Embryonic Stem Cell Research Shows Scientists’ Inability to See

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 18, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Shows Scientists’ Inability to See Email this article
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by Dave Andrusko
March 18, 2007

LifeNews.com Note: Dave Andrusko is the editor of National Right to Life News.

After you’ve spent nearly thirty years fighting the good fight, you might think you’d pretty much roll with the punches. But you’d be wrong.

If they want to tell me that abortion is the sine qua non–the indispensable component–of women’s push for equality, I will listen respectfully and then tell them why this is hooey.

My teeth will be grinding, but I will even listen when proponents tell me that if only we open the federal spigot to pay for embryonic stem cell research, tomorrow afternoon the blind will see and late tomorrow night the paralyzed will spring from their wheelchairs.

But it is too, too much to read "spiritual" rationale for assorted anti-life policies, the kind that combines "pragmatism" and "religion." So you can imagine my reaction when Michael D. Kerlin’s op-ed lecture in last month’s Newsday ups the ante, telling the reader that Jesus himself would be on Kerlin’s side on the embryonic stem cell debate.

He allows as how "Jesus never weighed in on stem cell research," adding, "but we do know how he felt about the sick and dying." Kerlin then invokes two memorable passages from the New Testament where Jesus, in acts of compassion, heals a blind man and raises Lazarus from the dead.

"America today is full of blind men and Lazaruses who scientists believe could benefit from stem cell research — people suffering and dying from cancer, spinal-cord injuries, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other ailments," Kerlin writes. "Yet we risk turning our backs on them. In the same way that Jesus loved sick and dying strangers, imagine loving strangers with such incurable diseases in the same way that you love your closest friends and family. Then imagine not doing everything in your power to save them."

By everything, he means President Bush signing the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act when it comes to his desk. The measure would overturn a policy adopted by President Bush in 2001, which prohibits federal funding of stem cell research that requires harming human embryos. The stem cell "source" would be human embryos created at in vitro fertilization clinics and "donated" by their parents.

The other two main parts to his argument are (1) that these embryos are "going to die anyway," and (2) Kerlin learned how to blend religion and pragmatism at Harvard Business School. "The pragmatism that [President] Bush and I learned in business school suggests a simple cost-benefit analysis: By funding tests on several hundred embryos that will never be used, we stand the chance to save several million lives," Kerlin writes.

Let me make just three quick points. The amount of death and destruction justified by "pragmatic" considerations in the 20th Century–including the all-purpose excuse that the victim is "going to die anyway"–ought to give anyone pause.

And why would the biotechnology industry settle for extracting stem cells from "left over" embryos? Everyone already knows that the research community is rapidly moving past what was always a stopgap measure.

They want cloned embryos–human beings created to be research material–to overcome various technical problems, such as the recipient’s body rejecting stem cells from another human being. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act is the camel’s nose under the tent.

Also, as we have pointed out numerous times in this space–including as recently as yesterday– non-embryonic stem cells are far beyond mere laboratory exercises. They are already showing benefits for human patients with over 70 conditions, according to peer-reviewed medical literature, and being used in clinical trials for many more.

Talk about an ironic conclusion to Kerlin’s op-ed: "When the stem cell legislation reaches his desk, let’s hope that the president listens this time to the blind men who are calling out for his help."

But blindness is not limited to an inability to see objects. More importantly, it is also the inability to see the slippery slope path down which one has begun, the tunnel vision that prevents you from learning anything from history, and the unwillingness to see our common humanity–no matter how old or small we may be.