The employment of human embryonic stem cells is one of the most significant innovations in medicine (Wobus and Boheler, 2005). The discovery of embryonic stem cells has created the fields of regenerative medicine and cellular therapy, which aim to treat debilitating and/or fatal conditions that were earlier acknowledged to be incurable (Taupin, 1996). Unfortunately, this breakthrough has brought forth issues regarding the Christian value of life. Technically, embryonic stem cells are collected from embryos that are ethically regarded at the earliest stages of human life.
Ethical arguments have arisen, questioning whether it is right to improve life by destroying another human life in the form of an embryo. One major ethical issue regarding the use of “spare” embryos is the lack of respect for the embryo. The concern is associated to the possible future demand for embryos once this cellular technology is determined to be successfully therapeutic. Embryos might later be treated as therapeutic materials or commodities instead of living beings at their initial stages.
There is also a risk for a devaluation of embryos, wherein the loss of human life may later in time be tolerated instead of prevented (Bobrow, 2005). In addition, the acceptance of destruction of embryos may serve as a precedent for implementation of other controversial biomedical acts such as creation of embryo “factories”, cloned babies and mass production of “spare parts” from fetuses (Hug, 2005, 2006). On a Christian perspective, women may be tempted to sell their embryos if they find difficulty in earning money to support their families.
Such idea may be against the teachings of the Christian doctrine, which is depicted in The Bible as “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” (Timothy 2: 14-15). One the other hand, the employment of spare embryos may not automatically mean any disrespect towards embryos because the destruction of embryos in order to collect stem cells results in the provision of new therapeutics for specific medical disorders.
Certain scientists have actually claimed that it is more immoral to destroy embryos during in vitro fertilization because those embryos are not implanted or donated for further use but are actually discarded, unlike embryos that are destroyed for stem cell research which are cautiously propagated and ultimately designed to replace defective tissues and cells for medical therapeutics. Another major issue that is being publicly scrutinized is whether the creation of embryos for research purposes is morally worse than using “spare” embryos from IVF cases for experiments.
As depicted in The Bible, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12). Such issue reflects the intention of each act, and the idea of using leftover embryos from in vitro fertilization protocols is much more tolerable to society than the simple creation of research-oriented embryos because there is less guilt involved in using extra or spare embryos from IVF cases than creating embryos that could have been another human being but their chance to live has been taken away.
On the other hand, it must also be realized that production and destruction of spare embryos is a normal physiological event during pregnancy, which enables a sibling embryo to complete the entire gestational range (Borge and Evers, 2003). This kind of sacrifice is also necessary to promote life for the sibling embryo.