Required Reading on Stem Cell Ethics

Filed in Politics, Religion, Science, Social IssuesTags: Christianity, Clone The Truth, Cloning, Media Bias, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

This interview of Bioethics Senior Scholar Dr. John Kilmer in Christian today is absolutely required reading.

Dr. Kilmer addresses two primary ethical considerations.

First, he addresses the ethical concern of destroying embryoes in order to obtain embryonic stem cells (ESCs) [emphasis added]:

However, one real concern is where we are getting these stem cells from.

We want to highlight the difference between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells because in terms of adult stem cells they can be obtained without harming the source from which they are being obtained. Whereas embryonic stem cells require destroying embryonic human beings from which they are taken.

But granting for the sake of time that human beings do begin at the embryonic stage – these would be the earliest stage of human being – then one ethical concern is that we do not destroy or harm human beings to obtain these cells. That is one core ethical dilemma.

Second, he addresses the ethical concern of truthful communication regarding stem cell research [emphasis added]:

One other great concern is about how this is being discussed in the media, public policy, and various arenas. The fact is that so often just the term ‘stem cell’ is used, and this promotes the idea that either you are for or against stem cell research. So the discussion may be narrower about some form of stem cell research, but by using the non-specific general term of stem cell, it implies that if you are not for it then you are hard-hearted, uncompassionate, and you don’t care about these people dying.

This is a serious ethical concern – an ethic of truthful communication. Far more has been accomplished with adult stem cell research than embryonic stem cell research. Apart from the ethical issues evolved in destroying embryonic human beings, adult stem cell research has produced results so it is simply not truthful to say that major embryonic breakthroughs are right on the verge and we should channel all our resources to embryonic stem cell research.

After devoting some time to comparing the ethical concerns of cloning, ESC research, and abortion, and then discussing some of the issues with federal and state-level politics, Dr. Kilmer addresses the issue of bioethics education and the church. Before I get to that discussion, though, I want to highlight some of Dr. Kilmer's comments regarding cloning: comments directly related to the Missouri Stem Cell Initiative, and to the tactics of the so-called Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures [emphasis added]:

So people recognise that for embryonic stem cell research to be really widely useful medically we would have to produce cells that are genetically matched to your body and the only way to do that is to produce an embryo that is a clone of you and destroy that embryo to get the embryonic stem cells that could be used in the treatment in you.


I’ll just add that ‘P.S.’ here – this is another example of where the really intentional miscommunication comes into play – because what happens now is proponents of embryonic stem cell research in some locations have begun to argue that ‘What we’ve done here isn’t really cloning. It is only cloning if you are having born babies.

‘But what we are doing in this research process (sometimes they just use the technical name for cloning which is called SCNT or Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer), we are just doing that and we are not engaged in cloning.’

Sound familiar? It should. But, as Dr. Kilmer points out [emphasis added]:

This is terribly misleading and really dishonest because the cloning process is completed once you have a new beginning embryo. The cloning is the description of the process by which you actually produce another human being, virtually a genetic replica of an existing human being and the rest is just that being growing and developing. The cloning is done at the point you have the early embryo.

So why would ESC proponents use such a tactic? Again, as Dr. Kilmer points out, the intent is to mislead [emphasis added]:

So to say that we are just going to define that ‘It is not a clone until it develops all the way through to birth and is born’ is just outrageous because it confuses people and makes them think that ‘Oh, that is reassuring, that what you are talking about in embryonic stem cell research doesn’t involve cloning then it may be ok.

Finally, the interview wraps with Dr. Kilmer's comments on the current state of the church with respect to the issue of bioethics, and the need for more church pastoral and lay leaders to become educated in bioethics:

I think that what is happening in the Church today is people are becoming more and more aware of bioethics issues, but I think they hear more about them through the culture and through the public than through the Church. I also think that the Church has been lagging behind the public in terms of informing people and in terms of helping people develop a Christian understanding and outlook on these issues so when they hear about them they have some ideas of how this connect to Christian faith.

Please, do read the entire article/interview.

Via Missourians Against Human Cloning.