Is Sally Field Human?
There's been good news for those who
want to find cures for disease, but don't feel good about killing people
to get the job done. On December 20, 2005, President Bush signed H.R.
2520, the "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005."
This bill created a new Federal program
that will collect and store umbilical cord blood. It also expands the
current bone marrow registry program to include cord blood.
"This is wonderful news for the many
thousands of suffering patients who can benefit from umbilical cord
blood stem cell treatments," said Richard M. Doerflinger, Deputy
Director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCB)
Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. "We are grateful to Congress and
the President for enacting this legislation without further delay.
"The House of Representatives passed
Rep. Chris Smith's legislation, to support and coordinate a nationwide
public bank of cord blood stem cells, almost unanimously on May 24. Yet
this urgently needed life-saving legislation was blocked for months in
the Senate, held hostage to debates over far more controversial and
speculative stem cell research requiring the destruction of human
embryos. In the last days of this session the deadlock was finally
ended, and Congress agreed on the kind of stem cell treatments that can
begin saving patients. lives here and now."
Umbilical stem cells have been
successfully used to treat thousands of people. They do things that stem
cells from ‘harvested embryos. do: grow rapidly in growth cultures to
make enough cells for treatments; they don't have to be an exact genetic
match with the patient; and they will grow into many different types of
Stem cells are valuable because they
can grow into other kinds of cells. This means that they can be used to
repair injured tissues or organs.
It is still legal to kill babies,
provided they are under a certain age, and chop them up for parts, but
at least now there's a nation-wide alternative to using used baby parts.
Every human being starts out as a tiny
cluster of cells that grows into the skin, eyes, bone, and other parts
that make an adult human.
When we're very young, just after
conception, we're called embryos. As we grow, we're called fetuses,
babies, and eventually adults. Provided that someone doesn't get us
At this point, we can be killed for any
reason, or no reason at all, provided that we're still an ‘embryo. or
The Catholic Church objects to killing
innocent human beings, no matter how big they are. The Catechism says
that "human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the
moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human
being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which
is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life." (2270)
This belief is a sharp contrast to what
many believe today. An editorial, "Stem Cell Deception," in the "Boston
Globe," December 30, 2005, discussed the imaginative way that South
Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk faked his stem cell research results. The
editor said that although the scandal illustrates many human failings,
the "objects of Hwang's experiments – aggregations of several hundred
cells – are far too primitive to be called human, with all the flaws and
virtues that implies."
"Far too primitive"?! That sounds
uncomfortably like beliefs that made the Dred Scott decision possible
back in 1857.
Besides, if being complex, and having
the abilities that go with it, are what it takes to be human, then are
people who have mental disabilities or are unconscious, human? And if
size matters, we have some very real problems. If we accept that the
massive Senator Ted Kennedy is human, can we say that the 5'2" actress
Sally Field was human when she weighed only a hundred pounds?
Back to Catholic beliefs, here's what
the Bishop of Pittsburgh had to say:
"Embryos are at the very beginning of
the whole process of human life. We, as human beings, in solidarity with
that life, even though it is tiny and undifferentiated at this point,
are not free to view it simply as a commodity for our convenience or
benefit. When we enter the sacred precincts of human life – when we
approach the chamber of life – we are not the masters of the room. We
are not the lords of the house of life. God alone has the right to
determine who lives, who dies, and the life span of each person. We are
stewards, not masters of human life. Even when we put on sterilized
gloves and work with technologically advanced equipment we do not take
on the mantle of arbiter of human life."
In short, we're not God, and so we
shouldn't act as if we had His authority over life.
(Facts and quotations from Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Evangelium Vitae, USCCB, Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the Boston
Brian H. Gill, Editor,
Sauk Centre K of C Bulletin