Embyro Research: "An Unheard-of Rupture"

Bishop Sgreccia of the Pontifical Academy for Life

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 27, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Is it permissible to encourage and carry out experiments on humans as if they were guinea pigs?

U.S. President George W. Bush is facing this question as he tries to decide whether to allow federal funding for stem cell research on human embryos. Such research was a central topic of his audience with John Paul II on July 23.

Recently, a group of scientists in Virginia announced that human embryos have been created for the sole purpose of obtaining stem cells. These cells can be used in research against different diseases, such as Alzheimer´s. Donors of ova and semen have been paid as much as $2,000.

To understand the implications of these experiments, Vatican Radio interviewed Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

–Q: What are the ethical implications of these new experiments being carried out in the United States with human embryos?

–Bishop Sgreccia: Without a doubt, these events show an unheard-of rupture, under three aspects.

First, to produce embryos for experimentation is prohibited by all laws known to date, and by European norms.

In the second place, there is the production of embryos through cloning, which is negative in itself, because it creates human beings outside of any sexual union, who are deprived, therefore, of any connection with maternity and paternity. The objective is to acquire stem cells with a chain of negativity: to produce for experiment, and to produce through the cloning of other embryos.

In the third place, a real business exists. In order to do all this, a series of expenses are necessary: the purchase of ova and the sale of stem cells themselves.

–Q: Overall, how do you judge these experiments?

–Bishop Sgreccia: They are a series of misdeeds, so serious and linked to one another, they never happened historically. For good reason the scientific society itself is alarmed, because that this discredits a science that does not set limits to itself when it comes to the power of man over man.

–Q: So there is an added aggravation in wanting to produce embryos solely to create stem cells?

–Bishop Sgreccia: When stem cells are taken from embryos, they always entail the death and destruction of the embryo. Therefore, there is a scientific reason to be alarmed, because these cells are difficult to control and can produce unforeseeable tumors.

However, the aggravations lie in the fact that life is given to human beings in order to destroy them, with procedures, moreover — either of in vitro fertilization or, even worse, cloning — which are illicit in themselves.

–Q: How do you answer those who maintain that this research serves to combat numerous diseases, such as Alzheimer´s, Parkinson´s and several kinds of cancer?

–Bishop Sgreccia: Fortunately, it has been demonstrated that, to cure these diseases, stem cells that are found in the adult organism are valid and even safer. From the scientific point of view, there is no need for such practices. Moreover, it is clear that, even in the case where it might be «necessary» to kill a person to make use of his liver, it would always be a crime.

There is no need whatsoever to justify the elimination of a human individual to cure another.

To say that early embryos are not yet human beings in the fullness of their dignity is a conceptual invention given by way of justification. The human being begins from fertilization and, from that moment, merits all respect, [as] embryo, fetus, child and adult.

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