A Christian Look at the Fetal Tissue Issue


PERTINENT ISSUES:

  • The morality of organ transplantation.
  • The morality of abortion.
  • Our obligation to care for our bodies.
  • Effectiveness of Fetal Tissue Transplant Work

I. The Morality of Organ Transplantation

  • Principle: Truly right deeds and decisions can only be made by the Christian from a heart of faith, guided by God’s Word, regardless of its perceived outcome.
  • Application: The first question to ask is now WHAT should I do; or CAN I do it; but WHY should I do it? In Christian ethical decision-making motive is the first determinant of what is right or wrong?

Apart from faith there are no “truly right” deeds and decisions:

Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith deeds and decisions are “right”:

Matthew 12:35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

Romans 1:5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

Romans 14:23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

2 Corinthians 13:7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.

The propriety of receiving an organ transplant

  • Scripture is silent.
  • Motive is the first determinant.
  • Any conflict with other Biblical principles is the second determinant.

II. THE MORALITY OF ABORTION

  • Purpose: God alone has the right to initiate and terminate life.
  • Application: When does human life really begin? Who causes human life to begin? Who has the right to terminate any human life?

God is the author of life and death

Deuteronomy 32:39 “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.

1 Samuel 2:6 “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.

Human life is present at conception

Genesis 4:1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.”

1 Samuel 1:20,27 So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him…I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.”

Psalm 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

God determines the end of life and uses many means to accomplish it

Psalm 90:3 You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”

Psalm 31:15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.

2 Kings 5:7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

Without God’s permission man cannot take human life

Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

Deuteronomy 5:17 “You shall not murder.

  • Principle: The Christian life is to focus on giving God all glory
  • Application: As I make a decision concerning abortion or receiving a transplantation of fetal tissue (or any other medical procedure), whose counsel is to guide me?

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

III. OUR OBLIGATION TO CARE FOR OUR BODIES

  • Principle: God demonstrates in his word that while there may be different qualities of life he extends to all human life an absolute value, being the object of his love and plan of salvation.
  • Application: How do I determine the value of my life?

The value of human life is seen in the creation

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Genesis 9:3,6 “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

The value of human life is seen in the plan of salvation

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

1 Peter 1:18-19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Life has an absolute (quantitative) value

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

God shows love for lives and souls without respect to quality

Psalm 8:3-4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

Matthew 15:30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.

Matthew 5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Acts 10:34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.”

Romans 2:11 God does not show favoritism.

God wants us to show love for lives and souls without respect to quality

Proverbs 31:8 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.

James 2:9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

1 Timothy 5:21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

Leviticus 19:15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

  • Principle: The purpose of life is to glorify God by coming to and growing in faith and to then share that faith with others by our word and example.
  • Application: As I consider whether I should have a fetal tissue transplant, how well do I understand my own purpose in life? What role with such a transplantation have in enabling me to carry out my purpose?

Life is a time to come to faith

2 Corinthians 6:2b I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

Hebrews 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.

Life is a time to grow in faith

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Life is a time to share the faith

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

  • Principle: The way we care for our bodies reflects our obedience to the Fifth Commandment
  • Application: How important is it that I retain my health or improve it?

My life is a blessing from God

Genesis 2:7 The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Isaiah 38:16 Lord…You restored me to health and let me live.

I am to care for my blessings

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Matthew 25:14-30 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

1 Timothy 5:23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

  • Principle: Care should be beneficial and not harmful or wasteful.
  • Application: Can a Christian be careless over the way he spends his time or resources in pursuing medical care?

See Matthew 25:14-30 above

Revelation 3:14-18 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

IV. EFFECTIVENESS OF FETAL TISSUE TRANSPLANTATION

  • The Procedure

Fetal tissue generally refers to pancreatic or neural brain tissue (tissue from the cranial cavity of an unborn child). The tissue is extracted from aborted unborn children. Some of these children aborted spontaneously while others were induced abortions. Generally, the tissue is transplanted into pertinent portions of the patient’s brain. This transplantation, or grafting is then hoped to regenerate damaged brain tissue.

  • History

1928 – Italian surgeons transplanted pancreatic tissue from three unborn children into a patient with diabetes. No success.

1939 – U.S. physicians made two similar attempts but with no success.

1959 – A U.S. surgeon attempted fetal tissue transplantation to cure leukemia but it provided no lasting success.

1968 – Fetal live cells were grafted into patients suffering DiGeorge syndrome, a rare and usually fatal disorder marked by multiple abnormalities of glands and organs, including the heart. The disease strikes one in 10,000 newborns. DiGeorge syndrome is the only condition for which fetal-tissue transplants were accepted treatment.

  • Fetal Tissue that is Harvested

Brain Cells – Brain cells from 6-11 week-old unborn children used to treat Parkinson’s Disease.

Neurons – Neurons from 8-14 week-old unborn children might be used to treat spinal cord injuries, MS, and ALD.

Pancreatic Cells – Taken from the pancreas of 10-20 week old unborn children to help diabetic patients produce insulin.

Liver Cells – Possibly used from 13 week old unborn children to help in such diseases as Hurler’s.

Stem Cells – Taken from unborn children 16 weeks and younger to fight some blood disorders as sickle cell anemia, and others.

  • Potential Uses

Parkinson’s Disease – More than million Americans suffer this affliction. It is marked by tremors, rigidity, and eventual paralysis. The affliction is caused by a failure of the brain stem to supply a stead stream of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Medication used to stimulate the production of dopamine — mainly a drug called L-dopa — often produces serious side-effects and becomes less effective over time. The idea is to restore a permanent supplier of dopamine into the patient’s brain. That permanent supply, for some, is said to be found in the neural brain cells of an unborn child.

Juvenile-onset Diabetes – There are about 14 million diabetics in the U.S. Approximately 200,000 people die each year from complications of the disease. The affliction is caused by the pancreas failing to produce a vital hormone called insulin. It has been claimed by some researchers that while transplanting pancreatic tissue of unborn child has failed to reverse or cure the disease, it has enabled the afflicted to reduce the amount of insulin they must inject themselves into their own bodies.

Huntington’s Disease – There are approximately 25,000 victims of this genetic disorder in the United States. It is characterized by a gradual destruction of brain tissue resulting in a decline in physical mobility, dementia, and eventually death. There is no known cure or treatment of the disease, though effort is made to reduce the symptoms. Recently geneticists announced discovery of the genetic link to the disease. Some speculate that transplanting the brain cells of unborn children into the brains of these victims may alleviate the effects of the disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease – There is still much to be learned about this disease. It appears that the brain begins to churn out a type of plaque which coats and cripples neuron’s ability to communicate. The result is that nerve cells begin to die causing victims to lose their memory and other mental skills, their physical skills, and eventually their life. Some would like to see fetal tissue transplantation experiments conducted for this disease but the problem is that brain damage from the affliction is much more widespread and it would be difficult where to place a localized specimen of fetal neural tissue.

Spinal Cord Damage – Every year about 180,000 Americans suffer some sort of spinal cord damage. Experiments performed on animals has resulted in the some damaged neural fibers growing back. Some think similar successes might be experienced with using neural tissue from unborn children.

Myelin diseases – ALD, a disease made famous in the movie, Lorenzo’s Oil, may possibly be a target of experimentation with fetal tissue transplants. Augusto Odone, Lorenzo’s father, feels that such testing could take place before the end of 1993.

Hurler’s Syndrome – The disease afflicts between 50 and 80 babies each year. It causes massively overgrown organs, deformities, blindness, and death. The disease came to the public’s attention when the Rev. Guy Walden and his wife, Terri, consented to a “fetus to fetus” transplant for their unborn child diagnosed with the malady. Doctors took liver cells from a 13-week-old unborn child of an ectopic pregnancy and injected them into the abdomen of the Walden’s 15-week old unborn child. Six months after the child was born (a boy) tests show that his body was producing the previously missing enzyme.

Female Sterility – The ovaries of a female unborn child contain a few million eggs. Doctors speculate that transplantation of ovaries from an unborn child to an infertile woman could enable her to bear children, though they would have the genetic pattern of the unborn child.

Other – Estimates are that some 155 other genetic disorders may be corrected before birth with fetal tissue transplants. AIDS has also become a considered field of exploration with fetal tissue transplants. Currently experimentation includes transplanting tiny pieces of thymus, liver, and lymph from unborn children into mice born with no immune system. Within two months scientists report that the had grown to the size of a peanut and were producing human immune cells.

  • The Effectiveness of Fetal Tissue Transplants

As stated above, much of the attention has focused on dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. Near the end of 1992 and into early 1993 the media provided significant coverage concerning the success of fetal tissue transplants in treating patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The attention was stimulated by President Bill Clinton’s effort to lift the ban on the use of government money to fund fetal tissue experimentation using unborn children victimized by elective abortions. The real boost came in a story from the New England Journal of Medicine which detailed the successes of fetal tissue transplants.


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