We must speak for human embryonic Life and oppose the genetic slavery whereby an entire class of human persons is labeled as property to be used by those who are more powerful. We must insist on the recognition of human rights for all human persons, no matter what stage of life's development continuum. Human embryonic stem cell research kills human persons.
Drs. James L. Sherley and Theresa Deisher
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - The Obama administration's favoring of the always deadly use of embryonic stem cells - in spite of the medical science which shows that adult stem cells actually produce results and never kill - is morally repugnant. On Monday, March 9, 2009, the President issued one of his many Executive Orders to accomplish his agenda - without any use of either a vote or advice and consent. That Order turned a whole class of human persons, embryonic human persons, into commodities to be used. The NIH Guidelines treat human embryos as spare parts.
Human embryonic stem cell research has had no discernible positive results. It is always deadly for the human embryonic person. To the contrary, adult stem cell research harms no-one and has borne great results. The teaching of the Catholic Church on the use of Human Embryonic Life for deadly research is consistent, clear and unequivocal. In 1987 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Holy See issued an "Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation". Among the many questions answered was this one: "What Respect is due to the human embryo, taking into account his nature and identity?" The answer: "The human being must be respected - as a person - from the very first instant of his (her) existence."
On September 8, 2008, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Vatican Congregation responsible for the protection of Doctrine (The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith) released a passionate defense of the dignity of every single human life from the moment of conception until natural death. It was entitled, in Latin, Dignitatis Personae: On Certain Bioethical Questions. As is the custom with magisterial documents, the title of this instruction was taken from the first line, "The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death". The document continued, "This fundamental principle expresses a great "yes" to human life and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research, which has an ever greater importance in today's world."
At the release of the instruction the Press was filled with reports. Some accurately described the content and properly affirmed its significance. Others were based on mistaken caricatures of the Catholic Church and not on the substance of what the teaching document actually presented. Still others demonstrated that the writers did not read the document or, if they did, did not like what it had to say and actually chose to mislead the public. Finally, some were based on old tired assertions of the Catholic Church as being "out of touch" or "anti-technology" or "anti-sexuality" or any number of other absolutely untrue and groundless assertions.
The Instruction continued the consistent defense of the dignity of every human life, respect for the goods and ends of marriage and the insistence on having authentic moral criteria with which to evaluate alleged advances in medical science as presented by the Catholic Church through her teaching office. The Catholic Church is not against science. Rather, she simply insists that good science must always respect the first goods; life, marriage and the common good of our life together.
The instruction did not discourage progress in biomedicine. In fact it encourages it within an ethical framework, one which accepts that science must always be placed at the service of the human person, the family and the common good. Any use of the so called new technologies must also respect that the human body is never an "it" - but an "I" - some-one who must never be treated as an object: "The body of a human being, from the very first stages of its existence, can never be reduced merely to a group of cells. The embryonic human body develops progressively according to a well defined program with its proper finality, as is apparent in the birth of every baby."
The insistence upon this framework for evaluating biomedicine finds support in the history of other true advances in Medical Science. The ethical criterion is revealed in the Natural Law; the fundamental right to life and the dignity of human persons. This right is knowable by and binding upon all men and women and is not simply a religious construct. In point of fact, footnote 7 within that document cited Pope Benedict XVI's presentation to the United Nations in April of 2008 which summarized this point well:
"Human rights, in particular the right to life of every human being, are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations. Removing human rights from this context would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks. This great variety of viewpoints must not be allowed to obscure the fact that not only rights are universal, but so too is the human person, the subject of those rights"
It is in light of this fundamental moral criterion that the instruction discusses human sexuality and marital love, procreation and infertility treatments and the "manipulation of the embryo or the human Genetic Patrimony". The section concerning gene therapy and the therapeutic use of stem cells, distinguishing both the types of cells and the techniques used to obtain them, is one of the best explanations of the complex technologies which I have ever read. Thank God for the Catholic Church in this age of ghoulish research on human life.
The Catholic Church encourages the use of adult stem cells and stem cells which can be derived from non-lethal uses such as fetal cord blood. These technologies do not take human embryonic lives and have also been the subject of amazing scientific progress. No matter how many efforts there are to dismiss Catholic teaching in this fundamental area of ethics, the opponents of the truth which she defends will not prevail because her teaching is true, it is never right to take innocent human life.
The instruction made a vital historical point to consider, "Just as a century ago it was the working classes which were oppressed in their fundamental rights, and the Church courageously came to their defense by proclaiming the sacrosanct rights of the worker as person, so now, when another category of persons is being oppressed in the fundamental right to life, the Church feels in duty bound to speak out with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice. Hers is always the evangelical cry in defense of the world's poor, those who are threatened and despised and whose human rights are violated".
"In virtue of the Church's doctrinal and pastoral mission, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has felt obliged to reiterate both the dignity and the fundamental and inalienable rights of every human being, including those in the initial stages of their existence, and to state explicitly the need for protection and respect which this dignity requires of everyone. The fulfillment of this duty implies courageous opposition to all those practices which result in grave and unjust discrimination against unborn human beings, who have the dignity of a person, created like others in the image of God. Behind every "no" in the difficult task of discerning between good and evil, there shines a great "yes" to the recognition of the dignity and inalienable value of every single and unique human being called into existence."
Sadly, the view of human rights in recent American judicial precedent and legislation denies the equal protection of the law to the human embryonic person. American law refuses to recognize that human embryos have a right to life and a right to a future. This approach to human embryonic persons is carried through in the treatment of the child in the womb. Until that child is born, he or she is treated as property to be used or disposed of if not wanted. The current positive law of the United States denies the Natural Law Right to Life. It has substituted a profane counterfeit in its place, a "Right" to abort the child.
There are a number of arguments used to try to defend the lie that fundamental rights are conferred by positive civil law rather than by the Natural Law. This is done to deprive entire groups of human persons from their protection. Most reserve the use of the concept of "person" to only those humans who are deemed to somehow be "independent" and/or "autonomous". They are being promoted by people who call themselves "medical ethicists". They hold academic degrees and professional pedigree and sit on Advisory Councils. Some of these "ethicists" make a distinction between "potential" and "actual" human persons and relegate the child in the womb to the category of being only a "potential" human person.
Others view interdependency as a negative and insist on independence and "autonomy" as a criterion for any human rights to attach. Some equate the human embryos dependency on the mother as a form of "non-personhood". Still others propose a progressive notion of consciousness as indicative of a growing presence of "personhood". A few concede that human embryos are human beings but deny they are persons. We find all of these ideas in the field sadly referred to these days as "Bio-Ethics" - even though such positions are anything but ethical. We find them in textbooks being used to teach the subject to future medical practitioners. (See, e.g., Singer and Kuhse, "Bioethics") One of these "ethicists", Michael Tooley denies the child in the womb should have any rights at all. His rationale evolved over time. In each version, as scientific research cast serious doubt on his claims, he conveniently shifted his ground to reach the same conclusion.
Yet, human embryology and developmental biology affirm that a human embryo is not distinct in kind from a human being, but a human being at an early stage of development. Even prior to implantation, a human embryo is a unique living human being with the genetic constitution and epigenetic primordial that continues to develop throughout his or her life. However, the right not to be killed in the womb, the right to be born and the right to participate in human relationships are rejected for these little persons. Human embryonic lives are reduced to what one astute Catholic philosopher and lawyer, Robert George, called a "pre-personal way of being human".
The idea that human beings can be less than persons is increasingly applied to other stages of human development outside of the womb. The disabled (physically and mentally), the aged and the infirmed are increasingly denied the equal protection of the law. There is an emphasis on individual rights over relation and on autonomy over solidarity. Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in "The Gospel of Life" of this "remarkable contradiction". He explained "the roots of the contradiction between the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial in practice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them."(Par. 19)
This counterfeit idea of freedom also views comatose human beings as no longer worthy of being called "persons". Their caregivers are encouraged to stop giving them food and water. Seriously ill children are viewed as interlopers who should not continue to use medical and social resources. Whether the criteria for being recognized as a human person is a satisfactory level of brain function, an agreed upon notion of self awareness, non-dependency, individual autonomy, or some similar "acceptable" level of physical or mental capacity, this reduces the human being to a human doing, valuable not simply because they are members of our human family and gifts to be received but valued based upon their functionality.
There can be NO debate about this fact; we were all once human embryos. We all lived in the first home of the whole human race, our mother's womb. For the Christian, we profess that the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, was a human being, who, in the embryonic stage, lived in his mother's womb. At every age and stage of our "human-being- ness", be it as an embryonic person, in the womb, as an infant, as a child, an adolescent, an adult, in our times of illness, in our old age, we have always been dependent on others and vulnerable. This is what it means to be a human being. The emphasis of the proponents of the culture of death on independence and autonomy informs a worldview that Pope John Paul II taught threatens the "entire structure of human rights." (Gospel of Life, Par. 19)
In a homily at the 2010 Vigil for Nascent Human Life Pope Benedict called the faithful to defend all human life, including embryonic human life. The Pope noted that "there are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations. With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being."
He cautioned against the growing "darkening of consciences" and proclaimed with clarity and conviction to the whole world that the child in the first home of the whole human race, his or her mother's womb, "has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests. The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought." We must speak for human embryonic Life as we speak for all human life. We must expose and oppose this new form of genetic slavery wherein an entire class of human persons is being labeled as property to be used by those who are more powerful. We must insist on the recognition of human rights for all human persons, no matter what stage of life's development continuum.
When we are successful in restoring the Right to Life to all human persons, including embryonic human persons, many Doctors who stood against the destruction of life in the name of science will be honored. Among them are two scientists, Doctors James J Sherley and Theresa Deisher. Several years ago they filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin the always deadly research on human embryonic persons. A lower Federal Court Judge enjoined the implementation of the Obama Administration guidelines of 2009 which allowed researchers to extract stem cells from "surplus" embryos donated by patients at fertility clinics. Every such extraction kills a human embryonic person. The injunction stunned the Obama administration and they appealed it.
In a September 2, 2010 Wall Street Journal article by Laura Meckler and Janet Adamy entitled "Stem-Cell Plaintiffs Cite Ethical Motivation: Scientists Behind Suit Say Work Using Material Derived From Embryos Is Morally Objectionable, Unlikely to Yield Cures" the two Doctors confirmed that they filed the lower Court case out of a concern for the ethical issues involved in killing human embryos. Dr. Sherley said "We have a responsibility and are taught to do ethical research. This is impacting the quality of science in this country."
Both Doctors "said embryonic stem-cell research is morally objectionable and unlikely to produce promised treatments or cures. They said research using adult stem cells, the field each of them works in, has more potential to help patients." Regarding embryonic stem cell research Dr. Sherley said the public has "been sold this hype and this promise that embryonic stem cells are going to cure everyone and we're all going to get up and dance. Any adult stem cell scientist is disadvantaged, and that's because there is a deliberate focus to fund embryonic stem cell research and a focus away from adult stem cell research."
The lower Federal Court found that the guidelines issued by the Obama Administration violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment which provides that no Federal funds shall be used for "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed on fetuses in utero" under Federal Law. In the lower Courts words, "having concluded that the Dickey-Wicker Amendment is unambiguous, the question before the Court is whether ESC (Embryonic Stem Cell Research) is research in which a human embryo is destroyed. The Court concludes that it is."
In another section of the opinion the judge made it even clearer: "The Dickey-Wicker Amendment unambiguously prohibits the use of federal funds for all research in which a human embryo is destroyed. Thus, if ESC research is research in which an embryo is destroyed, the Guidelines, by funding ESC research, violate the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. ESC research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed. To conduct ESC research, ESCs must be derived from an embryo. The process of deriving ESCs from an embryo results in the destruction of the embryo. Thus, ESC research necessarily depends upon the destruction of a human embryo."
The Obama Administration appealed. The Appeals Court lifted the injunction and the deadly experimentation began again. Judges decided that scientists can kill embryonic human persons for "spare parts" funded by federal tax dollars. Remember, there is an alternative which kills no-one, adult stem cell research. It has been effectively utilized with amazing results. These courageous scientists and genuine humanitarians did not stop fighting for the fundamental Right to life.
Doctors James J Sherley and Theresa Deisher, Nightlife Christian Adoption, Embryos, Shayne and Tina Nelson, William and Patricia Flynn and the Christian Medical Association took their appeal to the highest Court in the United States of America, the U.S. Supreme Court. They filed a petition for a Writ of certiorari On Monday, January 7, 2013 the Supreme Court denied their appeal. This legal case is over. However, the struggle waged by these brave scientists will continue.
The stem cell discussion in the Media is intentionally laden with misinformation and emotional appeals which cloud the facts. Human embryonic stem cell research has had no positive results. It is always deadly for the human embryonic person. To the contrary, adult stem cell research harms no-one and has borne great results. A human embryo is not distinct in kind from a human being, but a human being at an early stage of development. Yet, the United States Supreme Court has refused to hear the Appeal filed on behalf of Human Embryonic Persons. A New Age of Human Experimentation Begins.
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