Embryonic Stem Cell Research (2002)

Filed on 20 May 2002 in Submissions category. Print This Page

(May 2002 to Federal Members of Parliament)

We believe that the decisions we as a society make now regarding the ethical issues around cloning and embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) will significantly shape our future. We therefore make the following statement:

We believe that life begins when a cell has the ability to replicate and differentiate into individual tissues e.g. a fertilised ovum. Human life begins when the cell possessing this ability has human chromosomes. It may never develop to the extent that it becomes self-aware or feel pain – but it is still human by virtue of its gene pattern, it is alive, it is unique, and it has the ability to replicate and differentiate. This is the most basic definition of human life.

We believe that the concepts of personhood and self-awareness are too arbitrary on which to base decisions regarding life and death and that the human embryo is human life in the truest sense and must be protected against experimentation or exploitation. We believe this to be also true for adult life.

We believe that cloning technology whether for so-called therapeutic or reproductive purposes is unacceptable and that, in the words of Dr Leon Kass (head of President Bush’s bioethics advisory council), a society in which it (cloning) is tolerated is no longer the same society–any more than is a society that permits incest or cannibalism or slavery… It is a society that has forgotten how to shudder, that rationalizes away the abominable. Yes, we have an obligation to improve health, but the boundary which should not be crossed is where we interfere to destroy life or to create it in a way alien to God’s blueprint. Cloning crosses that boundary.

We accept the views of many scientists that stem-cell research on adult tissues and other non-embryonic tissues e.g. umbilical cord, has proven benefits and safety as well as great promise for the future and that ESCR is not as necessary as other scientists make out.

In light of the boundary discussed above, we further state that experimentation on spare embryos is not acceptable and we believe there to be a significant difference between experimentation that actually causes death and allowing death to occur naturally with the passage of time or by withdrawing the life-supporting freezing environment.

We do not agree with the premise that as ‘spare’ embryos – who lack ‘personhood’ or ‘self-awareness’ – are going to die anyway, then it is reasonable to experiment or do ‘research’ on them first. We submit this would be like asking whether it might be OK to do research or experiment on a person who is comatose or lacks self-awareness for other reasons and who is either near death or will not recover.

It is our plea that our community conscience will be awake and sensitive to the seriousness of these unique and significant issues.

Rev Peter Abetz: Christian Reformed Churches of WA
Dr Graeme Carroll: Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship Aust (WA Branch) Chairman
Pastor Dale Hewitt: Apostolic Church Australia National Leader
Most Rev B J Hickey: Archbishop of Perth, Catholic Church
Pastor Graham Johnston: Church of Christ WA President
Dr Al Jones: Church of the Nazarene
Pastor Mike Keating: WA Assemblies of God Vice-President
Dr Amanda Lamont: Catholic Doctors Association President
Pastor Geoffrey Woodward: Christian Outreach Centres of WA Chairman
Rev Ian Touzel: Westminster Presbyterian Church Moderator
Pastor Ashley Van Wyk: Church of the Foursquare Gospel (WA) Supervisor
The following are also members of the Standing Together Task Force:
Pastor Philip Baker: Australian Christian Churches President
Rev Dr John McElroy: Director Southern Cross Assoc of Churches
Prof Brian Stone: Baptist Churches of WA President
Mr John Gilmour QC
Pastor Dwight Randall: Life Ministries
Rev Dr Margaret Court MBE: Victory Life Centre Senior Pastor
Pastor David Storer: Perth Christian Life Centre
Pastor Gerard Keehan: Sunset Coast Christian Life Centre
Mr Robert Greaves: Standing Together Task Force Chairman

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