Stem cell research has been a controversial subject for at least a decade, affecting us in so many areas – medically, ethically, and religiously. The disagreement is slowing down the progress toward tremendous advances in medical science which are predicted for this wonder treatment.
We hear about two forms of stem cells – embryonic and adult stem cells. The term adult stem cells does not mean that they come from adult human beings. It simply implies that the cells are mature and are able to form a variety of cells. Adult stem cells can be obtained from blood, bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, skin cells and fat cells. Because these cells are mature, they are unlikely to become malignant. Hundreds of therapeutic uses have already been developed from adult stem cells. Better still, they can be obtained without the sacrifice of another individual.
This is not true of embryonic stem cells which are obtained from embryos. They are engineered to form many different cell lines but these cell lines have been shown to promote malignancy. Also, in order to obtain an embryonic stem cell, the donor – a potential human being – must be sacrificed. So far, it has not been shown that the use of embryonic stem cells has been successful in bringing about therapeutic results.
It is not costly to harvest adult stem cells from which many cures and therapies have been documented to occur. More importantly, the donor does not lose his life in the process. Blood donors and bone marrow donors suffer no ill effects from contributing to this particular science. Cord blood as well as skin and fat cells are easily and economically obtained.
The faction that approves of embryonic stem cell research has gone to the extreme of paying women to donate their eggs so that embryos can be formed in the lab and used to obtain stem cells. This is not only immoral and costly; it can be life threatening to the woman. It also takes advantage of the poor and uneducated who are unaware of or unconcerned about the moral implications.
There is grave moral concern about this issue on the part of the American public. A recent public opinion poll shows that 57 percent of Americans favor funding only the research that does not harm the donor, while only 21 percent favor funding of all stem cell research. Citizens want their tax dollars used only for stem cell research that is ethically sound as well as medically promising.
The issue seems clear-cut. The use of adult stem cells has proven to be more effective, less costly, and more morally acceptable. Moving ahead with this decision and setting aside the harvesting of embryonic cells will bring faster and more successful results in the fight against so many diseases.
Western New York Catholic – October 2010
Stem Cell Technology – Dr. Margaret McDonnell,
Pro-Life Committee, SS Peter and Paul Newsletter, Hamburg, NY
International Communications Research Poll, 2010