A new study of problems in cloning suggests that embryonic stem cells are "surprisingly genetically unstable" in mice and perhaps in humans as well. This "may complicate efforts to turn the cells into cures," and interfere with efforts to produce all-purpose cell lines that could reliably become tissue of any desired type. "You may have to establish hundreds of lines to get the few you'd want to have," Dr. John Gearhart of Johns Hopkins University now says. Establishing hundreds of these cell lines could require destroying many thousands of human embryos, and replenishing them with thousands more when the original cell lines become too unstable for further use. Perhaps most troubling is the news that these researchers deleted from their final paper a reference to this problem, believing that any public acknowledgment of such setbacks has become too "politically sensitive." We can only wonder how much of this kind of information is being withheld without detection. We have reached a stage in this discussion where, on the side supporting destructive embryo research, science is becoming subservient to politics.
Most Christians have grave concerns on this critically important issue of embryonic stem cell research. In our view, conducting research that relies on deliberate destruction of human embryos for their stem cells is illegal, immoral and unnecessary.
It is illegal because it violates an appropriations rider (the Dickey amendment) passed every year since 1995 by Congress. That provision forbids funding "research in which" human embryos (whether initially created for research purposes or not) are harmed or destroyed outside the womb.(1) National Institutes of Health guidelines approved by the Clinton Administration nonetheless give researchers detailed instructions on how to obtain human embryos for destructive cell harvesting, if they wish to qualify for federal grants in "human pluripotent stem cell research."(2) Clearly, obtaining and destroying embryos is an integral part of this project, even if the specific act of destroying embryos does not directly receive federal funds. By implementing these guidelines, the federal government would encourage researchers to conduct destructive embryo experiments that are punishable as felonies in some states.(3)
This proposal is immoral because it violates a central tenet of all civilized codes on human experimentation beginning with the Nuremberg Code: It approves doing deadly harm to a member of the human species solely for the sake of potential benefit to others. The embryos to be destroyed by researchers in this campaign are at the same stage of development as embryos in the womb who have been protected as human subjects in federally funded research since 1975.(4) President Clinton's National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) and its 1994 predecessor, the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel, conceded that the early human embryo is a form of developing human life that...