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Bill C-13 death-dealing research.

Is it right to kill a human being for medical research? Albert Mengele, the death-dealing Nazi physician, thought so. And so today does Prime Minister Jean Chretien. He and the great majority of his fellow Liberal MPs in the Commons have once again demonstrated their contempt for the sanctity of human life, by voting in favour of a government bill that authorizes stem cell research on human embryos.

The legislation in question is Bill C-13, An Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction. After months of debate on this issue, every member of Parliament must know that extracting stem cells from a human embryo inevitably kills that embryo. Yet a solid majority of MPs still favour the legalization of this death-dealing research on humans.

Of course, Chretien and other like-minded Liberals would bridle at any comparison with the Nazis. As they see it, their willingness to allow medical researchers to kill tiny human embryos a few days after fertilization bears no resemblance to Mengele's lack of compunction about killing adult human beings during his gruesome medical experiments in the Auschwitz death camp.

Canadian Alliance MP Jason Kenney has made an apt rejoinder to this vacuous argument. During debate on Bill C-13, he recalled that "the great moral authority," Dr. Seuss, assured his young audience in Horton Hears a Who that "a person is a person, no matter how small."

"The size of embryos does not matter," Kenney said., "They are all human. I submit that is scientifically undeniable. They are the offspring of human parents. They could be of no other species but homo sapiens. Understood either scientifically or philosophically, they are living human beings. Every single one of the 301 members of the House was once an embryo, no bigger than the head of a pin."

Despite conclusive scientific evidence that each human life begins at fertilization, the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League still claims that human embryos have no moral status as human beings. At least, most Liberals are not quite so callous. Out of respect for the dignity of all human life, they have included in Bill C-13 a provision that forbids the creation of human beings for the express purpose of embryonic stem-cell research.

However, the bill permits medical researchers to use this death-dealing procedure on human embryos that have been created through in vitro fertilization by fertility clinics, but are no longer wanted for reproduction. It's a measure of the moral insensitivity of Liberals that they cannot grasp that the deliberate killing of any human embryo, whether wanted or not, is always wrong.

One of the positive aspects of Bill C-13 is that the legislation purports to ban all human cloning either to produce children or for medical research. During final debate on the legislation in the Commons, Jeannot Castonguay, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, affirmed that, "No matter what the objective or the method, this legislation prohibits the creation of a human clone." It remains to be seen if the courts will agree.

Meanwhile, an array of prominent medical researchers are not at all happy with the restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research in the bill. How can these well-informed scientists justify such death-dealing research on humans?

The United States President's Council on Bioethics addressed this issue in a report entitled "Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry." The panel consists of 17 leading scientists and ethicists, seven of whom favour cloning for embryonic stem-cell research. In defence of this position, the best this minority of seven could do is argue that a human embryo has little moral status because it is not the same as a human adult, "any more than a pile of building materials is the same as a house."

By all the canons of reason and logic, the majority of the panel utterly discredited this pro-cloning argument, by observing that unlike a pile of building materials, the human embryo is "an integrated, self-developing whole, capable (if all goes well) of the continued organic development characteristic of human beings."

"To be sure," added the majority, "the embryo does not yet have, except in potential, the full range of characteristics that distinguish the human species from others, but one need not have those characteristics in evidence in order to belong to the species. And, of course, human beings at some other stages of development - early in life, late in life, at any stage of life if severely disabled--do not forfeit their humanity simply for want of these distinguishing characteristics."

On the basis of such solid reasoning, Kenney insisted during debate on Bill C-13 that Parliament should ban all stem cell research on human embryos. He is absolutely right. Nothing short of a complete ban on such death-dealing research can be consistent with an intellectually coherent defence of the sanctity of human life.

Rory Leishman lives in London, ON. His column appears every other issue.
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Author:Leishman, Rory
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2003
Words:812
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