August 25, 2000
volume 11, no. 150

NEWS for Friday, August 25, 2000
Labels Clinton Administration's Decision "Hypocrisy"


    A few hours after the U.S. government announced the decision to allocate public funds to human embryo experimentation, the Pontifical Academy for Life published a document defining this research as unacceptable from the ethical point of view, as it does not consider the embryo as "a human being who must be respected and treated as a person." After all, the first right of a person is the right to life.

    In particular, the document of this Vatican institution confirms that the production of human embryos and their eventual destruction to obtain stem cells, which have the potential to become almost any human tissue, can never be morally acceptable because no end, no matter how attractive from the scientific point of view, can justify the elimination of a human being.

    But the document does not stop with outright condemnation. It is extraordinarily positive and states, as a scientifically proven fact, the possibility of using adult stem cells to obtain the same medical objectives. This way is indicated as being genuinely respectful of human dignity and, therefore, as the most appropriate to benefit from the great promises of scientific research in this area.

Economic Interests

    Speaking on Vatican Radio, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that the Clinton Administration's decision to fund experimentation on human embryos is due to "the pressures of industry, which hopes to commercialize the human material, even though there already is promising research to obtain the same results through the use of stem cells present in the adult organism -- they can be extracted from blood or the umbilical cord. There are serious research projects in this connection, which are supported by scientific magazines. The question then arises: Why not encourage research in this direction? Why not support research that respects human life from its beginning?"

-- Vatican Radio: Those who support the Clinton Administration's decision believe these experiments could be the solution to serious illnesses. They make extraordinary promises to those who suffer...

-- Bishop Sgreccia: You cannot use the end to justify the means! We know that morality requires us to seek appropriate ends through appropriate means. On the contrary, if the human being is used as a means to reach ends -- even if they seem to be noble -- possibilities would open that history has already condemned. Moreover, we must consider that these ends can be reached through other means, even though they are more expensive and compromising. This makes us understand clearly that there are commercial ends, and that money is the real reason, not human health. If human health can be obtained by other means, why aren't these investigated?

-- Vatican Radio: In any event, the normative foreseen by the United States will maintain the prohibition against financing operations to destroy human embryos with public funds.

-- That is hypocrisy! When frozen embryos are taken, they are being destroyed to carry out this research. These are really human embryos. There is an effort to make it appear as though embryos that are the stored and frozen fruit of artificial fertilization are not human embryos and, therefore, do not need to be treated like human beings. The Church considers it a crime to freeze living beings, which are the result of techniques of human procreation. To use them as the object of research and then destroy them cannot be a matter of indifference.

-- Vatican Radio: Today, the Pontifical Academy for Life, of which you are vice-president, has given guidelines on this matter, but the world seems to be going another way.

-- Bishop Sgreccia: Undoubtedly, so-called "freedom of research" seems to prevail, which deep down is no more than freedom from ethics, that is, freedom from any ethical value. As in other fields, the prevailing current is the principle of utility over unconditional respect for the human being. The fact that this is a reality should not discourage us, but rather motivate us to adopt a clear and simple position. History reminds us about who spoke out and those who remained silent and did nothing. Behind these proposals are financial interests and the unrestricted use of the human being, the implicit admission that the embryo is not a human being worthy of respect. We cannot remain silent on this point, even if we are only a small minority! ZE00082405

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