The war in Afghanistan quickly pushed off the front page the furor over a biotech firm's announcement that it had cloned a human embryo. But with advancing technology and debates in state legislatures, this issue soon will resurface.
Advance Cell Technology, Worcester, Mass., succeeded in growing — for a few hours — cloned human embryos of four to six cells. The firm said it doesn't want to clone a human being but to grow embryos to a mass of several hundred cells to isolate stem cells. Researchers hope to direct these cells to produce a variety of tissues for possible treatments of diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, spinal cord injuries and other conditions.
Writing in the Journal of Lutheran Ethics, Mark J. Hanson objects to cloning as a source of stem cells because attempts at therapeutic cloning create embryos to be killed for their cells.
Hanson, executive director of the Missoula Demonstration Project and adjunct associate professor of philosophy at the University of Montana, Missoula, quotes the ELCA's abortion statement: "Human life in all phases of its development is God-given and, therefore, has intrinsic value, worth, and dignity."
The ELCA statement, Hanson writes, implies that the moral status of the embryo — and thus the moral respect it should be given— grows as it develops. It can't be considered as a mass of mere tissue at any stage of development. Hanson writes:
"Creating embryos— for whatever laudable purpose — fails to grant them any sort of respect. Only if we have truly subverted our Christian faith to a faith in medical progress ... can we find a way to respect what we destroy as some kind of honorable sacrifice. ...We can and should argue now that cloning human embryos is wrong, even under the guise of potential new therapies. We should not create human life for destruction."
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