Stem cell debate nearly impossible, say Catholic ethicists; frozen embryos should not exist in the first place

.- While many Christians and pro-life groups are still decrying Senate Majority leader Bill Frist’s Friday announcement that he favors more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, many Christian scientists and ethicists are wrestling with what may be an nearly-impossible moral debate. Frist, who could be a republican front runner for the 2008 presidential election, said that he thinks president Bush’s policy on the controversial research should be extended to include more already existing embryos.

Pulling stem cell lines needed for the research however, necessarily kills the embryo--something the Catholic Church expressly forbids.

President Bush created a plan allowing for research on some already pulled stem cell lines but rejects the idea of spending federal funds to kill more embryos.

Catholic ethicists point out however, that the issue only becomes more complicated, as millions of frozen embryos continue to exist, dormant in laboratory freezers. The Church believes that the embryos should not exist in the first place and now that they do, scientists face a moral impossibility over what to do with them.

While some groups believe they should be unfrozen and allowed to die a relatively natural death, other, somewhat rogue groups, believe that the Church should allow them to be used in invetro-fertilization--a practice normally forbidden for Catholics, but which may be acceptable to save the life of the embryo.

The major problem, many say, is that there is no simple right or wrong answer over what to do with the frozen embryos. At best, scientists must struggle with ascertaining the best option out of a number of evils.

Few however, believe, as Frist has suggested, that they should be used to harvest new stem cell lines. The Vatican’s ‘Instruction on Respect for Human Life’, as cited by the Pennsylvania Catholic Bishops Friday says that, “no objective, even though noble in itself, such as a foreseeable advantage to science, to other human beings, or to society, can in any way justify experimentation on living human embryos or fetuses, whether viable or not, either inside or outside the mother's body."

While pro-lifers will undoubtedly continue to struggle with the stem cell debate, it seems starkly clear--at least to most--that the destruction of the embryos for medical research is the worst of all of the poor options.


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