Thursday, June 21, 2007

Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

President Bush vetoed the stem cell research bill passed by Congress. Why are President Bush and many other Christians concerned about embryonic stem-cell research? What is the moral and ethical problem with it?

In all the hype, certain facts are lost. First, the debate is on embryonic stem-cell research, not adult stem-cell research. Second, the controversy is over government funding of such research. The research itself hasn’t been made illegal, and embryonic stem-cell research has been going on for years, funded by non-federal sources. Third, with all of this research, no significant breakthroughs have occurred.

The main problem certain Christians (and others, I’m sure) have with embryonic stem-cell research (with the emphasis on embryonic) is that they believe it destroys a life. Many Christians and others believe, with very good reason, that life begins at conception. Even though an embryo is not a fully-formed human being, it has its own unique DNA and of course, if left alone, will develop into a viable human being. Therefore, many Christians are concerned about our society entering a Brave New World of killing people for research, going down that slippery slope of the ends justifying the means.

The issue gets more difficult when you consider the thousands of embryos that are being kept frozen, the result of in vitro fertilization. These essentially abandoned, but still viable, embryos will never be “adopted” and placed in a womb, with the exception of a precious few. Is it ethical to destroy these abandoned embryos that will never have a chance to develop in utero so that the research could possibly save countless lives or reduce suffering in the future? This is, perhaps, the most difficult question to answer.

Embryonic stem-cell research has been heralded as the next major breakthrough in health care. However, nothing much has come out of the embryonic stem-cell research that has been going on for years (funded by private sources, not the government). Meanwhile, adult stem-cell research is showing promise, as is research with umbilical cord blood. Yet some get so hung up on embryonic stem-cell research that they forget about the other options still eligible for government funding that are showing promise.

Obviously you and I are bystanders in this debate, but I thought you should understand a few things about this controversy, especially when some say Christians are against “stem-cell research” leaving off the key word embryonic. I hope this helped you to understand the issue a little better.

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