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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Summarized: Ethical Issues of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Amy Wellborn over at Open Book summarizes the issues as presented in America by Fr. John Kavanaugh S.J. of St. Louis University. Please have a read. Since embryonic stem cell harvesting destroys the human embryo, it all boils down to the question of when human life begins. My own take on this is based on a simple formula: 23 + 23 = 46. What on earth does that mean? It's based on the number of chromosomes found in the gametes (sperm or egg) and their relationship with the number of chromosomes in the human DNA. The gametes each have 23 chromosomes, which is odd because, if I'm not mistaken, other cells in our body have 46 chromosomes. What's just as amazing is that we're all products of gametes whose chromosomes simply add up to 46. Since the very first product of conception is an organism with 46 chromosomes, we know it's human. But we also know that this is not just a bunch of cells belonging to the mother. Why? Because this organism, the blastocyst, has DNA that is distinct from the mother's DNA. If it isn't the mother's tissue, then what is it? The simple answer is that this is a distinct organism. And with 46 chromosomes, it can only be a human being. Arguing that this is not a human being is a stretch since a blastocyst needs only time and nourishment to become a fetus,and all a fetus needs to grow into a newborn baby is likewise time and nourishment. This is also exactly what we all needed to grow from infant to toddler to adolescent, etc. Nothing separates our being now from our being at conception. The proof is very simple: as I understand it, my DNA now is as it was at conception. Growth as a phenomenon exists in a continuum and has nothing to do with the nature of the growing entity. I am a human being now and I have been from the very beginning. What separates me from my origins at conception is simply growth -- which began at conception and will continue until my demise.


Anonymous said...

"It is estimated that up to 50% of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among known pregnancies, the rate of spontaneous abortion is approximately 10% and usually occurs between the 7th and 12th weeks of pregnancy."


If the fertilized eggs that get spontaneously aborted are persons, don't they all deserve medical attention, even though they may exhibit deadly genetic abnormalities? Shouldn't we require this?

Jeff Tan said...

Yes, they are persons too, but how can medical attention be given to specific embryos that we are not aware of?

Current studies on miscarriages are sufficient starting points. We know that alcohol and smoking can cause miscarriages. We know that poor nutrition can also cause miscarriages. That logically has an impact on spontaneous abortion as well. That's where prevention of spontaneous abortion begins. Around here in Melbourne, I still see far too many people smoking around pregnant women -- if she isn't the smoker herself. Why? The claim is that people have a right to smoke outdoors. If she miscarries, tough! We also have scientific evidence that both oral contraceptives and abortion seriously increases the chances of miscarriage or reduces the chances of pregnancy. No one talks about this and no one seems to care. Why? Again the focus is on the right of adults, i.e., the pregnant mother, to do whatever. Governments do not do enough to tell women about these dangers, so that they can make informed, logical choices.

Sadly, much more effort and resources are being put into preventing pregnancies or terminating them. Perhaps one day, when the human race is on the verge of extinction, people will change their minds. Only then will people understand, perhaps, the value of human lives that begin with the embryo. Right now, individualism rules, with its narrow views and lack of foresight.