Catholic Health Association of the United States
In November 1998 biologists announced that they had discovered a way to isolate and preserve human stem cells. Since stem cells are capable of developing into any kind of human tissue or organ, this was a great scientific coup. Researchers envision using the cells to replace damaged organs and to restore tissue destroyed by, for example, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, or even Alzheimer's. But, since stem cells are taken from aborted embryonic and fetal tissue or "leftover" in vitro embryos, their use raises large ethical issues. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently decided to fund research employing, not stem cells, but "cell lines" derived from them. The NIH has essentially made an ethical determination, finding sufficient "distance" between cell lines and abortion. Can Catholic universities sponsoring biological research agree with this finding? Probably not. In Catholic teaching, the concept of "complicity" would likely preclude such research. However, Catholic teaching would probably allow research done with stem cells obtained from postpartum placental tissue and from adult bone marrow and tissue. These cells, which lack the pluripotency of embryonic and fetal stem cells, are nevertheless scientifically promising and do not involve the destruction of human life.
Branick, Vincent and Lysaught, M Therese. Stem Cell Research: Licit or Complicit?. Health Progress, 80, 5: 37-42, 1999. Retrieved from Loyola eCommons, Institute of Pastoral Studies: Faculty Publications and Other Works,
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© Catholic Health Association of the United States, 1999