Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Disappointment with Frist

At this point, I am reluctant to say anything else negative about the current Republican leadership because I very much want Republicans to gain seats in the House and Senate rather than the opposite in the upcoming elections. I am sure that everything will be worse if the Democrats gain more seats. But I have to say that I am disappointed with Senator majority leader, Bill Frist. Frist introduced a bill last week to expand funding for embryonic stem cell research and is pushing the already busy Senate to debate the bill and vote on it in July. The bill is supposed to be considered along with bills that will allegedly ban the implantation of embryos in women for future harvesting of cells and a bill that will promote ways to extract cells from embryos without killing the embryos. (As for this last bill, exactly what are they going to do with the wounded embryos after the stem cells have been removed? They can’t possibly implant them all in women, especially when they have reduced their likelihood of undamaged survivability.)

This is very disappointing because human beings are human beings as long as they are alive and no matter how small, large, or decrepit. There is no question that when a living sperm meets a living egg it produces a living human being. While these young human beings sometimes perish naturally in the course of human reproduction, it is not right to intentionally mass produce and slaughter them for the purpose of highly speculative medical research. Bills that promote this research, even if they use existing embryos rather than creating new ones, they are still fueling the market for further research and putting pressure on society to allow the creation of new embryos for their destruction in future years. Even though those embryos left over from in vitro fertilization may be used for the research Frist seeks, that still does not make it right. Otherwise, the Nazis could have claimed they were justified in performing valuable medical research on the Jews, gypsies and Slavs they already intended to exterminate. But one cruelty does not justify another. Creating and freezing embryos as part of in vitro fertilization is wrong to begin with. Experimenting on the leftover embryos simply compounds the evil. And, it increases the possibility of demand for the creation of new embryos.

On top of all of this, stem cell research on adult stem cells and cord blood stem cells has been far more fruitful than that involving embryonic stem cells. In fact, not only have embryonic stem cells not been nearly as fruitful, they simply cannot do many of the things their backers claim. A good example is Nancy Reagan’s belief that stem cell research would help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. In Alzheimer’s, human brain cells are effectively “gummed up” by a process we do not yet understand. Stem cells cannot be used to grow a new brain for an Alzheimer’s victim. As a result, it is highly unlikely that even if embryonic stem cell research is successful, there will ever be any kind of a cure for Alzheimer’s as a result.

Public policy needs to be based upon the difficult moral realities of life, not upon wishful thinking. While I fully sympathize with those who have deadly medical conditions and hope that medical science does discover treatments to heal them, I don’t think that killing other human beings, no matter how small they may be, is justified to further such medical treatments.


MonkeyLover said...

"As a result, it is highly unlikely that even if embryonic stem cell research is successful, there will ever be any kind of a cure for Alzheimer’s as a result."

I was intrigued by your comments, but this statement seemed absolutely contradictory! "Successful research" would require a cure for things such as Alzheimer's no? How else could it really be deemed successful? And a cure for Alzheimer's doesn't particularly necessitate the entire brain be replaced, there may be small masses of cells that need to be regrown, fixed, etc, but so much is unknown you cannot possibly assume an entire brain would be needed.

Other than that, you are against the death penatly, yes? And do you limit the honor of life only to humans?

Dean McConnell said...

Good Comment.

I am willing to have my mind changed on whether the research can succeed in theory. But my understanding is that Alzheimer's is a whole brain disease. Minor repairs may slow it down, but cannot stop it. If you could quickly replace all or part of the brain I expect it would change memory and personality.

On the death penalty I have mixed feelings. God prescribed the death penalty because of the value of human beings and because they are made in the image of God. You are not respecting the perpetrator or the victim if punishment does not fit the crime. And death is all that fits death. The destroying of another's right forfeits your own. On the other hand, God himself gave mercy to the first murderer and we all need mercy. Human law must be merciful and balance human inability to be perfect with the human need for justice. One more consideration is that our justice system convicts innocent people too often. Until that is fixed, execution makes mistakes more permanent, and should only be used when we are quite certain of guilt.

As for non-humans, all life is special because it was created by God. Before the fall there was no death and humans ate fruit. After the fall suffering became part of life, and will remain so until God recreates the world. Today, animals and plants may be used for food, work, materials, saving humans etc., but should never be tortured or tormented needlessly. This is especially true of animals like primates, who unlike cows for example, are highly intelligent and senescent etc. Vivisecting conscious animals, or eating living animals is very wrong. But only humans, not animals have special value as creations in the image of God. Humans and animals are not equally valuable.