TORONTO, Ont. June 5, 2007 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today commented on Ontario’s pledge to provide $30 million for stem cell research, which was announced jointly by Premier Dalton McGuinty and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger during the governor’s recent visit to Ontario. The money, from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, will be earmarked for the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium of researchers here and in California.
The agreement includes research on embryonic stem cells. While Canadian law allows both adult and embryonic stem cell research, with both types eligible for federal funding, Church teaching objects to all activities that endanger the life of the embryo, including stem cell research that involves the destruction of embryos. There is no similar concern attached to adult cells, which are taken after birth without harm to the person.
Two things are troubling about this announcement. One is the spectacle of two Catholic politicians acknowledging that they realize embryonic stem cell research is in conflict with Church teaching, yet stating that the possibility of creating life-saving or life-enhancing treatments must have priority. The other is that while adult stem cell treatments have already produced more than 70 treatments and cures that have worked on thousands of patients, embryonic cells have produced few if any such results. Given that health care dollars are scarce, we have to question why a substantial sum of money is being directed at something morally wrong and less likely to produce results.
In addition, most of the safety concerns associated with stem cell research (such as uncontrolled division into cancerous tumours, tissue rejection) are associated with embryonic cells. Scientists obtain embryonic cells from surgically aborted fetuses or “spare” embryos created either deliberately for research, or for artificial reproduction and then donated to scientific research by the parents. Ethicists have expressed concern that mothers undergoing in vitro fertilization may be pressured to create “extra” embryos for research purposes. All of these means of obtaining embryonic cells for experimentation can only be based on the belief that some forms of human life are expendable. This belief is at odds with Catholic teaching, which holds that all life, from conception onward, is entitled to equal dignity and respect.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org
Recommended resources about stem cell technology:
1. Stem Cells: Astonishing promises…but at what cost? Catholic Office for Life and Family (Canada), 2007.
2. Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day (Donum Vitae), Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1987.
3. The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), Pope John Paul, 1995.