Recently and amazingly a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Judge Royce Lamberth, ruled that two scientists who appeared before his court seeking injunctive relief would indeed suffer immediate and non-reversible harm if he did not place a hold on embryonic stem cell research while the constitutionality and ethics of the procedure were under judicial review. Embryonic stem cell research has been approved by President Obama and federal funds directed to it. The two research scientists convinced the judge who ordered a temporary halt to further research pending the outcome of the larger case. On Tuesday, not unpredictably, a three-judge federal appeals court over-ruled their lower court brother and voted to allow the federal government to keep on financing embryonic stem cell research. Editorially this morning THE NEW YORK TIMES crowed about the appeals court ruling, seeing it as providing relief for victims of Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries and other serious ailments. There are two things horribly wrong with this line of argumentation.
Embryonic stem cell harvesting precludes human life from coming into existence and is a form of abortion, against the law of God and also the laws of humankind for most of our history. There is little argument about the fact that taking embryonic stem cells takes human life. The second never mentioned fallacy of the proponents of embryonic stem cell research (Florida voters should take note of the positions of the candidates for the U.S. Senate on this issue) is that after about a decade of the deadly embryonic stem cell research, there has yet to be one success, one result which would sustain the hope of those with these horrible diseases. Bluntly put, immoral means leads in this instance to totally unsuccessful end.
There is real promise to be found in adult stem cell research, however, and there are already successful applications arising from the research. One sign of hope is occurring here in the Diocese of St. Petersburg and involves St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa. Our Church allows and strongly encourages adult stem cell harvesting and research. A company begun in Pittsburgh by two venture capitalists with an uncompromising commitment to what is both ethical and moral has opened a laboratory in Clearwater for adult stem cells. Stemnion, Inc. began its life with research grants from the United States Government, the United States Department of Defense, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a few other sources to produce ethically and morally a protocol for more rapid and complete healing of severe burns. Archbishop Donald Wuerl while still bishop of Pittsburgh visited Stemnion’s Pittsburgh lab and blessed it and those engaged in the search for a real cure (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Article). The results today have been very positive and now the company awaits FDA approval to begin marketing its findings. To continue its forward looking and thus far successful research, Stemnion approached the Catholic Health Association and its President, Sister Carol Keehan, DC, to held them find a source for adult stem cells taken from the placentas of women who have just given birth. She suggested they contact St. Joseph’s Womens and following the statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which said, “We must pursue progress in ethically responsible ways that respect the dignity of each human being. Only this will produce cures and treatments that everyone can live with” St. Joseph’s Women’s began their Placental Tissue Donation Opportunity. Stem cells from adult tissues, umbilical cord blood and placenta can be obtained without harm to the mother or child and with the expectant mother’s prior consent and when the birth is by C-section only, the placenta is donated to Stemnion, Inc to be used to manufacture investigational treatments that promote rapid healing of tissue of burn victims and other types of wounds. C-section birth mothers are told that “at a time when you are starting a new life with your family, consider giving the gift of your placenta to help others have a better chance at life.”
This was no small commitment for St. Joseph’s Women’s to make as there is no money in it for the hospital or mother and the former must at a very busy time when the mother who has just given birth and her prior consent require the first and immediate attention, the nurses must harvest and collect the placenta, put it into a proper transportable container, give it to a waiting courier and get its to Stemnion’s lab where the window of opportunity is open for only two hours from delivery to freezing in the Stemnion Lab after proper analysis of the incoming tissue. One bad day on the Howard Franklin and the effort will have been for naught as the window is only 120 minutes.
So like Archbishop Wuerl at the Pittsburgh Lab I blessed and invoked God’s blessing on the Clearwater Stemnion lab and employees. Their work is already bearing substantial results from a moral and ethical procedure. But, politicians and newspapers still back a horse which has yet to make it out of the starting gate and tend to ignore those who are already rounding the three-quarter pole and sprinting for the finish.
Update: You can read the article from the Catholic News Service on the web site of the Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and about the whole process in Catholic Health World.