Minister of Education Reports
The Truth About Stem Cell Research part 1
Recently our President, who says he believes life begins at conception, said he was struggling to balance the scientific and medical opportunities offered by stem cell research against the moral hazards of using human embryos as a source of raw material for lab tests. He is not alone.
This can be an emotional issue for many people who would normally be opposed to all forms of abortion. One of the reasons they may be brought into an emotional conflict is if they or someone they know has been able to have children through the utilization of a fertility clinic. The very embryos at issue in this debate are those produced but not used helping infertile couples conceive. Most of these are eventually destroyed after couples have satisfied their desire for children.
For many people who go to fertility clinics, the trips represent the last desperate effort to fulfill an empty part of their lives. Their concern in making the trip was often not only meeting this need, but also a desire to have a child they could bestow love on, and yes, raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They do not wish to have to consider that in order to obtain that longed for child, that many other blastocyst embryos, potentially their children, would have to be sacrificed.
It seems almost heartless to even write about the subject, knowing that what is being put to paper may well be read by a person in just such a situation. But avoiding the issue does not change it or make it go away. The truth is that unless couples have expressed a desire that their unused embryos be donated to research or allowed them to be implanted in some other personís womb they will most certainly be discarded when the fertility procedures are completed. Refusing to talk about that does not change the reality of it.
Some religious organizations have always opposed fertilization processes arguing that infertile adults who want children should adopt. The reasoning is that they are Godís ministers of provision for the multitudes of precious children who find themselves living in this world without the blessing of parents. Unfortunately, as with almost everything the government gets its fingers into, the adoption process in the United States is often so difficult that would be parents have found it easier to adopt a child from overseas than to go through an American agency. The horror stories connected with adoption agencies make fertility clinics look even more appealing.
Wherever we stand on the subject of stem cell research we need to remember that caught in the middle of the issue are people who went to fertility clinics seeking only for a child of their own.
Minister of Education Reports
The Truth About Stem Cell Research part 2
In our first installment we talked about the moral and emotional dilemma of those who found themselves caught in the middle of the debate over stem cell research using embryos. In this discussion we set aside the issue of feelings to get at the core of the matter. The ethical and religious question we must ask ourselves is whether using the cells of embryos is on similar moral ground as abortion and infanticide? This is a very important issue because for a society to be good and remain good it must value human life.
A Christian who believes the Bible to be Godís very words written to us cannot escape the fact that God tells us He supervises the unborn childís development in the womb. Old time Jews took this so seriously they considered themselves to be a year old at the time of their birth. Could it be that God not only spoke to us through His word but in the very attitude He implanted in these people in response to His word? It should not be hard to see that we need to have an attitude toward the whole question that is not merely moral and ethical, but is also God-honoring.
There is a danger anytime we let our guard down about issues related to human life just as in other moral and ethical issues. The real possibility exists that if embryonic stem cell research is permitted, the door may be opened wider to many other steps demeaning to human life. Some scientists have made it clear that they have a long research agends starting with the creation of human embryos specifically for research purposes. These issues can even be used to desensitize people to the issues at the other end of lifeís spectrum such as euthanasia.
Already we can see that there is confusion and a flawed response to the issues related to embryonic stem cell research in a variety of ways. People within the research community often try to make it look as if this procedure is the only way to go about doing stem cell research. They also try to say that it should not be such a big deal because they only need just a few embryos to guarantee a continuous supply. Then you have the people in government who make federal guidelines on embryonic stem cell research. They allow federally supported researchers to use the cells but not to derive them. It has been observed that is like saying it is okay to use stolen property provided you donít steal it yourself.
We can see there is a need for a biblical response from Christians that is in agreement with one another. Unfortunately that is not likely to happen because of the age we live in.
Minister of Education Reports
The Truth About Stem Cell Research part 3
Now that our President has come out and openly approved limited stem cell research funding we have to accept the fact that this issue will not be one that will quietly disappear as scientific fads march on. The Federal support that will be given to even limited research will guarantee that this will be a continuing problem. The people who are receiving funds will naturally seek to perpetuate their source of support as long as possible.
What you probably have not heard in all this discussion is that adult derived stem cells may have a much wider repertoire than embryonic derived stem cells and the ďharvestingĒ of stem cells from unborn babies in the initial embryonic stage might be totally unnecessary.
The potential value of patientís own stem cells being used to grow replacement organs would mean that the probability of immuno- logical problems occurring would be eliminated. The use of stem cells from unmatched embryonic donors is likely to cause all the problems that go along with existing forms of organ transplants. It would seem common sense for scientists to focus on this more promising area of research, but it seems that the researchers are more concerned with taking the easier road in stem cell experimentation. This means unborn humans will be turned into guinea pigs.
The possible benefits from stem cell research is real. It offers possibilities for treating difficult diseases like Parkinsonís and diabetes. Some have even held out hopes for the use of stem cell technology being one day applied to the treatment of Alzheimerís. If this area of inquiry proves to be successful we will be hearing of a new field of treatment called regenerative medicine in the future. But the question is shall we arrive at the solution of how to receive these blessing at the price of our own moral and ethical standards?
You see embryonic stem cell research opens the door to many other things that demean the value of human life. Scientists have long wanted to create embryos specifically for research purposes. Then we have to ask ourselves what will be the next thing allowed should scientists decide that experimenting with elderly patients or mentally unstable patients might somehow benefit other human beings? Should we allow those things if they claim that the loss is minimal compared to the gains that might be made? A free and virtuous society that believes God made man in His own image can ill afford to do anything that puts a limitation on what human life we value.
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