'Yes' to stem cell
so long as no killing
of embryos: NCCS
cells can be successfully harvested from bone marrow.
By EARNEST LAU
THE National Council of Churches of Singapore
(NCCS), of which The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS)
is a member, supports and encourages all stem cell research so
long as it does not result in the killing of human embryos.
is the stand of the NCCS, which gave its feedback on the issue
of human stem cell research to the Bioethics Advisory Committee
(BAC). The BAC sought feedback on the issue following
the rapidly growing interest in research in, and exploiting the
potential of, the Life Sciences.
a statement, the NCCS said that it "supports and encourages
all stem cell research so long as it does not result in the killing
of human embryos" as in the case of Adult Stem cell research
(AS) cells and other sources such as aborted foetuses.
The therapeutic potentials of Embryonic Stem cell research (ER)
can never outweigh ethical concerns over their destruction.
Christian tradition, while supporting scientific, and medical
science, in particular, as "instantiations of the divine
grace" and the alleviation of human suffering as an expression
of the Christian ethic of love, is all too aware that science
has also been used to harm humans as well. Scientific enterprise
is tainted by sinful aspirations of glory and economic gain.
Embryos: Human beings
issue is the use of human embryos and foetuses, and centres on
whether the embryo is a human being. Scripture and tradition
clearly enunciate four arguments on which the Christian tradition
views the question of ER:
Every human being is part of the divine plan and the result of
divine agency, valued by God and stands in
relation to him;
The doctrine of the Incarnation tells us that Jesus Christ, the
Second Person of the Trinity, was incarnated in human flesh,
giving credence to the view that human life begins at conception;
The embryo or foetus is a human being, and thus is also a bearer
of God's image. The Bible makes no distinction between a "human
being" and a "person": a human being is a person;
Both science and philosophy could be said to support this view
- science views the zygote as already endowed with its own genetic
code and its human nature, and we thus affirm the fact that it
is a human person, and does not undergo any metaphysical change
after the 14th day that enters a non-human pre-embryo into a
human embryo; philosophically, since the zygote of human parentage
cannot articulate itself into another animal, it is therefore
already a human being sharing in the nature of its parents.
follows, therefore, that the issues of abortion and ER
are inseparable: if the embryo or foetus is a human being in
the image of God, destroying it is tantamount to the killing
of an innocent life. By implication, the NCCS does not
countenance the use of abortuses for ER, except where
foetuses have been spontaneously aborted and where human
intentionality does not come into play, and where excess embryos
created in vitro are used.
the NCCS would object to "therapeutic cloning",
which involves the deliberate creation of embryos by nuclear
transfer for the purpose of harvesting stem cells, necessitating
their destruction. It maintains that animation or humanisation
is immediate, and therefore, the procedure "goes against
the moral idea that the human being is not to be treated as a
means to an end, but only as an end", a principle enunciated
by the BAC document itself.
ethical concerns are shared by not only the Christian community
but the collective wisdom of mankind as a whole, born out of
the immense struggles in history whose fruit is best summed up
in the Nuremberg Code and the 1975 Helsinki
Declaration of World Medical Association which maintained
that "concern for the interest of the subject must always
prevail over the interest of science and society".
Earnest Lau is the Associate Editor of Methodist
IN 1998, scientists in the United States
for the first time successfully isolated and cultured what are
known as human pluripotent stem cells harvested from fertilised
human embryos less than a week old. These are capable of giving
rise to most tissues of an organism and generated great enthusiasm
among scientists, and patients suffering from a broad range of
diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
research may help generate cells and tissue for transplantation,
improve our understanding of complex events that occur during
normal human development and help us understand what causes birth
defects and cancer, and the change the way drugs are developed
and tested for safety.
scientists and others have been concerned about the ethics which
govern the manipulation, and in terminating of the embryonic life
of these cells.