Friday, December 02, 2005

The Coming Rise of Stem Cell Research

The government sponsorship of embryonic stem cell research has already become a divisive issue in modern culture and I predict it will become even more so in the next few years. On many issues, there is a clear dividing line that separates those who’s decision making are guided primarily by absolute moral ethics verses those who adjust their philosophy based on the transitory popular or emotional sentiment. I suspect however when it comes to the issue of federal funding and thus advocacy for more stem cell research, this dividing line will begin to disappear. The prospect of uncovering cures for killer illnesses that has impacted millions of lives will be too emotional a burden for most people regardless of their ideology. Most people will relate first and foremost to the wrenching impact of losing a loved one or preventing the loss of a future loved one, if stem cell research can produce the breakthroughs that the scientists suggest. But at what cost and to whom?

Scientists speculate that stem cells hold great potential for treating or curing illnesses, including juvenile diabetes and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Stem Cells and the Future of Regenerative Medicine, a new report from the National Academies, says that public funding of research on human stem cells derived from both adults and embryos provides the most efficient and responsible means to fulfill the promise of stem cells for achieving medical breakthroughs.1 The real promise say the scientists is in the lines of embryonic stem cells. Couples who have difficulty conceiving, go through the process of artificial fertilization in an attempt to get pregnant. It is common that in this process multiple “spare” embryos are created. The unused embryos are then discarded. The stem cell proponent’s theory is based on their interpretation that these embryos do not constitute legitimate human life. This despite the fact that it is the very humanness of the embryos that make them valuable to the scientists. Instead of throwing them away, the proponents argue that the embryos be allowed to be used for stem-cell harvesting instead. Why not use these "spare embryos" to help save lives?

Biblically, I submit that the original problem is not initially with stem-cell research, but the earlier decision to sanction another scientifically driven process namely artificial fertilization. The moral dilemma attached to embryonic stem cell harvesting is the inevitable slope that you take when you reject God's decision or timing - in this example, by not accepting apparent infertility, and working around it using human effort.

The skeptic may state: who's to say that God did not allow the knowledge of artificial fertilization in order to allow for child bearing?

I think a biblical answer to such matters can be found in the Book of Genesis, when Abraham and Sarah performed their version of artificial fertilization some 4,000 years ago (also working around apparent infertility). The outcome? Ishmael – the son born to Sarah’s Egyptian slave - and the world is still paying for that decision in the form of Ishmael's offspring the Arabs (September 11th being a vivid example). God was very predictive about this offspring when He said among other things in Genesis 16-12 "...his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him."

As the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12 "...Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial.” Just because man can "create life" via artificial fertilization, doesn't mean that he should. Please note: this statement is not a value judgment on the children that have resulted from artificial fertilization, because ultimately it is still God who allows them to be born.

1- Stem Cells and the Future of Regenerative Medicine (2002) - Commission on Life Sciences

No comments:

A God who sends people to Hell?