The July 17 Deseret News editorial "Put medical ethics first" expresses concern about a Virginia fertility clinic that is creating embryos expressly for medical experimentation. The proper response, we are told, is federal funding of stem-cell research to ensure that ethical guidelines are followed. Excuse me, but I do not believe that deciding which embryos deserve to die is the primary moral issue in this debate. Presumably, all embryos are created equal. Furthermore, I am offended by the assumption that the federal government is necessarily more ethical than the private sector.
The stem-cell research debate is similar to the abortion debate. Intelligent pro-choice advocates do not argue that the fetus is not a human being. They argue that the fetus is not a person — defined as any sentient being with a unique history and the capacity to act and be acted upon. The fetus does not achieve personhood except with the passage of time, or after the baby is born.
To the contrary, pro-life advocates argue that the passage of time is not relevant when considering the worth of a fetus. Unless we can say about any individual, and be morally justified in doing so, that it would have been better if that individual had been aborted, then we cannot condone the practice of abortion. Likewise, if we cannot say about any individual that it would have been better if that individual had died as the result of stem-cell research, then we cannot condone stem-cell research.
As the editorial advocates federal funding of stem-cell research and provides two paragraphs of arguments in favor of the research while not providing any of the opposing arguments, I can only conclude that the national debate on this issue has already been resolved by this paper. However, I continue to cling to hope that a higher moral authority than Orrin Hatch will take a definitive position on this clearly moral issue.
Whatever is conceived of humans is indeed human. Every fertilized egg is a new human life. Perhaps this new human life is not yet to be considered a living soul. I can't say. However, I do know that all human life is sacred because God created it. Unless God expressly authorizes stem-cell research that kills human beings, don't do it.
Salt Lake City