New Embryonic Stem Cell Research Method

Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources

I have been asked to comment on the latest news that scientists are now able to harvest embryonic stem cells without killing the embryo. Specifically, two new procedures are being reported in an effort to avoid the ethical offense of killing the embryo when extracting stem cells.

The first procedure involves a technique that is used during in-vitro fertilization procedures in which embryos are screened before implantation into the womb. It involves extracting a cell from an embryo and then stimulating that cell to produce stem cells. This procedure remains problematic because human life at this stage of the development is exceptionally fragile, and therefore this cell-extraction procedure is extremely dangerous. The cell extraction can often be fatal for the developing unborn child.

The second procedure involves a hybrid form of cloning. The difference is that scientists intentionally “disable” a gene within the developing embryo to prevent it from growing, or more specifically, embedding in the womb. The logic is that because it could not survive, it therefore should not be an offense to destroy it for its stem cells.

Generally speaking, we view bioethicists Robyn Shapiro (Medical College of Wisconsin) and R. Alto Charo (UW-Madison Law School) as taking the opposing side of most life issues than we do. Yet, on this procedure we concur with their observations. Ms. Shapiro observed that in this procedure what really changes is that the potential for life is taken away. Ms. Charo was even more pointed in her observation, “Instead, they created a terminally ill embryo.”

We would reject the first procedure because it is too dangerous to the fragile embryo. We also reject the second procedure for its obvious slight-of-hand approach of cutting short a child’s potential for continued life.

I would also add that it is important we do not lose sight of the fact that while in theory embryonic stem cell research holds promise for some hope in treating maladies, nothing has been proven. In contrast, stem cells extracted from adults and umbilical cord blood have both proven very promising without placing lives at risk.


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