The Dehumanization Of Human Life; Embryonic Stem Cell Research, An Ethical Dilemma

This is an essay on stem cell research and its implication on the dignity of human person.

Pope St. John Paul II, in his encyclical letter, Evangelium Vitae, said, "Life in time, in fact, is the fundamental condition, the initial stage, and the integral part of the entire unified process of human existence.". The history of man has been characterized by different phases in the progression of the "culture of death." This dehumanizing culture has taken different forms in different epochs, such as the problem of slavery, where some humans are treated with cruelty by some other humans even to the point of death. Another is the problem of the legalization of abortion and the acceptance of euthanasia and capital punishment irrespective of their infringement on human dignity. In recent times, humanity has been confronted with the controversy of the morality and necessity of Embryonic STEM CELL RESEARCH (ESC), which is considered major revolutionary biomedicine. What is Embryonic STEM CELL RESEARCH?

According to Berna Arda and Cemal Huseyin Guvercin," Stem cells are parent cells that form all the tissues and organs in the body." More so, a statement issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says that "Stem cells are relatively unspecialized cells that, when they divide, can replicate themselves and also produce a variety of more specialized cells." In other words, These stem cells can regenerate into different other tissues or cells. There are generally two types of stem cells that can be developed; the adult stem cell (these are stem cells from adult tissues, umbilical cord blood, and placenta, and can be obtained without harm to the donor and without any ethical problem) and the Embryonic stem cell (the Embryonic stem cells are derived from fertilized ovaries. In other words, they are "obtained by destroying an embryonic human being in the first week or so of development."(Statement of the USCCB) ). The stem cell-derived from adult donors do not raise serious ethical questions, as does the Embryonic stem cell. On the other hand, human embryonic cells are harvested from fertilized embryos 'leftover' from IVF or even from embryos denoted for this purpose. Stem cell research offers great therapeutic prospects. This new form of medicine promise to bring about cure to terminal human health challenges.

In as much as stem cell research has great potential in contemporary medicine, the method of its derivation is questionable because it devalues the sanctity of human life. Although there are different philosophical and scientific positions on when life begins, the Church is always clear on the position that life begins at fertilization. As soon as the ovary is fertilized by the sperm cell, human life begins. Therefore, since human life is a process of successive development, the embryo is not becoming a human being; it is already a human who is developing to full potential. As such, the personhood and dignity inherent in the human person ought to be duly accorded to the embryo.

It is a fact that science and technology have undeniably contributed positively to the existence and growth of the human family. Nevertheless, in the face of all these, caution must be taken that human life is not used as an instrument or an object of the experiment. Human life is precious and ought to be treated with care, respect, dignity, and love.

Hence, better ways can be explored, rather than the use of embryos for therapeutic medicine. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council affirmed: "God, the Lord of life, entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception." (Gaudium et Spes, 51). Similarly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "the inalienable right to life of every human innocent human individual is a constitutive element of civil society and its legislation... These human rights depend neither on a single individual nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin." (CCC 2273). Therefore, Embryonic Stem cell research, no matter the prospect it possesses, is morally wrong, for it affects the very core of human existence; life. To permit, promote, or participate in Embryonic stem cell research is to deliberately destroy human life. To deliberately destroy human life is to commit murder and to commit murder is a grave sin.

AGBOTU VINATIUS KUNGA.

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