We'll receive a $25,000 grant if others match it by Pentecost. $23,785 to go. Your gift will be doubled!
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Stem-cell breakthroughs we all can welcome

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 19, 2008

 Another medical miracle has taken place, thanks to stem-cell research. Doctors in Spain report the successful transplant of a tailor-made trachea. The organ came from a donor, but was treated with stem cells taken from the woman who received it. Thanks to that treatment, the surgeon said, "The probability this lady will have a rejection is almost 0%." The same sort of treatment can be used for other organs, making it far easier for doctors to ensure that the recipient's body will not reject the new organ.

The stem cells used in this procedure came from the recipient's bone marrow-- a process that raises no moral objections. In fact, in every single medical advance achieved through stem-cell research to date, the stem cells have been obtained from consenting adults, rather than harvested from doomed human embryos. 

Research using stem cells taken from adult sources has been phenomenally successful, and research using harvest embryos has not yet yielded any practical medical benefits. Some pro-lifers see that fact-- and it is a fact-- as the best argument against embryonic stem-cell research. I'm afraid that's a mistake.

Let's suppose, for the sake of the argument, that the researchers who are harvesting stem cells from embryos suddenly achieve their own breakthrough, producing all sorts of medical benefits.  If pro-lifers had making the argument against embryo research exclusively on practical grounds-- that it didn't produce results-- the ground would be cut out from under them. Yet even if it is successful, medical treatment that entails the deliberate destruction of human embryos is immoral, and should be opposed. Let's base our opposition on solid principle, not on the particular features of a situation that could change.

Nevertheless there is a strong practical argument to be made, to complement that moral argument. Right now adult stem-cell research is producing great results, and embryonic stem-cell research is not. As a practical matter, government funding should go to the research that demonstrably yields fruit. Yet that's not what is happening today. Embryonic stem-cell research still soaks up most of the available government support. That's wrong.

And why does embryo research draw so much funding, when adult stem-cell research has seen so much more success? The answer can be expressed in one word: lobbying.

And why do researchers lobby for support for embryo research? <i>Cui bono?</i>

Think about this: If doctors draw stem cells from your bone marrow, you only pay for the doctors' work. The stem cells are your own; no one else can charge you for them. More to the point, nobody else can patent them. But a line of stem cells drawn from embryos can be patented and sold. The sales price can't  go to the embryos. (They're dead; remember?) So someone else takes the profit. Enough said.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Spring Challenge Grant
Progress toward our Spring Challenge Grant goal ($23,785 to go):
$25,400.00 $1,615.00
94% 6%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.

Matching Campaign
Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org
Shop Amazon

Recent Catholic Commentary

A silent scandal: Catholic schools promoting morally unacceptable vaccines April 24
A More Militant Church? April 24
How we'll know if the Vatican and the US hierarchy are serious about deposing negligent bishops April 24
Final take on the LCWR: A time to plant, a time to uproot April 24
With the LCWR, has the Vatican taken Gamaliel's advice? April 24

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope challenges world leaders' silence on persecution of Christians CWN - April 6
Pope outlines plans for the extraordinary jubilee of mercy CWN - April 13
Vatican completes doctrinal assessment of Leadership Conference of Women Religious CWN - April 16
Pope accepts resignation of Bishop Finn CWN - April 21