Opinion: Are Embryo Banks for Spare Parts Next ?


Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - A troubling story out of London reflects the continued downward spiral the West is on as turning human persons into commodities to be sold or experimented upon becomes increasingly acceptable. The article in the “Daily Mail” entitled “Storm over embryo 'bank' which could be used as a body repair kit” was written by Beezy Marsh and Jo Macfarlane and noted:

“Couples could be allowed to store embryos in order to use them to create new body parts or cure diseases. Government legal and ethical experts are to discuss whether families can ‘bank’ embryos not just for procreation but also for use by doctors to create personalised treatments for parents and their children. Now, embryos – the first stage of life after an egg has been successfully fertilized – can be stored for up to five years but only for procreation. But a huge ethical debate is set to erupt as the Government’s fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), moves closer to endorsing new developments in medical science.

"It will debate whether embryos could be stored to harvest important stem cells that have the ability to turn into any tissue type in the body. Research on using the cells is still in its infancy, but it is thought that within ten years it could lead to cures for degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and some forms of cancer. The embryos could also be used to grow new organs and bodily ‘spare parts’.”

The HFEA is set to debate the proposal to allow these “Embryo Banks”. Most observers expect they will do just that. A Pro-Life leader named Paul Tully of the ‘Society for the Protection of Unborn Children’ noted in that same piece: "These proposals widen the scope for abuse of embryos. Commercial companies will inevitably seek to exploit people’s fears about degenerative diseases. This is about the commercialization of human embryos, which is dehumanizing." These “Banks” will allow the long term storage of human embryonic persons who could then be used for spare parts by others.

On Monday, March 9, 2009, President Barrack Obama promoted this commodification of human persons in the United States by signing an Executive Order which "directed NIH to formulate the best method for moving forward with stem cell research, both ethically and scientifically". This led to the promulgation of new NIH Guidelines which support the notion of human embryos as property, capable of being “manufactured” and available to be used as spare parts in experimentation which has produced no discernible scientific results, such as research using embryonic stem cells. Make no mistake; every so called “extraction” of embryonic stem cells kills a living human embryonic person.

In 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued its important direction entitled “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation”. Among the many questions it answered with absolute clarity was: “What Respect is due to the human embryo, taking into account his nature and identity?” The answer given by the Magisterium: “The human being must be respected - as a person - from the very first instant of his (her) existence.”

The news out of London concerning “Embryo Banks” should come as no surprise to those who see what is happening under this U.S. Administration. Perhaps the saddest thing for me to witness is the complicity of some who once championed the dignity of every human life, including the dignity of human embryonic life. One example is Constitutional Law Professor Doug Kmiec who recently wrote an article for the Catholic News Service entitled "New ethically sensitive stem-cell guidance from the Obama administration" which actually defended these guidelines. Fortunately, this article was immediately answered by none other than Justin Cardinal Rigali in the very same forum, the Catholic News Service, in a piece entitled “New stem cell guidelines not ‘ethically sensitive’”.

Cardinal Rigali began his scolding response with these words “On April 17 the National Institutes of Health released new draft guidelines for federally funded embryonic stem-cell research. Federal tax dollars will now be used, for the first time, to encourage the destruction of innocent human beings for their stem cells. Law professor Douglas Kmiec states in an opinion piece distributed by Catholic News Service that the new policy is “ethically sensitive” and in important respects “more strict” than President George W. Bush’s policy that preceded it. The truth is the opposite.”

The kind of courage, clarity and unwillingness to compromise demonstrated by Cardinal Rigali is desperately needed in the United States. Cardinal Rigali in the same response to Doug Kmiec wrote: “Parents will be invited to consider donating their embryonic sons or daughters for research at the same time that they are considering whether to save them for their own later reproduction or donate them so another couple can have a baby. The new guidelines will encourage destruction of some embryonic human beings who could otherwise have lived and grown up to adulthood.”

In the “Dignity of the Person” issued last year by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith we were reminded that science must always be placed at the service of the human person, the family and the common good. Any use of new technologies must respect that the human body is never an “it” - but an “I” - some-one who must never be treated as an object, “The body of a human being, from the very first stages of its existence, can never be reduced merely to a group of cells. The embryonic human body develops progressively according to a well defined program with its proper finality, as is apparent in the birth of every baby.”

We must speak for human embryonic Life as we speak for all human life. We must oppose this new form of genetic slavery wherein an entire class of human persons is being labeled as property to be used by those who are more powerful. Are Embryo Banks for spare parts the Next Innovation in the Expansion of the Culture of death?