Smoking Out the Truth

It was the kind of news that should have had scientists jumping for joy. A few weeks ago, the journal Science announced a major breakthrough in stem-cell research: A Harvard research team had found a way to create embryonic-type stem cells without the need to create and kill embryos, raising all those moral questions. This is tremendous news. Researchers have told us for years that embryonic stem cells are vitally important in the race to find cures for a host of diseases. And now, they have the means of creating embryonic-type stem cells that won't kill human embryos—something most Americans object to. So why aren't they breaking out the champagne? The probable reason, as Princeton Professor Robert George puts it, is "ominous." George, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, explains in the Weekly Standard that up to now, embryonic stem-cell advocates have claimed that they're only interested in stem cells harvested from embryos at the blastocyst stage—that is, embryos five to six days old. They've claimed they're not interested in implanting embryos, either in a woman's uterus or in artificial wombs, in order to harvest cells, tissues, or organs at more advanced stages of development. "However," George writes, "based on the literature I have read and the answers given by spokesmen for the biotechnology industry … I fear that the long-term goal is indeed to create an industry.…"—an industry, that is, involving the harvesting of "late embryonic and fetal body parts for use in regenerative medicine and organ transplantation." This would, George writes, "explain why advocates of embryonic stem cell research are not cheering" over news of alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells—that is, cells that have the potential to develop into multiple types of mature cells. "If their real goal is fetus farming, then the cells produced by alternative methods will not serve their purposes," George writes. The dirty little secret of the stem-cell debate, you see, is that stem cells derived from embryos at the blastocyst stage are useless because they tend to generate tumors. Researchers know this. However, recent studies with animals reveal that the problem of tumor formation does not exist in cells taken when embryos have had several weeks or months to develop. This means that the real therapeutic potential lies in the practice of fetal farming. It means that "stem cells, tissues, and organs harvested from humans at, say, 16 or 18 or 21 weeks' gestation could be used in the treatment of diseases." Mind you, we're talking about fetuses almost old enough to live outside the womb. Ghastly! As George puts it, these developments have "smoked out the true objectives of at least some who have been leading the charge for embryonic stem cell research." The question is, will we respect human life—or will we start creating and killing fetuses in order to harvest their organs? I hope you'll visit our website to find out how you can help stop the drive toward fetal farming. Because if we do nothing, the brave new world will soon be upon us—one in which human beings will be treated as just another farm animal.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary