Union University
Union University Dept of Language

Evangelogia



The Voice of Your Brother's Stem Cells

by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

January 25, 2010 - The reckless disregard for human life that is frequently demonstrated by those willing to pillage human beings in the quest for “cures” is staggering. Consider, as an example, a recent report on the first U.S. stem cells transplanted into the spinal cord of a patient with ALS.

The reporter writes: “These particular stem cells -- which came from the spinal cord of an 8-week-old fetus -- are neural stem cells, which have the ability to turn into different types of nerve cells. These are not the same stem cells as the controversial human embryonic stem cells, which destroy the embryo when the stem cells are removed.”

The reassuring tone with which we are told that these cells are “not the same” as the “controversial human embryonic stem cells” lulls the unsuspecting into believing such research is being conducted with the highest levels of ethical integrity. Of course, the truth, to which (in fairness to the author) the text alludes, is more gruesome.

It turns out that the 8-week-old fetus from which these neural stem cells are derived neither gave informed consent to his or her death nor gave informed consent to the subsequent use of his or her tissues for medical research/therapy. But that’s O.K. – at least we are supposed to believe – for the mother who elected to kill her 8-week-old child undoubtedly followed the requisite protocol to provide informed consent on her child’s behalf.

Apparently, child sacrifice at the altar of Medical Research is not nearly as controversial as the disaggregation of blastocysts. After all (so the argument goes), the woman was going to have the abortion either way. Thus, since the fetus was destined for destruction, we might as well make good use of it.

As “reasonable” as such calculus may sound to those who stand to profit from such research – either by mammon or health – it is the logic of Death and Hell itself. We are all, every single human being, destined to die a physical death of one sort or another. But the inescapable fact of our mortality neither constitutes a reason to hasten human demise (either in our own person or that of another) nor does it legitimize a view of the human body, the locus of personal presence, as mere resource – even after death.

The challenge, for those who value human life, is this. Will we be prepared to refuse beneficial medical treatments that illicitly involve the use of body parts from the weakest members of the brotherhood of man? Or will our own desires for health or longevity result in actions that cannabalize others who – as the logic of Death and Hell whisper to us – didn’t really need that brain or heart or lung anyway?