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Stem cell research

Where does the church stand?

In the ongoing great debate over stem cell research, a lot of misinformation is being thrown at us, particularly regarding the Catholic Church’s moral stand. It needs to be clearly stated that the Catholic Church is in favor of stem cell research, but not embryonic stem cell research.

 A stem cell, when transplanted into another human body, can develop into many different types of human tissues. In doing so, it can repair damaged human organs and systems.  Some of these stem cells are specified, while others are unspecified. They all have remarkable potential to cure many diseases and damaged human tissue. How could the Catholic Church not be in favor of such a wonderful medical development in overcoming human suffering?

Stem cells can be “harvested” from many sources in human beings. They can be taken from the human brain, blood, liver, umbilical cord and placenta, among others. Stem cells taken from these sources are referred to as “adult stem cells” because they are, in many cases, specified. They have produced dozens of cures in more than 50 types of human diseases and illnesses.

A moral problem arises when we “harvest” human stem cells from a living human embryo. In doing so, the embryo is destroyed. The evident moral question is: Is it morally permissible to take an innocent human life in order to save another human life?

It is often asserted that a human embryo is simply a “blob of protoplasm” and there is nothing wrong in destroying it in order to harvest cells from it. But if an embryo is protected and nurtured, it will grow into a living human being. A living embryo is incontrovertibly human life. That’s not a statement of religious faith, it is a medical fact.

Taking stem cells from a destroyed human embryo does not guarantee that a life will be saved. Currently, the only purpose for taking embryonic stems cells is for research. Living human life is being destroyed for research purposes. That’s what the present argument is all about.

Human life is not a commodity. All of human life, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has a dignity that is conferred upon it by God, not by us. It is not ours to dispose as we wish.