Press Release on Stem Cell Research

CATHOLIC MEDICAL ASSOCIATION

(Pewaukee, Wis) The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) wishes to commend President Bush for having the moral courage to prohibit the destruction of the innocent living human beings who remain frozen in IVF clinics, or who may be produced by cloning, and we welcome and applaud this part of the President's decision.

Pope John Paul II's statement to the President last month confirmed the Catholic Church's consistent moral teaching that it is always morally evil to intentionally and directly kill any innocent human being - regardless of any perceived "personhood" status. The Church has applied this teaching to human life from fertilization through adulthood: "In reality, respect for human life is called for from the time that the process of generation begins. From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father or of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. ... To this perpetual evidence, perfectly independent of the discussions on the moment of animation, modern genetic science brings valuable confirmation" (Declaration on Procured Abortion). Yet the Church reiterates that, "the human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life. ... [S]ince the embryo must be treated as a person, it must also be defended in its integrity, tended and cared for to the extent possible, in the same way as any other human being as far as medical assistance is concerned" (Donum Vitae).

The CMA also concurs with the President's decision to give more federal funds for ethical research that has already proven clinically successful in many human diseases, e.g., the use of adult stem cells, and stem cells from placenta and cord blood.

As Catholic physicians we also know that the Church teaches that the means used to reach important medical and health goals through experimentation must be good in themselves as well. To destroy living human embryos, who are living innocent human beings, as the means of deriving useful human embryonic stem cells for others' medical and health benefits would necessarily be an inherently evil action: "This moral condemnation also regards procedures that exploit living human embryos and fetuses - sometime specifically "produced" for this purpose by in vitro fertilization - either to be used as "biological material" or as providers of organs or tissue for transplants in the treatment of certain diseases. The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act" (Evangelium Vitae). It is never morally licit to do evil that good may come of it.

However, serious concerns remain with the President's decision and elements of it that we cannot support and, in fact, reject:

  • We are concerned that the President missed a golden opportunity to use his bully pulpit as the moral and political leader of the free world by not simply acknowledging up front the correct objective scientific facts of human embryology that have been known for over a hundred years: that human embryos are human beings from fertilization on. This is a long-established objective scientific fact, and would have helped to raise his decision above politics and subjective personal opinions.

  • We are concerned that the President did not take this opportunity to ban the destruction of innocent human lives in research using both private and public funds as well.

  • We are concerned that the President's decision has essentially revoked the current Congressional ban on human embryo research.

  • We are concerned that even the use of the product of such killing is somehow perceived as morally acceptable, as with the President's acceptance of the use of already existing human embryonic stem cell lines. Such use remains morally complicit in the original act of the killing of those innocent human beings, an action which is equivalent to direct abortion: "[T]he moral requirements must be safeguarded, that there be no complicity in deliberate abortion and that the risk of scandal be avoided" (Donum Vitae).

  • We are concerned that the President failed to addressed the very real scientific possibility that these human embryonic stem cell lines which already exist could contain new whole living human embryos produced in vitro through the natural process of "regulation" (such as happens in natural human monozygotic twinning, and in animals in vitro and in vivo). The intentional killing of these culture-produced living human embryos would constitute a grave moral action as well.

  • We are concerned that by ignoring the morality of complicity, the President has established a political wedge that can be exploited later if the need for even more human embryonic stem cell lines for "better health care" is demanded by science and patients alike. Indeed, the chorus has already begun.

  • We are concerned that such denial of moral complicity also opens the financial floodgates on Wall Street, encouraging even further exploitation of these most vulnerable of innocent human beings as mere biological commodities. Financial conflicts of interests exist already.

Thus, although there is much to be applauded in the President's decision, there are elements that must be rejected. As a result, many concerns and unanswered questions remain for the Catholic Medical Association and for our Catholic physicians.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Catholic Medical Association Press Release August 13, 2001

Contact: Charles Prezzia, M.D., President, 412-433-6604
Contact: Dianne Irving, Ph.D., Linacre Institute 301-229-4176
Contact: Michael J. Herzog, Executive Director 262-523-6201
 


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