Human Caviar, Eating Human Embryos as a New Delicacy?

Bioethics   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Dec 11, 2012   |   12:56PM   |   Washington, DC

I thought I had heard just about every argument surrounding using human embryos in research. The other day I realized, I hadn’t.

A friend of mine, who was reading Why Catholicism Matters by Dr. William Donohue, pointed out a passage where Dr. Donohue refers to a piece by Leon Kass, an ethicist of Jewish descent, called “The Meaning of Life in the Laboratory.” Dr. Kass delves into the status of the human embryo and whether or not a human embryo is simply a “ball of cells” or something more. He writes this disturbing, but relevant passage:

On the other hand, we would, I suppose, recoil even from the thought, let alone the practice–I apologize for forcing it upon the reader–of eating such embryos, should someone discover that they would provide a great delicacy, a “human caviar.” The human blastocyst would be protected by our taboo against cannibalism, which insists on the humanness of human flesh and does not permit us to treat even the flesh of the dead as if it were mere meat. The human embryo is not mere meat; it is not just stuff; it is not a “thing.” Because of its origin and because of its capacity, it commands a higher respect.

Human caviar. A disgusting, repulsive and horrifying thought for pretty much everyone. Why? Because the human embryo is a human organism, just as we are, albeit very early in development.

Dr. Donohue, in commenting on Kass’ analogy, states the obvious:

If the proponents of embryonic stem cell research were served human embryos as a delicacy, or human caviar, would they partake? If not, why not? Because of a natural aversion to cannibalism? Does that not concede the point made by the Catholic Church?