Embryonic Stem Cell research (ESCR) involves harvesting human embryos (usually discarded embryos from IVF clinics) for their stem cells, the primordial cells in their body that have the potential to change into any other kind of cell (such as bone, muscle, or nerve, etc.) that could be used to repair damaged cells in a sick patient (such as turning stem cells into nerve cells and repair a patients damaged spine). However, the process used to extract these cells kills the human embryo in the process and therefore cannot be tolerated in a just society. Finally, along with obtaining stem cells from umbilical cord blood and other licit sources, scientists are discovering that they can create stem cells by taking adult skin cells and “reprogramming them” to act like totipotent embryos so that no real embryos need to be harmed or killed.
No real embryos need to be harmed or killed for stem cells.
Human cloning, or Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT), is a process where a person’s genetic code (DNA) is placed in an empty human ovum. By stimulating the ovum with electricity, scientists can create an identical genetic copy of the human being from whom the DNA was taken. If this embryo that is created in a lab is implanted a woman’s womb, it may develop into a fully developed copy of the donor human being. Needless to say, human cloning is an affront to the dignity of the human person because it robs the clone, who is created of a loving father and mother, makes them the end result of a manufacturing process, and degrades their value in society’s eyes to that of their likeness to the original clone. Furthermore, cloned animals (such as sheep) tend top be extremely unhealthy.
In order to ensure the dignity of the human person embryonic stem cell research and human cloning must be opposed with the same vigor that we oppose abortion, euthanasia, and all other offenses against human life. The 2008 Vatican document Dignitatis Personae summarized the situation in this way, “To create embryos with the intention of destroying them, even with the intention of helping the sick, is completely incompatible with human dignity, because it makes the existence of a human being at the embryonic stage nothing more than a means to be used and destroyed. It is gravely immoral to sacrifice a human life for therapeutic ends.” (30)