Last night, my 13 year old daughter asked about my views on stem cell research. I admit...I hadn't given it deep thought. We all know who supports it and who doesn't, but it's vital that we each read and understand for ourselves sanctity of life issues, so that we can arrive at coherent, non-political conclusions. So I did some reading....
Per my cursory review of the National Institutes of Health website, useful embryonic or fetal stem cell lines may be obtained from fertilized human eggs that are no more than a few days old, and from "fetal tissue" more than 8 weeks old. (Life begins at conception, to my mind. Anyone who says differently is denying obvious reality.)
Scientists believe that stem cells hold particular, dazzling promise to help us understand and develop cures for such diseases as Parkinsons, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, various arthritis conditions and cancers. (If I hadn't read this list at a respected scientific org's site, I would consider it suspiciously over-hyped.)
First, I want to state that if obtaining stem cells from "fetal tissue" more than 8 weeks old destroys or harms it in any way the "fetal tissue," then it's wrong and shouldn't be done. It's a baby. Killing babies, or anyone, is wrong. It's against God's will, and all laws of morality and decency.
Arresting the development of a newly fertilized human egg is a sanctity of life issue, but so is developing cures for life-threatening or life-shattering diseases and disabilities. Jesus, as well as many of his disciples, frequently healed people. God wants us to be cured of our diseases.
Many many so-called right-to-lifers defend unborn or newborn life, but have negligible respect or regard for adult life. Death penalty, war, disease, environmental toxicity.....not sanctity of life issues of concern to them. For them, it's all and only about preserving the life of babies.
After some thought, here's what I told my daughter.
When a person is on life support systems.....their lifeless body, with no brain waves and no hope of recovery, is being kept alive only by machines....most people deem it acceptable with God to disconnect the machines. The person no longer has meaningful life. Their body is being kept alive artificially.
To me, a few days old, artifically-fertilized egg in a laboratory is not meaningful life. Like the body attached to life support equipment, it is being kept alive by artificial means. Like the body on life support, the egg has no feeling or sense of being.
People suffering from horrible, debilitating dieases have God-given meaningful lives. They have feelings...they have senses of being. And they have greatly diminished qualities of life without new research and ultimately, cures.
The common sense Christian answer to this sanctity of life dilemma is to allow use of newly fertilized human eggs in stem cell research. The sanctity of meaningful, engaged life must be weighed against the sanctity of the fertilized egg's life. There are no easy answers, but this is the reasonable solution.
I admit...I am neither trained ethicist nor doctor. But I do love our Lord, respect all God-created life, and have a heart for those who suffer needlessly when a solution could someday be at hand. During His earthly ministry, Jesus had a heart for all who suffered, and He still does.
To deprive men, women and children of this medical hope is cruel hair-splitting.