Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR) is the harvesting of stem cells from embryos in the hope of creating treatments for various human illnesses and diseases. Stem cells are a type of cell which, under certain stimuli, can grow into a wide variety of different tissues that can potentially heal a huge array of illnesses.
There are two different sources for stem cells: embryonic tissue and adult stem cells (derived, for instance, from umbilical cord blood). There is nothing morally wrong with using adult stem cells. However, the taking of innocent human life is always and everywhere gravely immoral. ESCR is essentially the killing and cannibalization of a developing human child in order to harvest stem cells.
Whether that child is derived from the artificial fertilization of a human egg in a test tube or from an abortion clinic, the facts are the same. There is abundant scientific, biological, and philosophical evidence that the unborn child is a human person from the moment of fertilization.
Every human person, regardless of their stage of development, has intrinsic dignity and worth. This means that the worth of a human being does not depend on how that person’s life will affect other lives. We each have ultimate meaning and significance in our own selves and not as means to some other end.
Adult stem cell research has already seen numerous breakthroughs and developments resulting in useful treatments of disease, while ESCR has not seen a single positive development. However, even if ESCR were to find cures, it would still be gravely and intrinsically immoral because it is wrong to destroy one human person in order to try to make the life of another human person better. Adult stem cell research makes abundantly clear that there are positive alternatives that do not require the killing of a human being.
The dignity and worth of a human being comes from our uniquely human capacity to participate in things of ultimate significance – like love, truth, justice, beauty, and home. People of faith would translate this by saying that the worth of human beings is grounded in the unconditional love that God has for each of us.
Advocates of ESCR try to justify it for a variety of reasons. While many of these arguments sound reasonable and compassionate, ESCR not only kills developing human beings, it dehumanizes those who perform the research, as well as diverting time, energy and money away from adult stem cell research which has actually been fruitful. There are always better alternatives to ESCR. And every act of killing an embryo violates the most fundamental and universal principles of reason, ethics, and justice which are necessary for civilizations to survive, and which have been around for hundreds and even thousands of years.