"The Clone Age Has Arrived"

Specter of Stem-Cell Research Heightens Fears

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 16, 2001 (Zenit.org).- A Virginia clinic´s announcement last week that it was creating human embryos solely to provide stem cells for research, is intensifying the debate on the practice.

President George W. Bush is now considering whether to allow federal funds for research that uses embryonic stem cells.

Today, the Family Research Council held a press conference to emphasize that human embryos are just that, human.

“We are here today to introduce some very remarkable people,” said Ken Connor, president of the council, “people we believe President Bush, members of Congress and the American people should meet as our country struggles to decide the fates of embryonic human beings.”

“Mark and Luke Borden are 9-month-old twin brothers,” he said. “Hannah Strege is 28 months old. These children all share one thing in common — their lives began in a petri dish. Following conception, they were frozen and stored at a fertility clinic. But happily, unlike the fate of thousands of other frozen embryonic humans, Mark, Luke and Hannah were adopted while still in their frozen embryonic stage and implanted in the wombs of the mothers they know today.”

“Their story points to a very important fact — human embryos are not merely potential human beings,” he said. “Rather, they are human beings with potential. … They are not mere property.”

Connor added: “We celebrate the lives of these children and the generosity of their adoptive parents, who are a testimony to the fact that nothing less than life itself is at stake in this debate.”

Researchers prize stem cells from human embryos because they say the cells can develop into any form of cell in the human body and are seen as offering potential treatments for a range of degenerative illnesses. But similar research using cells from adults — a procedure that avoids ethical concerns — has shown just as much promise, if not more.

In Sunday´s Washington Times, a senior fellow of the Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity warned about the misuse of language that is surrounding arguments in favor of the use of embryos.

“Scientists at Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technologies (ACT) announced July 12 that they have begun experiments to clone human embryos to harvest their stem cells,” wrote C. Ben Mitchell, who is also editor of the journal Ethics & Medicine. “Not only does this signal that the clone age has arrived on American soil, but ACT´s use of euphemisms to describe their research is simply remarkable.”

He stated: “Ronald Green, chair of the company´s ethics advisory board, said, ´We´re not trying to evade anything here. … But think about it. There was a time when a ´mother´ was the genetic mother, the gestational mother, and the birth mother. But now technology like surrogate motherhood is separating out those things that used to go together. The same is true for what we´ve been calling the “embryo.”´”

Mitchell continued: “During World War II, the Nazi doctors became extremely adept at inventing euphemisms to disguise, even sometimes from themselves, the horrors they were perpetrating against humanity. To justify Operation T-4, a euthanasia campaign that would make the Dutch blush, they used words like ´mercy killing,´ ´liberation,´ and ´life not worthy of living´ to describe the mass killing of mentally retarded persons and the disabled. Some of the doctors even called Jews ´human ballast´ in order to justify their destruction.”

The bioethicist added: “If the people at ACT are doing destructive human embryo research, they should have the courage to admit it and not hide behind language. If they are cloning human beings, members of the species Homo sapiens, they should own up to it rather than cloaking their experiments in language invented to lull society to sleep. If they are combining human DNA with animal DNA to create chimeras (human-animal hybrids), they should tell us in no uncertain terms.”

Writing on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal on July 11, Father Robert Sirico of the Michigan-based Acton Institute noted: “Yes, the Catholic Church teaches authoritatively as a matter of faith and morals that embryonic stem-cell research is wrong. It is always careful, however, to argue its position in terms of public reason — that is, its arguments are open to all people, Catholic or otherwise.

“The church stresses, for example, that science tells us the human being doesn´t begin as a ´non-human´ entity from which a human life is later ´produced.´”

Father Sirico continued: “At every stage of development, human beings (whether zygote, morula, blastocyst, embryo, fetus, infant or adult) retain their identity as an enduring being that develops through the stages of life. … In short, the self-directing human organism that each of us is today is the same human being that was created when we were conceived. None of us ´became´ a human being at some point after conception.”

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