Maryland and Stem-cell Research
The ethical debate on the morality of stem-cell research continues to rage across the nation. The latest incidence involves the government of the state of Maryland. The House of Delegates passed a bill in March that would authorize millions of dollars to be spent on embryonic stem-cell research. However, after highly emotional attempts to sway legislators to back the funding, the bill failed to muster the needed support to achieve Senate approval. Opponents correctly insisted that the research entails a critical moral component—to wit, the destruction of a viable human embryo involves taking a human life (see Wagner, 2005).
At least seven states are grappling with the funding of the controversial science of embryonic stem-cell research. California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have all gone on record as endorsing the research. The Massachusetts measure endorses a technique for harvesting stem cells known as therapeutic cloning, or somatic cell nuclear transfer, in which the nucleus of an adult cell is transferred into an unfertilized egg cell (whose own DNA has been removed), causing it to divide. Massachusetts has a vested interest in the research—since it is one of the nation’s leading health-care and biotechnology hubs (Finer, 2005).
However, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who strongly opposes therapeutic cloning, weighed in on the issue, calling the Senate proposal a “radical cloning bill.” He said:
Research cloning involves the creation of a human embryo for purposes of experimentation, with the intent to destroy it.... However, the process of cloning only occurs once, with the creation of the embryo—a unique genetic entity with the full complement of chromosomes. Once cloning occurs, a human life is set in motion. Calling this process “somatic cell nuclear transfer,” or conveniently dismissing the embryo as a mere “clump of cells,” cannot disguise the reality of what occurs: A genetically complete human embryo is brought into being. It is manipulated and experimented upon like so much research material. And then that emerging life is destroyed and discarded. Imagine row after row of laboratory racks, filled with growing human embryos: a “Brave New World” (2005).
Romney is right. Not only is he right in his assessment of the moral and ethical implications of embryonic stem-cell research, but he also has his science right. The fact of the matter is that the continued use of embryonic stem cells is not essential in order for science to continue making advancements in healing or preventative procedures. In fact, adult stem cells have shown far greater promise in the search for cures for diseases, and embryonic stem cells actually have proven harmful in several research trials (see Harrub and Thompson, 2004; Thompson and Harrub, 2001).
Regardless of the scientific aspects and the potential medical benefits, the central issue that ought to head the list of considerations in the controversy over embryonic stem-cell research is the life of the children involved. One of the things that is listed in Scripture as an “abomination” to God is “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17). During the period of the kings, God denounced the Israelites as wicked because “they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin” (Jeremiah 32:35). God must surely be outraged that “modern man” also is sacrificing children—but this time on the altar of medical research.
Finer, Jonathan (2005), “Mass. Senate Passes Stem-cell Bill that May Face Governor’s Veto,” Washington Post, [On-line], URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A13970-2005Mar30.html, March 21.
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2004), “Presidential Elections, Superman, Embryonic Stem Cells, Bad Science, and False Hope,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2621.
Romney, Mitt (2005), “The Problem with the Stem-cell Bill,” Boston Globe, March 6, [On-line], URL: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles
Thompson, Bert and Brad Harrub (2001), “Human Cloning and Stem-cell Research—Science’s ‘Slippery Slope’ (Part III),” Reason and Revelation, October, 21:73-79, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2510.
Wagner, John (2005), “Md. Stem-cell Bill’s Last Gasp,” Washington Post, [On-line], URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57477-2005Apr15.html, April 16.