Bishop Banks' Corner|
|Bishop Robert J. Banks
It's a line never to be crossed
Embryonic stem cells have not even benefited anyone -- adult cells have
By Bishop Robert Banks
This is the first time I have ever shelved a column already
written for this corner and then written another one. The shelved
column you will see some time in the future, but I felt it was
imperative to write something on the issue of the funding of stem
cell research while it is being so hotly discussed in the media
and in Congress.
There is no question that stem cell research holds great promise
for medical advances and even cures in the future. I am all for
stem cell research, but the kind that uses ADULT stem cells.
To use and destroy human embryos for stem cell research is to
cross a line that never should be crossed. It means that human
life will no longer be considered sacred.
Proponents of embryonic stem cell research are not talking about
taking one embryo in order to save the lives of millions of
people. The proposal is to use as many embryos as needed, just as
rabbits or mice or monkeys are used for research. Already plans
are in place to conceive embryos precisely so they can be used,
and thus destroyed, in stem cell research.
A recent issue of Life Insight, a publication of the U.S.
Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, has some
interesting information concerning the present barrage of media
articles and editorials in favor of the federal funding of
embryonic stem cell research.
First of all, it makes the point that the national media, with
few exceptions, have taken the side of the pro-funding forces.
Reporters and columnists have all but ignored what can and has
been done through research using cells from adult human tissue,
umbilical cord blood, placentas and even the brain tissue of
Instead, the media focus on some modest advances using embryonic
stem cells, leaving the impression that cures for diabetes,
paralysis and Parkinson's disease are just around the corner.
One example was all the media attention given to a report that
mouse embryonic stem cells had been programmed to secrete
insulin. But there was little if any mention in the media about a
much more significant research development a year earlier in
which adult mouse stem cells successfully reversed diabetes in
Of course, neither research discovery means that the cure for
diabetes has been discovered and will be available in the next
year or so.
But let me repeat here some of the amazing advances in research
with non-embryonic stem cells that Life Insight lists:
-- Human patients have been successfully treated for heart
disease using stem cells from their own arm muscles;
-- Umbilical cords offer a new source of repair material for
fixing brains damaged by strokes or other ills;
-- Stem cells from the adult bone marrow of rats and mice have
created new heart muscle cells and blood vessels;
-- UCLA researchers have created human bone, cartilage and muscle
tissue from human fat stem cells;
-- Adult bone marrow stem cells have been found to form almost
any cell type - liver, nerve, brain, etc.
A second fact that seems to be missing from so many of the
articles about embryonic stem cell research is that, up to this
point, there have been no cures reported from the use of
embryonic stem cells on humans. Bert Vogelstein, M.D., professor
of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins, said all claims of
therapeutic benefit from embryonic cell research are
"conjectural." Marcus Grompe, M.D. from Oregon Health Sciences
University, agreed: "There is no evidence of therapeutic benefit
from embryonic stem cells." And Fr. Michael Place of the Catholic
Health Association says, "In fact, embryonic stem cells have
provided no benefit to any human patient."
We know for a fact that the embryos to be used in the research
proposed for funding are alive with human life. We also know that
adult stem cells can serve for significant research similar to
that involving embryonic stem cells. We know that the research
proposed for federal funding can involve the destruction of
thousands of human embryos. Why go down that path, a path that
has already led to the cloning of human embryos and the creation
of human embryos precisely so that they can be destroyed?
Why not support legislation like the "Responsible Stem Cell
Research Act of 2001," sponsored by Congressman Chris Smith
(R-NJ)? It would allocate $30 million for stem cell research from
non-embryonic sources and create a "cell donor bank" to serve
I do not know how much good it would do to write your U.S.
senator or representative, but you can try. You can also sign a
petition to Pres. Bush that already has 24,000 signatures. It has
been organized by the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics
Once again, I am all for stem cell research. It has great promise
to help so many people who are dealing with incurable diseases
that have changed their lives. Thankfully, according to the
information I have received, there is no need to destroy human
embryos in order to do the necessary research.