St Francis Q&A

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Stem cell research

Anon asked, “My understanding that the embryonic stem cells are discarded (from different articles I have read) so if that is the case then why not have embryonic stem cell research? Millions of Americans can be helped from these cells.” The following is a Q & A from the USCCB; the fourth question is similar to your question, Anon. To view the full Q & A, please click on the title of this post.

A stem cell is a relatively unspecialized cell that, when it divides, cando two things: make another cell like itself, or make any of a numberof cells with more specialized functions. For example, just onekind of stem cell in our blood can make new red blood cells, orwhite blood cells, or other kinds—depending on what the bodyneeds. These cells are like the stem of a plant that spreads out in different directions as it grows.

Not at all. Most stem cell research uses cells obtained from adulttissue, umbilical cord blood, and other sources that pose no moralproblem. Useful stem cells have been found in bone marrow, blood,muscle, fat, nerves, and even in the pulp of baby teeth. Some ofthese cells are already being used to treat people with a wide varietyof diseases.

WHY IS THE CHURCH OPPOSED TO STEM CELL RESEARCHUSING THE EMBRYO?Because harvesting these stem cells kills the living human embryo.The Church opposes the direct destruction of innocent human lifefor any purpose, including research.

IF SOME HUMAN EMBRYOS WILL REMAIN IN FROZEN STORAGEAND ULTIMATELY BE DISCARDED ANYWAY, WHY IS IT WRONG TO TRY TO GET SOME GOOD OUT OF THEM?In the end we will all die anyway, but that gives no one a right tokill us. In any case, these embryos will not die because they are inherently unable to survive, but because others are choosing to hand them over for destructive research instead of letting them implant in their mother’s womb. One wrong choice does not justify an additionalwrong choice to kill them for research, much less a choice to maketaxpayers support such destruction. The idea of experimenting onhuman beings because they may die anyway also poses a grave threatto convicted prisoners, terminally ill patients, and others....

HAS RESEARCH USING ADULT STEM CELLS EVER ACCOMPLISHED ANYTHING?Thousands of lives have been saved by adult stem cells—most oftenin the form of “bone marrow transplants” for leukemia and otherconditions (where the active ingredient in the bone marrow is stemcells). Today, adult stem cells have been used to help people withParkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, sickle-cell anemia, heartdamage, corneal damage, and dozens of other conditions. The dangeris that this progress toward cures will be halted or slowed by campaigns that divert attention and resources toward embryonicstem cell research.


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