesses and injuries. These include meningitis-related limb damage, brain injury, stroke, retina regeneration, heart tissue regeneration, angina, diabetes, bone cancer, nerve regeneration, cerebral palsy, cartilage regeneration, Parkinsons, kidney damage, liver cancer, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and leukemia.
Adult stem cell therapy also doesn’t have the same treatment issues ESC does. It also doesn’t involve the destruction of innocent human life, because the stem cells are taken from various areas of the person’s own body.
Embryonic stem cell (ESC) research involves the harvesting of stem cells from human embryos. In the process, the human embryo is destroyed.
ESC also faces serious problems such as tissue rejection, the same tissue rejection seen in organ transplant recipients who must remain on ant-rejection drugs the rest of their lives to prevent their body from rejecting the foreign tissue.
ESC also has a problem with tumors. It seems ESC has a tendency to produce tumors in recipients of the embryonic stem cells.
An editorial at Investors Business Daily yesterday examines this problem.
Adult stem cells culled from a patient’s body solve the rejection problem of ESCs and have already been used in hundreds of treatments and therapies of patients. But embryonic, or pluripotent, stem cells can’t seem to make it out of the laboratory.
They are called pluripotent because they can develop into any and every type of human tissue. That’s why some scientists prefer them. Problem is, they’re hard to control and tend to develop into one of the most primitive and terrifying forms of cancer, a tumor called a teratoma.
The IBD editorial also examines the case I discussed a few days ago of a boy from Israel who had a deadly brain disease and sought fetal stem cell therapy (very similar to ESC, the only difference being in the age of the human) in Russia. Unfortunately the results were sad…and predictable.
Tragically, within a year of the last injection, teratomas developed in the boy’s brain and spinal cord.
But the embryonic stem cell research situation is getting progressively worse–and quickly.
The Food and Drug Administration approved within three days of President Obama’s inauguration the first permission granted to test ESC treatments on human subjects. It OK’d an application from a California firm to inject stem cells from human embryos into people paralyzed from the chest down by spinal cord injuries.
After what happens in animal testing, and what happened to this Israeli boy, apparently some people are still willing to subject a human being to this risky and ghastly experimentation.
Unlike the embryonic humans destroyed to harvest these stem cells, these people will at least be able to consent to the harm visited upon them.
After World War II and the inhuman human experiments conducted by the Nazis, civilized people struggled to get a handle on this kind of casual disregard for the value of human life. Out of that struggle came the Nuremberg Code which defined in writing certain principles of ethical conduct.
Those principles included the importance of consent to human experimentation (which embryonic human beings are obviously unable to give), that fruitful results are unprocurable through other means (as adult stem cell therapy is already providing), and that every effort be made to protect the subject from “even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death (ESC always results in the death of the embryonic human).
At the moment of conception, the human embryo has human DNA. Not plant DNA, not rabbit DNA, but HUMAN DNA.
This human DNA that the human embryo has is unique DNA. It is not the same DNA as the mother, the father, an aunt, Bill Clinton, Paris Hilton or any other human being. It is unique HUMAN DNA. This means it doesn’t belong to another person’s body to do with as they please; they are their own unique person.
The human embryo which has unique human DNA has all the genetic information it will ever need for the rest of it’s life. The human embryo isn’t just stomach DNA or liver DNA or spleen DNA or leg DNA or hand DNA; it is genetically a complete human being. It doesn’t get more DNA at 1 month of development, 9 months development, at birth or at 18years of age.
The human embryo is genetically complete at conception. This embryonic human lacks only development. Surely we wouldn’t argue that a 2-year-old is less human and less deserving of life and protection than an 18 year old, simply because the 2-year-old lacks development?
Unfortunately, some in our society seem totally willing to ignore the lessons learned at Nuremberg and proceed unphased with the destruction of innocent human life.
Are we really prepared to engage in the kind of disregard for human life that we once recoiled from and condemned the Nazis for?
If we are, then may God have mercy on our souls (more mercy than we have for the innocent human beings we are prepared to destroy).
If that is the case, we are about to embark on a dark path that will cost us our very humanity.