Just knocked down the league table of BBC news today following the announcement of Prince William’s wedding plans, is the report of a stem cell trial in Glasgow, using fetal stem cells to treat a stroke victim. (www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11763681)
It is always important to get straight to the heart of these stories and not worry if you do not have sufficient scientific knowledge to understand the minute details of what has happened. It’s the moral dilemma we have to grapple with.
The claim this time is that by multiplying stem cells from the brains of aborted fetuses and injecting these cells into the brains of patients who have suffered strokes, it may be possible to lessen the effects of the stroke. In the longer term the hope is to perhaps cure these patients.
This particular trial is not in itself aimed at an immediate cure, but is being carried out to assess whether the small dose of fetal brain stem cells initially injected into the patient will be accepted or rejected. The patient will be monitored to see if there are any safety implications and whether there is any indication of improvement.
If the transplant seems safe, other patients will be given progressively higher doses and be monitored over two years to assess results.
A very similar trial is going on in California, but using embryonic rather than fetal stem cells and aimed at patients suffering from spinal injury. The company in question (Geron) is also doing a safety trial to see if the chosen patient develops any reaction to the transplant. Higher dosage of the embryonic stem cells would follow if safety were to be established.
How should we respond to today’s news from Glasgow, and the earlier trial report from California?
By going back to the absolute basics of virtuous medicine. Evil may never be done even if good may come of it.
The creation of fetal or embryonic stem cells relies on the destruction of early human life either in the womb or in the test tube. It is irrelevant if permission has been obtained or not. We cannot sacrifice even the tiniest members of the human race, no matter how dramatic or heart-rending the condition of the patients in question. This is a profoundly unethical trade-off.
On the BBC coverage of the Glasgow fetal stem cell trial it is stated that strokes in the UK kill around 67,000 people a year. This is a significant healthcare issue and must be addressed wisely and seriously.
But abortion takes even more lives every year, 200,000 during the pre-birth stages of human development, and it is almost impossible to estimate how many even smaller human lives are discarded during the processes of IVF and stem cell research.
We share the dream of seeking cures for strokes, spinal injury, cancers and all the other conditions which beset modern man, but the realization of that dream cannot depend on the taking of life of other human beings, no matter how early in development those tiny lives may be.
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Fortunately many acceptable alternative stem cell therapies cures or ongoing research projects are already up and running.
Check out the following website for stem cell cures which do depend on the destruction of early human life: