While specifically written for Missouri Christians, the principles found in this article apply to the entire world. (WLS)
A CHRISTIAN PERSCTECTIVE ON: THE
CELL RESEARCH AND CURES INITIATIVE
by Kevin Rutherford
God gave life to man at the beginning of time (Genesis 2:7). The taking of innocent life is something which God has always hated (Proverbs , 17). When God gave the Law of Moses to the Jews, that law protected human life (Exodus ). The Law of Christ that has been given to all of mankind condemns murder (1 John ). God gives life, and God does not want man to take life, except in the case of capitol punishment or just warfare (Romans 13:1-7).
Human life does not begin at birth. Human life begins in the womb and prior to birth (Jeremiah 1:5; Luke ). In fact, both of those verses show that a person’s body does not need to be fully formed before God considers them to be individual human beings. This is a very significant fact. This fact ought to be considered the deciding factor in many bioethical issues such as abortion, human cloning, and embryonic stem cell research.
John Danforth is the public figure promoting The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. He and others are seeking to collect enough signatures to have this initiative placed on the ballot in November 2006. If this referendum measure is passed it will become an amendment to the Missouri State Constitution. This would make it very difficult to overturn. Because of that fact, and because of the ethical issues of life that are involved in this initiative a Christian should do his best to become well informed on the issue. It is hoped that this brief overview of The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative will be helpful to that end.
The initiative in question seeks to protect legalized embryonic stem cell research and claims to ban human cloning. In order to properly judge concerning these matters let us see if we can gain a general perspective on stem cell research.
A stem cell is one which has not matured (differentiated) in order to become a specialized cell. Cells begin as stem cells and eventually mature and specialize to carry out specific functions. Researchers believe stem cells can be removed from their source; then transplanted into patients to cure the patient. It is believed that ailments such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, and spinal injuries may be able to be cured with stem cell therapy.
There are essentially three sources for stem cells. There are adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells, and stem cells that are found in umbilical cord blood and placentas. Adult stem cells are found in bone marrow, blood, the brain, fat, skeletal muscle, the esophagus, the stomach, the liver, the pancreas, nasal tissues, hair follicles, and the pulp of lost baby teeth. These stem cells can be found in the body throughout a person’s life. Adult stem cells can be removed without killing the adult. Also, no loss of life is involved in removing stem cells from discarded umbilical cords and placentas.
Embryonic stem cells are found in embryos beginning one week after conception. In order to take the stem cells from an embryo, that embryo must be killed! The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative protects researchers from legal action when they kill human embryos. Section 38d, #6 of the amendment specifically mentions the use of “human embryonic stem cell research.” Embryonic stem cell research is unethical, and The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Curies Initiative must be opposed.
The initiative wants researchers to be able to extract stem cells from embryos discarded in fertility clinics and from embryos developed though Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT). We will discuss SCNT in a moment. For now, let us focus on the use of stem cells from discarded embryos in fertility clinics. These embryos are made outside of the womb by implanting a woman’s egg with a man’s sperm. When this occurs a human embryo is formed. The woman receiving the fertility treatment will then choose how many of those embryos she would like to have implanted within the womb. The remaining embryos are then discarded. The problem with this is that those embryos are human beings. They do not have to be filly formed humans to be considered individual persons by God (Jeremiah 1:5). Therefore, in the fertility treatment human life is being killed. Some women have chosen to implant any and all fertilized eggs for this very reason.
The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures suggests that the use of those embryos for embryonic stem cell research is ethical because those embryos would have been destroyed anyway. This type of thinking is immoral and unreasonable. The embryos should never be destroyed or discarded in the first place. The moral wrong which occurred when the embryos were rejected by the mother does not make the use of such embryos for research morally right.
The second source for embryonic stem cells that this referendum seeks to protect is embryos that have been “created” by the process called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer. This is interesting because the initiative claims to ban human cloning, but SCNT is the first step in the process of human cloning. SCNT is the process that was used to clone Dolly the sheep. Clearly this initiative seeks to deceive people by re-defining cloning. SCNT develops a cloned embryo.
SCNT is a process whereby the nucleus of a cell is removed from a person and then placed into an enucleated human egg. A human embryo forms from this process and is then killed in order to extract its stem cells. This process is immoral and unethical from a number of standpoints, not the least of which is the destruction of human life.
Great advances in the use of Adult Stem Cells have been made. Christians can wholeheartedly support research and therapy that uses adult stem cells, cord blood stem cells, and stem cells from placentas. On the other hand Christians should oppose embryonic stem cell research. In order to use embryonic stem cells for research and therapy the embryo must be killed. This is the unethical, immoral, and sinful destruction of human life. The National Bioethics Advisory Commission said, “.. embryos deserve respect as a form of human life.” Apparently John Danforth and the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures do not agree.
1. The New King James
Version, Broadman & Holman,
2. A Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World, Wesley J. Smith, Encounter Books, San Francisco, 2004.
3. Missouri Right to Life Opposes Initiative to Place Clone and Kill in the State Constitution, www.missourilife.org
4. The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative: What it Says — What it Does; Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, www.missouricures.com