The Catholic bishops of Kansas have launched a campaign to help the public understand the moral and ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cell research. The initiative was taken in response to increasing pressure for state laws approving research into human cloning and embryonic stem cell techniques.
The bishops commissioned a stem cell education video, available at http://saintmaxworldwide.org/, that offers a “clear and concise guide” to the debate over research using human embryos. Entitled “The Science of Stem Cells: Finding Cures and Protecting Lives,” the 12-minute video explains underlying facts in the stem cell debate largely missing from media coverage, including the failure of embryonic research to produce any cures from disease, the facts of human cloning, and the success rate of ethically-acceptable adult stem cell research.
The video was funded with a grant from the Kansas Knights of Columbus and produced by the non-profit group SaintMax Worldwide, Inc., in Kansas City.
Mike Farmer, director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the bishops in Kansas, in a Wichita Diocesan News report stated, “People are going to discover that contrary to public perception, the Catholic Church is very much in favor of finding cures and treatments for suffering people, a continuation of our healing heritage going back centuries. They’re also going to find out that we can heal people without using and destroying other human lives.”
The bishops released a pastoral letter this week setting out the ethical and moral problems of research using human embryos, in response to Governor Sebeluis’s expressed interest in establishing human embryonic research in the state.
“Concerned at such a prospect, we want to offer Catholics and all people of good will in Kansas the following explanation of the issues at stake in human cloning and embryonic stem cell research,” the bishops stated. “It may provide some clarity amidst the confusion.”
The pastoral letter explains essential differences between ethically acceptable research using adult stem cells and the use of cells obtained by killing early-stage human embryos.
“It is never morally permissible to destroy one human life, even if it is done in the hope of benefiting other human beings,” the bishops wrote, calling such research “a crime against life.”
“Laws intended to sanction embryonic stem cell research are immoral because they give legal protection to the violation of the most fundamental of all human rights.”
“Some hold there is no moral problem with harvesting cells from embryos because they claim that the embryo only holds the potential for human life and is not actually human. But the human embryo is not something other than human; human stem cells can only be harvested from a human being. It is just that this human being was killed instead of allowing it to develop normally.”
The bishops condemned economic arguments for embryonic research as a serious moral problem similar to arguments used to defend slavery. The claim that banning human cloning would result in the loss of economic benefits is baseless, the bishops stated, citing the example of other states who have become leaders in biotechnology despite laws banning embryonic research.
The bishops refute suggestions that using frozen embryos for research purposes is acceptable, since the embryos would be killed regardless. “A death--row prisoner, a terminally ill patient, and indeed each living person will die one day, but that does not entitle another to kill human life at will for the purposes of scientific experimentation.”
The victimization of women is also a serious moral problem with human embryonic research, with poor and socially-vulnerable women most likely to undergo the painful and risky process of egg-harvesting to supply the research need for human eggs.
“Advance in research and finding cures for disease would be achieved at the expense not only of human beings at their earliest stage of development, but also of women in desperate circumstances,” the bishops warned.
The pastoral letter was signed by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore of Dodge City, Bishop Paul S. Coakley of Salina, and Bishop Michael O. Jackels of Wichita.