This week the MIT Technology Review reported that scientists in Oregon have become the first in the U.S. to edit the DNA of human embryos.
The MIT Technology Review writes,
The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR, according to people familiar with the scientific results.
Until now, American scientists have watched with a combination of awe, envy, and some alarm as scientists elsewhere were first to explore the controversial practice. To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China.
To call this research “controversial” is an understatement. It is unconscionable for two reasons.
First, in order to carry out their research, scientists created human embryos. These human embryos were living human beings–albeit very small, helpless human beings. Researchers in Oregon created these human beings; experimented on them; and then apparently killed them.
Ethically speaking, this is no different from embryonic stem cell research in which human embryos are created and then killed in order to harvest their stem cells for scientific use.
The second reason this research is unconscionable is that it could pave the way for “designer babies” in which embryos are edited to produce certain characteristics. Scientists who support this research say it could one day allow doctors to correct genetic abnormalities in unborn children, but it could also allow parents and doctors to engineer children with certain traits or enhancements.
It’s worth noting this is not the first time these researchers in Oregon have engaged in this type of activity. In 2013 they published research claiming to have cloned and killed human embryos in order to obtain their stem cells.
As we have said many times, human beings are not research material. All scientific research must respect the sanctity of human life. And we should not do anything that might encourage or allow doctors to produce customized “designer children.”
According to a report recently released by the State of California, 111 people ended their lives in the first six months of the state’s new “end of life option act.”
California legalized assisted-suicide last year, and it now lets physicians prescribe life-ending drugs to ill patients. So far, on average it seems 4 – 5 people every week are choosing to take their own lives as a result.
You may recall that researchers in Canada–where assisted-suicide is legal–recently found that people inquired about assisted-suicide not because of excruciating pain, but because they are dissatisfied with their lives in the wake of their illness.
As one researcher put it, “Their quality of life is not what they want. They are mostly educated and affluent — people who are used to being successful and in control of their lives, and it’s how they want their death to be.”
A study conducted in Oregon in 1999 concluded, “the decision to request and use a prescription for lethal medications . . . was associated with views on autonomy and control, not with fear of intractable pain or concern about financial loss.”
The report from California corroborates some of these findings. Of the 111 people who took their own lives through California’s assisted-suicide law, most had a college degree or higher. Much like in Canada, these are people who appear to be “educated and affluent.”
Being pro-life means believing human life is sacred from conception until natural death, and it means opposing the taking of human life without just cause.
While the term “pro-life” is often applied to work related to abortion, opposition to suicide and euthanasia falls under the purview of pro-life work as well.
Just like abortion, assisted-suicide fails to acknowledge that God is the creator and giver of life. Human life is sacred, and no sickness gives us an excuse to end someone’s life prematurely–including our own.
Simply put: Physician-assisted suicide violates human dignity and the sanctity of human life.
You may be aware of the plight of little Charlie Gard, a terminally-ill baby in the UK who is likely to be taken off life support by his hospital thanks to court orders–despite the fact his parents have raised more than $1.5 million to pay for experimental treatment for Charlie in the U.S.
John Stonestreet at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview writes,
[D]octors at Britain’s Great Ormond Street Hospital have decided that Charlie’s condition is hopeless, and that he should be left to die. Britain’s High Court agreed, and the European Court of Human rights refused to intervene after Charlie’s parents appealed. The doctors now have the legal go-ahead to take Charlie off life support. . . .
Those are the facts as I understand them. But now here’s why this case is so important, both for the sake of Charlie and his family, and for our civilization.
First, the government should have no role in dictating when and where a baby should die, and whether his parents can seek additional treatment options. The decision by the British High Court is an appalling overreach, and it sets a very dangerous precedent. In worldview terms, the government is well beyond its sphere of sovereignty, gobbling up authority that rightfully belongs to the family and to the church.
Second Peter clarifies that the civil authorities are ordained by God to reward good and punish evil. Great Ormond Street Hospital and the British and international courts have determined it’s time for little Charlie to die, regardless of how many people around the world want to help him by paying for transportation and additional treatment. They won’t even allow him to die at home. They’ve effectively asserted ownership over this little boy and his life. This is unambiguously wrong.
You can read Stonestreet’s entire commentary here or listen to it below.
Photo Credit: By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.