Human Embryonic Stem Cells and Drug Testing
Imagine walking into a laboratory and seeing thousands of one-month-old babies being forced to ingest experimental drugs. Scientists are testing a new kind of heart medicine on group A. Group B is taking a drug that scientists hope will slow the progress of Parkinson’s disease. Group C is given both experimental drugs. Researchers are especially focusing on the children’s livers in hopes that the drugs prove to be non-toxic. While there, several of the babies in Group A flat-line after scientists gave them a third dose of the experimental heart medicine. No effort is taken to revive the children. Instead, scientists immediately begin taking them away to inspect the heart and liver of each child. Afterward, the bodies of the children are thrown into a furnace, consumed, and forgotten.
Though you may think that such a scenario occurs only in sci-fi movies, consider that Scientific American recently reported how “[t]hree of Europe’s top drugmakers have backed a new public-private scheme to use stem cells for safety testing of experimental medicines” (Hirschler, 2007). Three drug companies and the British government have given a combined $2.1 million to start a non-profit British company called Stem Cells for Safer Medicines. “By working across academic and industrial laboratories, the project aims to develop effective ways of using human embryonic stem cells to screen for potentially dangerous side effects of new drugs before they go into clinical trials” (Hirschler, 2007, emp. added). Alok Jha, science correspondent for The Guardian, noted how Stem Cells for Safer Medicines is “aimed at turning human embryonic stem cells into liver tissue” that “could then be used early during drug development to weed out harmful compounds” (2007). What’s more, “[t]he research could also help reduce the number of animals used to test drugs” (Jha).
Although PETA must be ecstatic with Britain’s new company, the Creator of life is not. Human life is precious (cf. Genesis 9:6). Humans are the only creatures made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Willfully terminating the lives of humans who are in embryonic stages (whether in utero or ex utero) is murder. Regardless of man’s reasons (e.g., to cure diseases, to make drugs safer, to save animals, etc.), the destruction of innocent human life is wrong. God hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17). What could be more innocent than a human in the embryonic stage of life (cf. Matthew 18:3)?
Hirschler, Ben (2007), “Glaxo, Astra, Roche Back Stem Cells for Drug Tests,” Science News, October 2, [On-line], URL: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?alias=glaxo-astra-roche-back-st& chanId=sa003&modsrc=reuters_box.
Jha, Alok (2007), “Stem Cell Bank for Drug Testing May Cut Animal Experiments,” The Guardian, October 3, [On-line], URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/oct/03/stemcells.animalrights.