Stem cells again

By | May 5, 2011

Adult cells the moral alternative

The challenge of defining the legality of embryonic stem-cell research took a new turn April 29. A federal appeals court, siding with the Obama administration, overturned a ruling that blocked the use of federal funds for human embryonic stem-cell research.

By a vote of 2-1, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down an injunction issued last summer by federal judge Royce Lamberth. That injunction barred the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from paying for research on human embryonic stem cells.

Judge Lamberth, in his ruling last summer, noted that embryonic stem-cell research infringes on a federal law that bars use of government money to destroy human embryos. Last week’s ruling allows the NIH to continue funding embryonic stem-cell research until a formal decision is made on the injunction.

The use of embryos for such medical treatments as paralysis and degenerative disorders is unethical and immoral in the eyes of religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, because the research requires the destruction of human embryos.

In his 1995 encyclical, “The Gospel of Life,” Blessed Pope John Paul II presented this message: “Human embryos obtained in vitro are human beings and are subjects with rights; their dignity and right to life must be respected from the first moment of their existence.”

The church endorses adult stem-cell research because it does not destroy life in an effort to cure diseases. Research, such as that of a husband and wife medical team conducting the first-ever clinical trial in adult cardiac stem-cell research, should be the area federal agencies such as the NIH ought to promote.

In their work, Dr. Eduardo Marban, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, and his wife Linda Marban, research manager for the Cedar Sinai’s Board of Governors Heart Stem Cell Center, have taken heart tissue from patients and used it to grow specialized heart stem cells.

According to a Catholic News Service report, these stem cells are injected back into the patient’s heart in an attempt to repair and re-grow healthy muscles in a heart that has been weakened by a heart attack.

The Marbans are Catholic and their research is guided by their faith, which tells them that the destruction of human embryos contradicts the dignity of life.

So while the legal battle over human embryonic stem-cell research continues, the moral veracity of this procedure has long been decided. What we need are more medical researchers who make the connection between the treatment of disease and the sacredness of life.

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