Paul Tuns and John-Henry Westen
The Interim

U.S. researchers and a sycophantic mainstream media are trumpeting the latest embryonic stem cell “discovery” – stem cells that are derived ethically from embryos.
According to the scientific magazine Nature, Massachusetts-based biotech firm Advanced Cell Technology has developed a procedure that removes single cells from early-stage embryos without always killing the embryo.

Blastomere separation – the removal of individual cells from an embryo – has been a standard procedure in IVF facilities for years. Researchers covet these cells because they believe their totipotent nature – their ability to grow into any other human cell and develop into any tissue – could lead to cures and therapies for a wide range of diseases and genetic defects.

One procedure involves programming an embryo genetically so that it cannot successfully implant and develop in the uterus to become a baby. Another procedure involves removing a cell from an eight-cell embryo, then developing that removed cell in order to harvest embryonic stem cells.

Pro-lifers counter that the latter method is the same as that used to perform pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

Dr. John Shea, medical adviser to Campaign Life Coalition, said while it is often possible to remove a cell from an embryo without harming it, this is not guaranteed. He told

“Sometimes it is possible to remove a cell from an embryo without killing it, but the point is that to take the risk without benefitting the embryonic human being is unethical according to the standards established by the Nuremberg Code.” The fundamental problem, according to Shea, is that too many scientists “refuse to admit that the embryo is a human being and so all the rules regarding medical research on human beings have to be applied. You have to get consent and no parent can consent to allowing medical research on a child that is not intended to benefit the child.”

Shea also notes that the point should be moot, considering that embryos should not have been created because IVF is immoral.

The Christian Medical Association, the largest association of faith-based physicians in the U.S., critiqued the reported ESCR developments that are purportedly designed to allay ethical concerns over treatment of human life. The CMA applauded the search for ethical alternatives, but said the procedures do not circumvent the moral dilemmas of destroying living human beings or exposing them to harm.

CMA executive director Dr. David Stevens said, “Just because scientists have created a genetic time bomb in the embryo does not change its essential human nature. If a scientist removed most of the intestines of a newborn baby, that action would cause the baby to die later. That wouldn’t give them the right to kill the child in order to transplant its organs.”

Regarding the procedure that involves removing a cell from an eight-cell embryo in order to develop it and harvest its embryonic stem cells, Stevens said: “The cell taken from the embryo to start an embryonic stem cell line, a separated blastomere, is actually a totipotent cell that can develop into a complete organism – a human baby. This process is essentially artificial identical twinning.” Stevens then explained: “To emphasize that the original embryo is not killed is actually to employ a scientific sleight of hand.

Researchers using this process may not destroy the first embryo, but they do destroy the second one.”

Stevens warned that even if the embryonic human beings doesn’t die, the research exposes the surviving human being to potential risk. “Even if the surviving embryo is implanted in a womb, no one knows the long-term effect of preimplantation genetic diagnosis on children born after being subjected to the procedure.”

Stevens offered a simple test to determine whether the average person really considers this type of research safe and sensible: “How many of us, if we could somehow be given the ability to guide our own embryonic development, would permit researchers to take out one of our first eight cells?”

The CMA suggested that animal research be utilized to determine if there are safe and ethical methods to obtain embryonic stem cells apart from the creation and destruction of human embryos. But in the meantime, he pointed to the fact that adult stem cells are already providing “real cures for real patients.”

Since the prohibition by the Bush administration on federal funding for stem cell research using new lines of embryonic cells, researchers have been regularly announcing that they have “solved the ethical problems” of embryonic stem cells. In each case, however, the entire point made by pro-life advocates is shown to have been missed by a research community that is incapable of acknowledging the existence of a pre-born human being.

With files from (Oct. 18 & 19).