Warner Southern College

A Treatise on Fetal Tissue Research: The Christian Perspective.

A paper submitted to Dr. Hall for TST-4095.

By Rick Swartz

April 13, 2000

2 Outline I. II. III. IV. V. Introduction Purpose The Issue Stance Future Questions/Conclusion

Introduction “To assess the judgement in a trial, we must first know who is doing the judging, who is being judged, and what are the charges and the system of law in use” (Smith 3). While it may be difficult to reach judgement on any given issue, one must start the process by gaining a thorough understanding of that issue. In this case, the issue is Fetal Tissue Research. Before we can begin to delve into the ethical dilemma

surrounding fetal tissue research, we must understand the scope of this research. According to Robert Blank of the University of

Canterbury, “Research can be conducted on the pre-implanted embryo, on fetuses in the uterus prior to elective abortion, on pre-viable fetuses after abortion, or on dead fetuses.” Furthermore, he includes in his definition, “Clinical applications using fetal or embryonic matter such as tissues, cells, or organs (279).” However, others restrict fetal

3 research to that which strictly pertains to the fetus1. Thus, any

research on an embryo2 is not included in the definition of fetal research (Ford 289). For the purposes of this treatise, I have chosen to follow the latter definition. Now that we know the definition of the term fetus and the manner in which the tissue is obtained, let us explore the question of “Why?” As Harris states it, there are five basic reasons as to why fetal tissue is being used for research. First, it is unequivocally human in its origin and behavior. Secondly it is living. Third, it is uniquely determined at the time of fertilization. Fourth, it is in a state of development with a potential for reproduction. There is a fifth reason, somewhat less ideal: There is a large quantity of such tissue available in the United States. (3) Purpose Why bother to inquire into the ethics of fetal tissue research? This is after-all, a concrete area of scientific study, and not some form of abstract philosophy. However, all thought scientific, and otherwise, stems from philosophy—of which ethics is an integral part. The purpose of this treatise is simple…to demonstrate that while, on the surface, there may appear to be nothing wrong with fetal tissue
1

The term for human development after the ninth week of gestation. The stage in human development prior to the ninth week.

2

4 research; this is clearly a practice that stands in contrast to a Classical Biblical Christian worldview. In order to accomplish this task and

remain objective, one must reserve passing judgement until all evidence has been made known. In that manner, one can be as sure as possible that they have come to best possible answer. The Issue We know the definition of a fetus, as well as the sources of fetal tissue. Thus, we are left with the remaining background question, Well, a number of fascinating, lifeThis research

“What are they researching?”

saving procedures are resulting from this research.

includes the practice of transplanting fetal brain matter into the brain of a Parkinson’s patient to reverse the effects of the disease. However, this research is not limited to elderly people whose time would be running out as it is. For example, a child with diabetes can receive

fetal pancreatic transplants in the hopes of being cured and living a normal life (Blank 281). Now that we have seen some of the life-saving results of fetal tissue research, we find ourselves faced with the question: Does the saving of lives justify the, so called, harvesting of tissue? Many people would answer this question in the affirmative. They would site such pragmatic logic as the greatest good for the greatest number. Even among Christians, many would support fetal tissue

5 research. They point the fact that God often brings “good” (the saving of lives that is associated with fetal research) out of “evil” situations (the murder of children through elective abortion). Furthermore, if it is acceptable to use the organs of other murder victims (i.e. robbery homicide) why should it not be morally right to include all murder victims under this ideal acceptability? My Stance While I am inclined to agree with all of the aforementioned ideology, I still think that fetal tissue research is contrary to a strict interpretation of the Biblical Christian Worldview. I think that all of the “good news” propagated by the supporters of fetal research is merely a smokescreen to blind the public from the horrors, which can be attributed to elective abortion. Furthermore, it is not a stretch of the imagination to foresee a time where there is a market for abortion. Perhaps, there will even be a time when Christians, reflect on the “good old days” when a young lady who was down on her luck turned only to prostitution…she now turns to a cyclical system of becoming pregnant and then selling her aborted fetus to the highest bidder. True, it would be a more discreet manner of living. On the other hand, it would much more problematic both for her and society…would it not? Future Questions/Conclusion

6 The issue of fetal tissue research is one that should weigh heavily on the mind of society. Without a doubt, there are still many questions to be studied and answered in a satisfactory manner. Among these questions is, “Will the use of pre-viable fetuses from voluntary abortion result in a market for abortion?” Another question would be, “What are the consequences of prolonging life?”

Furthermore the concerned Christian needs to ask, “Would the use of fetal tissue to prolong life come in conflict with God’s will and timing?” Hopefully, this treatise has been informative both on the subject of fetal tissue research and on the ethical nature of the subject. Similar to any court case, the time has come for deliberations. As a member of the jury of society, your duty is to seek out this proper answer to the question, “Is the use of fetal tissue for research acceptable?”

7 Bibliography Andrusko, Dave. “Spare Parts from Babies~Are We going too Far?” Focus on the Family July 1988: 10-11. Begley, Sharon. “From Human Embryos, Hope for ‘Spare Parts’.” Newsweek Online. Nov 1998. 22 Jan. 2000 <www.newsweek.com/nw-srv/20_98b/printed/us/so/ sc0120-1.html>. Benedict, James. “The Use of Fetal Tissue.” The Christian Century. Feb. 1998: 164-165. Blank, Robert. “Fetal Research.” Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998. Bopp, James, and Curtis Cook. “Partial-Birth Abortion: The Final Frontier of Abortion Jurisprudence.” Issues in Law and Medicine. Summer 1998. Lexis-Nexus/Academic Universe. Online. Reed Elsevier Inc. 13 Jan. 2000. Chadwick, Ruth, and Udo Schuklenk. “Organ Transplants and Donors.” Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998. Ford, Norman. “Fetus.” Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998. Friend, Tom. “OK to fetal tissue research may ignite ethical firestorm.” USA TODAY 24 May 1999: A1+. Lexis-

8 Nexus/Academic Universe. Online. Reed Elsevier Inc. 12 Jan. 2000. Harris, Curt. “Do We Need Fetal Tissue Research?” Physician Online. Sept./Oct. 1990 <www.family.org/eforum/ research/papers/a0003553.html>. “Human Embryo Research/Fetal Experimentation.” Focus on the Family. Online. Dec. 1997. 13 Jan. 2000 <www.family.org/cforum/research/papers/a0001013.html>. Parsi, Kayhan. “Metaphorical Imagination: The Moral and Legal status of Fetuses and Embryos.” DePaul Journal Of Health Care Law. Summer 1999. Smith, Bradley. Reaching Judgement at Nuremberg. New York: Basic Books, 1977. Wieland, Carl. “Of Lettuces and Cow-humans.” Creation Ex Nihilo Sept. 1987: 27-30. Will, George. “Scruples and Science.” Washington Post 20 Jan. 2000: A23.