Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), M.D., today announced that he supports a bill currently before the Senate, which would allow federal funds to be used in the destruction of embryos in order to extract stem cells.
I’m not going to dive into the merits of embryonic stem cell research, itself; as I’ve said before, embryonic stem cells are not even necessarily the most promising stem cells, in terms of potential therapeutic value. Numerous treatments have been developed – some with remarkable results – using non-embryonic stem cells, and there is little evidence that embryonic stem cells would be easier to use in therapies, without raising new problems (rejection, etc.).
What I’m going to say is simply this: Frist’s positions are self-contradictory. He states that he believes embryos are “nascent human life,” yet that they can and should be effectively cannibalized for the sake of the already born. Granted, Frist only wants to allow for the destruction of those embryos that would be discarded, anyway. That’s not much of an exception.
If we’re talking about human life – and Frist has essentially, though not exactly, said that he believes we are – which is considered unlikely to survive, because of its supposedly imminent destruction, then we are still talking about human life. Nobody with an ounce of humanity would say that the men, women, and children suffering most severely from starvation in Niger should be used (in a fatal manner) as subjects for medical experimentation, because their lives are nearly certain to end, soon; everybody can agree that would be murder. Nor would anybody (well, many) recommend killing coma patients on life support, who are currently incapable of supporting themselves or carrying out basic bodily functions such as breathing independently.
Yet, this is precisely what we are talking about, here. “Nascent human life” is a human life that is emerging – coming into being. Even if that’s all human embryos are – nascent – then we are still talking about something highly distinguishable from any other living thing – organ or organism – on the planet. It represents a distinct human life; it is, barring a medical disaster, very nearly a breathing and crying human being.
So, if embryos are “nascent human life,” then it is not appropriate to discard them, under any circumstances, much less to deliberately destroy them. The argument that the destruction is for the greater good is worthless; that same kind of argumentation – destroying something less than human for the sake of that which is fully human – has led to the world’s greatest atrocities. It is a very slippery slope we are talking about treading.