The Catholic Debate against Stem Cell Research and Embryonic Cloning Essay Sample
Stem cells have an ability of developing into different cell types. Scientists’ beliefs that stem cell research may offer a renewable supply of replacement cells to be used in cell-based therapies to treat diseases, which are often referred to are generative or reparative medicine. There are two different types of stem cells developed from humans and animals, these are; embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Most of the embryonic stem cells used by scientists are by-products of In-vitro fertilization (IVF) .IVF involves surgically removing mature ova from a woman and then fertilizing it with a spermatozoon from a man. The fertilized egg is then implanted in the woman’s womb where it grows normally to either full term or evacuated to be used in research. In embryonic stem cell research these embryos are isolated into embryonic stem cells by dividing them again and again. From each division a differentiated cell is obtained, these related cells (stem cells) constitute a group of cells which share the same DNA and are known as “line.” From these lines, scientists are optimistic they will be able to understand a variety of diseases and eventually treat illnesses that entail lost or damaged cells such as diabetes, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injury as well as Parkinson’s disease.
The leaders of the Catholic Church are the major opponents of the stem cell research, they lead other opponents in arguing that the blastocyst is a human being and destroying it even in the attempt of curing someone from a disease is unethical (Benedict Ashley, 2001). However, scientists argue that since the products of IVF legally belong to the family that created them, and very few agree to raise them on their own or for adoption but majority of them are destroyed. From this it is very clear that using the blastocyst in pursuit of a cure to a disease is more beneficial than just throwing them away.
The Catholic Church also argues that if stem cell research is allowed, there will be an increased rise in production of stem cells which will be a starting point for scientist to try creating human embryo by cloning. Cloning is defined as “the process of creating an identical of something.” The clone does not go through the process of conception, growth and birth, something that the Catholic Church strongly opposes. The Catholic Church equates embryonic stem cell research with abortion since like abortion embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of the life embryos. But unlike abortion the proponents argue that most stem cells originates from the process of IVF where most of these embryos are thrown away and that this research utilizes them to produce stem cells which will be used to treat the otherwise incurable disease.
The Catholic Church has taken a stand against the use of tissue from aborted fetuses. This is clearly stated in the ethical and religious directives for catholic health care services, a document from the United States conference of catholic bishops. From the document the Catholic Church asks its health care institutions not to make use of human tissue that are obtained from direct abortions even for research and therapeutic purposes (Shannon, Thomas A. and Cahill, Lisa sowle, 1988).scientists on the other hand feel that Since the already aborted fetuses have no other use as they cannot be brought back to life, researchers should be allowed and supported to make use of their tissues for the benefit of many people.
In defense for the use tissue from aborted fetuses’ researchers further feel that there are some instances when abortion is inevitable such as when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, when the pregnancy is due to incest or when a miscarriage occurs. These embryos’s can be used to manufacture stem cells for research and disease control. Equally, researchers question the logic employed by the church since they do not condemn the surgeons who transplant organs from victims of homicide and accidents to save the lives of their patients. They ask whether the doctor or the recipients of the organs becomes “accomplices” in the homicide or accident that made the organs available. And if they are not then there no reason to deny researchers a chance to use tissues from aborted fetuses in the process of attempting to save a life (Green Ronald M. 2001).
There are three possible sources of embryonic stem cells: Spare frozen embryos at reproductive clinics, embryos that have been deliberately created for research purposes using sperm and ova and cloned embryos. The first two sources are through In-vitro fertilization (IVF) while the third source is the use of human cells to create a replica of the source in the laboratory. The Catholic Church is against all these processes of reproduction by arguing that a conception of a child should be from a loving interpersonal sexual intercourse between a man and woman. They are totally against assisted human reproduction and therefore all the procedures that yield embryonic stem cells, namely IVF and cloning to them are morally impermissible and should never be practiced.
On august 9, 2001 when president of the united states, George W. Bush announced that federal funds could be used only for research on some 60 stem cells lines in existence; Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, while responding on behalf of the united states conference of catholic bishops, termed Bush’s position as “morally unacceptable”. They argued that this funding would promote the destruction of human embryonic life. Bishop Fiorenza further argued that the embryo posses the status and rights similar to any human being. The considered morally wrong to engage in research practices that involved injuring some human beings in the guise of helping others. However, the main controversy about embryonic stem cell research revolves around the status of the early embryo, which is destroyed when trying to obtain stem cells (Fiorenza, Bishop Joseph A, august 9, 2001).
The Catholic Church further views early embryos as human beings and those deserve full human status and rights. to counter these belief of the catholic church researcher say that there is no scientific backing to the idea that embryo’s are human beings, they feel that since the embryonic stem cells do not have the central nervous system (CNS), the brain, the spine, organs and even individuality they do not qualify to be called human beings. Additionally, scientists define a cell as “a functional unit of an organ.” a newly fertilized cell has the ability of becoming any organ since a cell is capable of multiplying, growing, dividing, mutating and even destroying itself in the process of development (Geron ethics advisory board, 1999). Therefore a cell cannot be called a human being but can be seen as only a part of the process that may lead to formation of a human being. Equally, a cell does not have a personality, indeed a cell can be any organ and nobody can know which organs it can be it can be an eye cell, brain cell, a muscle cell, a heart cell or any human cell you can think of and therefore if this cell can be used to save those people languishing in “incurable” diseases, then we have no reason the oppose but instead support wholly.
Scientists argue that a disease like Parkinson’s disease, which is affecting many old people may find a cure if stem cell research suceeds.this disease as taken the lives of many who could have been cured key among them being, Pope John Paul II the former leader of the Catholic Church and Ronald Reagan the former president of the United States. Scientists feel that the church is dogmatic and does not allow flexibility.
They feel that a cell after fertilization can split and become twins, triplets or quadruplets why do not they criminalize it on ethical grounds since they may be identical which also happens in human cloning. The other question that they want the catholic church to answer is where research shows that in the process of urination proteins that coats cells are lost especially on the part of women, is that not loss of life? Since In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is a stem cell therapy and thousands of embryonic stem cells used in the process are discarded, are the beneficiaries of IVF sinners? If the church can be able to answer the questions then their arguments will be justified. On the other hand, bone marrow transplant and replacements which are highly supported worldwide, the Catholic Church included, are forms of stem cell replacement, why does the church also withdraw its support from the bone marrow replacement since it is also destruction of life.
On the other hand, the Catholic Church accords full human status and rights to the early embryo, they say that from the moment the zygote has been formed, it assumes the unconditional respect that is morally due to any human in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception and therefore from that same moment its rights as a person must be recognized key among them being the inviolable right of every guiltless human being to life. They further belief that a human being is a composite of a body and soul which is a direct creation of God. Thus a complete human person starts when the bodily matter given by the parents becomes ensouled during fertilization.
“Donum vitae” states that first, fertilization represents the beginning of a new human life very different from that of the parents. Second the genetic composition of the new being “genome” is assembled during fertilization and these sets of genes will determine the personality of the human being developed and will influence the individual traits of the product. Third the biological identity of the embryo is already constituted in the zygote resulting from fertilization. However, scientists disagree with the church on biological grounds, first the early embryo can split to form identical twins or triplets or more, thus providing an evidence that the early embryo is a cell which can be any organ and has a potential of becoming a human being and that immediate ensoulment occurs at fertilization as argued by the catholic church is obsolete. This is because a soul is an individual reality and each being posses one soul. Equally, separate and genetically distinct embryo’s which would become fraternal twins fuse during the early stages of development to form one embryo and thus underscoring the belief that the cell posses a soul.
Fiorenza, Bishop Joseph A, (august 9, 2001) “catholic bishops criticize bush policy on
Policy on embryo research”, http://www.nccbuscc.org/comm/archinex/2001/01-142.htm
Shannon, Thomas A. and Cahill, Lisa sowle, 1988. Religion and Artificial Reproduction–
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Green Ronald M. 2001. The human embryo research debates; New York oxford
Geron ethics advisory board (1999) “Research with Human embryonic stem cells. Ethical
Considerations” Hastings center report 29, 31-6
Benedict Ashley (2001).Health Care Ethics, A Catholic Analysis