The Impact of International Bioethics on the 'Sanctity of Life Ethics', and the Ability of OB Gyn's to Practice According to Conscience. pg.4

« 1  , 2  , 3  , 4  , 5  , 6 »

IV. Erroneous Science in Human Stem Cell and Human Cloning Research:

Finally, one of the most hotly debated issues right now is human embryonic and fetal stem cell research, which, researchers claim, can cure many diseases, as well as advance scientific knowledge in early human embryonic development. Here too it is difficult to correctly form one's conscience because these debates, as with the earlier debates on abortion, the use of abortifacients, etc., are replete with similar false and confusing human embryology and genetics. And although some ObGyn's are not particularly concerned about these “medical research” issues, you should consider that sooner or later you will be expected to apply “fruits” of such research in your own practice of medicine and on your own patients.

A. “Human Embryonic Stem Cell” Research:

1. The new “pre–embryo”: “just 'pluripotent' 'stem cells'”:

Once bioethicists were forced to discard the scientifically erroneous term “pre–embryo”, there was a need to find some term to take its place — some term that could still “scientifically” justify the use of the early human embryo in research and in “therapy”.

Among the more “creative” attempts that have emerged, perhaps the most influential has been to redefine the early human embryo as “just stem cells”. For example, in his 1999 testimony before the U.S. Senate subcommittee hearings on stem cell research, then–Director of the National Institutes of Health, Harold Varmus, actually defined the early human embryo from fertilization to the end of the blastocyst stage as “just stem cells”!77 The concrete reality of the early human embryo, a whole human organism, simply “vanished”! The NIH Guidelines on stem cell research then proceeded to define all of the “stem cells” derived from frozen IVF–produced human embryos as “just pluripotent”, rather than acknowledging that many of these stem cells are “totipotent”.78

2. Separated “stem cells” could become embryos:

It has also not been explained in these debates that most of IVF–produced human embryos are used immediately or frozen down at a very early stages, usually between the 4–8–cell stage79 (long before any differentiation into an inner and outer cell layer takes place), rather than at the 5–7 day blastocyst stage (when the embryo consists of at least 30–150 cells, and has differentiated into an inner and outer cell layer). Thus most of the “stem cells” retrieved from these early–stage frozen IVF–produced human embryos would actually be totipotent, not pluripotent. Oddly, most of the debate centers on the older blastocyst–stage frozen embryos, all of whose “stem cells” (derived from the inner cell mass) are referred to as “pluripotent”. But most IVF transfers do not use blastocyst–stage embryos; and most frozen embryos do not have inner cell masses!

Nor has it been explained that the term “human embryonic stem cells” can properly refer to those cells only while they are still a part of and intact within the whole embryo. Once these “stem cells” — or even groups of “stem cells” — are separated from the whole embryo, they can be “totipotent”,80 and therefore quite capable of “healing” themselves (called “regulation”) and becoming new whole living human embryos themselves — per se.81 That is, they would no longer be “stem cells”; they would be living human beings. Substantial change would have taken place, much as like happens in human cloning, resulting in the formation of a new living human embryo⁄being. So to use such so–called “stem cells” would constitute human embryo research per se.

We know this biological fact about regulation even from natural monozygotic twinning82 — a form of asexual reproduction called “fission”, “blastomere separation”, or “blastocyst splitting”. In fact, “twinning”, sometimes called “embryo multiplication”, is a form of cloning,83 in which copies or replicas of human genetic organisms are produced. The method is even being seriously considered by IVF researchers and clinicians themselves for “multiplying” human embryos from single embryos produced by older infertile women who have difficulty maturing viable oocytes during IVF “therapy”.84 And surely, neither the IVF clinician nor the woman think that what is being implanted in the woman's uterus is just a “stem cell”!

B. “Fetal Stem Cell” Research:

Another misleading scientific term used in these debates is “fetal stem cells”. These cells are generally retrieved from aborted embryos aged 5–9 weeks. Since the embryonic period extends from fertilization to the end of 8 weeks,85 the majority of these cells are “embryonic”, not “fetal”. These cells are also not “somatic cells”, but rather the primitive sex cells, the immature human germ line cells. They are still diploid, and therefore can be cloned using any cloning technique (including somatic cell nuclear transfer). They can be matured in vitro to produce the sex gametes (sperms and oocytes) and then used in artificial fertilization.86 Since they are germ line (sex) cells, they can be manipulated using DNA–recombinant gene transfer, and thereby transmit “foreign” genes down through the generations (eugenics).87

V. Conclusion:

As Catholic ObGyn's continue to insist on your right to be trained and practice in medicine according to your consciences, I hope you will consider how critical it is to develop a well–formed conscience — one that is grounded in reality. Part of that reality is the accurate objective scientific information that the immediate product of fertilization and of cloning is a new, living innocent human being. These are the objective empirical facts of human embryology and human genetics which lead to the conclusions of the Moral Law that they should be treated as persons even at their earliest stages of development. This is the “sanctity of life ethic”, and is the starting point for all further considerations in medicine and research.

I hope you will also consider that another part of reality is the existence of malignant global structures of bioethics which purposefully use erroneous science and an idiosyncratic and very problematic normative “ethics” to redefine the “human being” and “human person” in order to achieve their own medical and research agendas, often eugenic in purpose. Theirs is the “quality of life ethic”, which necessarily comes to far different ethical conclusions in medicine and research.

Until and unless we all come to deal effectively with these concrete realities, the pressures on and discriminations against Catholic ObGyn's and related health care workers to be trained and practice according to conscience will continue to escalate.

" ... [T]here has emerged a phenomenon unknown to antiquity that permeates our modern society so completely that its ubiquity scarcely leaves us any room to see it at all: the prohibition of questioning ... We are confronted here with persons who know that, and why, their opinions cannot stand up under critical analysis and who therefore make the prohibition of the examination of their premises part of their dogma ... The questions of the "individual man" are cut off by the ukase of the speculator who will not permit his construct to be disturbed." [Emphases added.]

Eric Voegelin
Science, Politics and Gnosticism (1968)

« 1  , 2  , 3  , 4  , Next page: V. Endnotes:  , 6 »