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Pope tells scientists: Never take one life to save another

November 14, 2011

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Speaking on November 12 to participants in a Vatican conference on adult stem-cell research, Pope Benedict XVI said: "The destruction of even one human life can never be justified in terms of the benefit that it might conceivably bring to another."

"Those who advocate research on embryonic stem cells in the hope of achieving such a result make the grave mistake of denying the inalienable right to life of all human beings from the moment of conception to natural death," the Pope said. He strongly encouraged research that uses stem cells obtained from adult tissues: a process that causes no destruction of human lives.

Pope Benedict observed that in the quest for effective medical responses to disease, there can be a temptation to ignore moral limitations. But that temptation invariably leads to new horrors, he said. In the case of embryo research, he said, the key problem arises when human beings are exploited--and destroyed--for the sake of scientific progress. While man is the proper object of medical research, the Pope said, human dignity requires that man must never be "reduced to its instrument." The Pontiff said:

The pragmatic mentality that so often influences decision-making in the world today is all too ready to sanction whatever means are available in order to attain the desired end, despite ample evidence of the disastrous consequences of such thinking. When the end in view is one so eminently desirable as the discovery of a cure for degenerative illnesses, it is tempting for scientists and policy-makers to brush aside ethical objections and to press ahead with whatever research seems to offer the prospect of a breakthrough.

The Church welcomes research using adult stem-cell tissues because it may produce such a breakthrough without offending human dignity, the Pope said. Earlier in his address he had set forth the general parameters of ethical research:

Scientific research provides a unique opportunity to explore the wonder of the universe, the complexity of nature and the distinctive beauty of life, including human life. But since human beings are endowed with immortal souls and are created in the image and likeness of God, there are dimensions of human existence that lie beyond the limits of what the natural sciences are competent to determine. If these limits are transgressed, there is a serious risk that the unique dignity and inviolability of human life could be subordinated to purely utilitarian considerations. But if instead these limits are duly respected, science can make a truly remarkable contribution to promoting and safeguarding the dignity of man: indeed herein lies its true utility.


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