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Embryonic Research Destroys Life for its Stem Cells

In January of this year the US House of Representatives passed the Stem Cell Research and Enhancement Act of 2007 by a vote of 253 to 174. The Senate vote on this bill (S 5) is imminent. The passage of this bill would provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research- research which, implicit in its practice, destroys a living embryo for the sake of its stem cells.

The human embryo fits the scientific definition of human life, from it's DNA to the number of chromosomes which define the species. The human embryo is not potential life, it is life in its earliest development- the first of many transitional stages that constitute the life continuum of the human person. Unfortunately, the dehumanization of the living embryo to a sub-human entity appears necessary to justify embryonic exploitation and destruction under the guise of "the common good." This is a falsification of truth which has been repeated many times against vulnerable populations throughout history - all with tragic results.

As is widely known, human embryonic stem cell research is still speculative, yielding no substantive results to date. Adult stem cell research has been proven successful with actual patient treatment for over 70 disease processes, and, coupled with the emergence of new sources for stem cell harvesting (most recently from amniotic fluid whose pluropotency rivals embryonic cells), the future of adult stem cell research should be limitless. Unfortunately scientists involved with adult stem cells are having difficulty obtaining funding for research and development despite their success. The promotion of embryonic research has funneled private money away from the only successful and ethical means of obtaining stem cells, into an unproven area where results admittedly may be decades away if at all. Now congress is asking taxpayers to do the same.

When and if embryonic stem cell research produces results, the application of the stem cell treatment to an actual patient is even more controversial. Transplanting stem cells or tissue obtained from an embryo to a patient will always carry the risk of rejection, since, like organ transplantation, the cells are derived from another person . In order to obtain transplantable bio-identical cells without the risk of rejection, somatic cell nuclear transfer or cloning must take place for successful treatment. The human clone is manufactured from an enucleated donor egg and the individuals' genetic material . This newly cloned human embryo is then destroyed for use of its transplantable cells.

The monumental ethical problems arising from cloned human life need not be discussed here. Adult stem cell treatment avoids the moral quagmire of cloning by using the patient's own stem cells which are not likely to be rejected. Although cloning is not addressed in this specific legislation, federal funding for therapeutic cloning will quickly follow if this bill is approved.

For people of faith having difficulty gaining moral clarity about embryonic stem cell research, please consider these next few comments.

Human life begins at fertilization.

God breathes life into a soul at the moment of it's creation. The sacred humanity of the embryo and all human life is innate from its' beginning. If you agree with these statements, I humbly submit that you cannot agree with the prospect of destroying human embryos for research or any other reason. Any ethical issues regarding the status of frozen human embryos should always be decided for the beneficence of that individual embryonic life, not for the convenience or improvement of another.

It is always interesting to note that some who claim to support embryonic stem cell research for humanitarian reasons, extend none of that same good-will to those at the very beginning of life and often times to those at the very end of it. How we treat our fellow man says a lot about us. How we treat the smallest and most vulnerable among us will define our greatness as a people and a nation.

Please let your Senators know that you are opposed to Senate Bill S-5 which would fund the destruction of human embryos for their stem cells, in favor of the proven successes of adult stem cell research.

(first printed in the Harrisburg Patriot- News January 18, 2007)

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