Friday, May 07, 2004

Embryos as Sources for Replacement Parts?

According to this report, a laboratory in Chicago has been “successful” in five different instances with the conception and development of a child, so that stem cells from the embryo’s umbilical cord could be “harvested” and used to try to restore the health of the older brothers or sisters already born to the family. The article quotes University of Wisconsin medical ethicist Norman Fost, who said, “Of all the reasons people have babies, this would seem to be a wonderful reason. Most reasons are either mindless sex or selfish reasons." He also observed that parents seeking donor babies are well-intentioned and love the donor children.

This opinion is not shared by all. The article quotes Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who comments that the embryos from which the stem cells were taken (with no known detriments to the health of the donor), "were allowed to be born so they could donate tissue to benefit someone else." Nine families submitted embryos for testing, with only five being found to be suitable for stem cell use. The remaining four were aborted after the results of the test became known.

I don’t know about you, but this sounds really creepy to me. It’s one thing for a person in a family to donate an organ for the health and well-being of another; even if the donor is a minor, maybe even too young to understand what is going on, and for whom the decision is made by the parents. (Ands thanks be to God that we haven’t had to make such a choice in our family.) But to conceive a child to be a source of “replacement parts” – even when, as is apparently the case with using stem cells – well, that’s scary. Children are a gift, a blessing from God. Sooner or later, our children will ask, “Why was I born?” How can we tell them that they are a gift from God, born from the love between their mother and father, when they were called into existence to save the life of another sibling? And what will these “well-intentioned” and “loving” parents, applauded by medical ethicist Fost, say to those whose lives were ended by abortion because their genetic makeup wasn’t good enough? “Oh, Mommy and Daddy wanted to love you, but the parts weren’t right, so we put an end to your life?”