Defense of human rights must extend to the science lab, argues Detroit archbishop

Archbishop Allen Vigneron
Archbishop Allen Vigneron


Following the University of Michigan's announcement of a new embryonic stem cell line, Archbishop Allen Vigneron spoke out against the dangers of putting “human hands on the switch of life and death,” arguing that the protection of life “must extend to the laboratory.”

In an Oct. 3 editorial for the Detroit Free Press, Archbishop Vigneron began by stating that he “started out as an embryo.”

“So did you and everyone else who shares this planet with us,” he noted. “And there is great significance to this irrefutable fact beyond the shared experience.”

“Each human embryo is unique – it does not have the same DNA of the mother or father. That cell not only becomes us, it is us.”

The prelate continued by saying that this “reality is critical context as the World Stem Cell Summit meets in Detroit,” adding that progress “in research on umbilical cord blood cells and adult stem cells is to be saluted and supported.”

“Patients and advocates alike can look to the growing number of cures and treatments discovered through research that does not destroy the living human embryo,” he underscored. “Conversely, experiments on human embryonic stem cells deserve our scrutiny and scorn. If not us, who will speak for our fellow citizens-to-be?”

“We are blessed to live in a country with some of the most extraordinary founding documents in history,” the archbishop added. “If, indeed, we believe we were 'created equal,' doesn't that belief extend to the indefensible living embryo in a petri dish?”

“'Unalienable rights' means they can't be taken away by the state.”

“Embryonic stem cell researchers will attest that it is imperative to preserve an embryo because it is a living cell,” he wrote. “It is after the living embryo is preserved with its human DNA signature that it is dissected, cloned, destroyed or discarded. True democracy is built on life, not death.”

Archbishop Vigneron then warned that ours “is not the first country or culture to selectively pursue a moral calculus that justifies taking a life to enable scientific experiments. We know from sad experience that dangers follow when we put human hands on the switch of life and death.”

“Embryos are the genesis of human life, and it is morally unacceptable to intentionally destroy them, even if the scientist is trying to cure a debilitating disease or parents are responding to a difficult challenge in their family life,” he stated in his concluding remarks. “The country we live in defends human rights at home and abroad. That defense must extend to the laboratory.”

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