I was reading this BBC News website this morning when I came upon a little paragraph buried in a story about whether the British Government would allow human tissue donated to medical science to be used to clone embryos for research purposes. I find that disturbing in the extreme. Then I read this:
On Thursday, it emerged the government was also looking into calls to lift a ban on creating human or human-animal “hybrid” embryos from children dying from genetic diseases. Campaigners say this could also aid key research. The current bill would not allow the procedure to take place unless the child was competent to give consent. But critics argue such children die before being able to give consent.
Read the whole article here. Unless I am very much mistaken, it appears that the following scenario is being discussed. Little Johnny is born with terminal genetic disease. Researcher looking into treatments and/or cures for this terminal genetic disease and would like to have genetic material on which to do research. They contact Little Johnny’s family and ask to take some genetic material from him. They use this to make an embryo on which to carry out experiments. In the alternative, they combine human genetic material and animal genetic material (say, a rat) to produce a hybrid embryo for research purposes. The result: they have raw, diseased tissue on which to carry out their experiments. Under the proposed legislation, unless the child was old enough to give affirmative consent the scientists would not be able to secure the genetic sample. The article, however, does discuss that some researchers (concerned that the child would die before being old enough to provide consent) have proposed abolishing this provision such that no consent would be necessary. My initial observations will be limited. First, technology has (as usual) developed further and faster than moral reasoning. Morality is discussed simply in terms of outcomes and benefits vs costs (utilitarian). For the Christian, this cannot be the ultimate moral standard whether we are talking economics or science. Second, the church’s witness to these developments in science has been almost non-existent save for that of the Roman Catholic Church. Second, I find morally objectionable any design to create some form of life simply for the purpose of destroying it. Absent the advances in technology, this is the same thought pattern that has lead to experimentation on the mentally-disabled: this is a life form that is diseased and unable to meaningfully experience life. Let’s use it for progress’ sake and for the benefit of humanity. Third, we have to come to terms with the theological reality of the Fall and all its nasty ramifications for human life. I do not wish to be fatalistic and to suggest that we need not research and discover ways of minimizing the effects of disease and even preventing disease. I do wish to suggest that we are mortal. We are created of dust and to dust we will return as we are reminded every Lent. I am concerned that what is really at work is the impulse to create everlasting human life. More thoughts upon deeper reading and reflection.