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Lana Jacobs' Essay
Humans as Capital
The Consistent Life Issues of Euthanasia and Embryonic Stem Cells
In the current discussion of embryonic stem cells, I would offer the following to the debate. As a consistent life supporter, I am opposed to the harvesting of cells from embryos for cloning. The use of other cells such as cord blood show greater promise that that of ES cells. This is not an issue of left or right. This is an issue that goes far beyond politics. This goes to the core of who and what we are.
The issue of patenting human cells from embryos gets little or no notice. It is one of the major issues that we must consider. We must ask why the legislators and senators who consider themselves pro-life have turned to support the interests of the pro embryonic stem cell businesses. Business is the word. The potential for profit is enormous. Even in Europe, except for the UK, patenting of ES cells is prohibited as unethical. I have read recently that scientists in Europe see the US as the least restrictive for ES cell research because the protocols differ from state to state.
One such firm in California is VistaGen. Their website states “VistaGen Theraputics Inc. capitalizes on the biological power of embryonic stem cell technologies to support research and discovery programs for developing novel therapies for diabetes, a market of 10 billion/yr.”
The questions arise: Are humans property or people? Can we patent people? Can we capitalize on humans? Hans Tiefal, religious studies chair of William and Mary College states “ Religious traditions acknowledge that human bodies are not ours, that worth comes from an external source. Generations of humans have responsibility for each other. These responsibilities include our children, even before they are born. The love of God and community extend to communities and generations. We belong to God and each other, but none of us are property, no matter how young or old.” The reductionism concept of humans being nothing more than cells and brain function allow the liberties of destroying God’s creation. This is the slippery slope that allows us to kill by abortion and euthanasia. It is the slippery slope that allows us to kill those on death row. It is this thinking that allows us to use our young as cannon fodder for the national interests of the oil companies.
As a feminist and a progressive, I fail to hear any outcry by the women’s groups that should be asking the question of who will be at risk in this egg harvest. Through the commercialization and exploitation of ES cells, we have to ask where will the eggs come from. Poor women in particular will be at risk for exploitation by corporations. Just as poor women in developing countries were used to experiment birth control methods, who will sustain that burden of egg production for profit?
As a mother of children with a genetic syndrome, I find it unacceptable to use the sacrifice of embryos to help my children. I also find it unacceptable to line the pockets of corporations with the sacrifice of future generations. The very women that I share my life with everyday will be the first to be exploited by the rich and powerful who care nothing for them except as a means of production.
This is the dialogue we should be engaged in. This is not about left or right, but rather will we reduce humans to property that we will discard as utilitarian and therefore corporations and politicians will use them at their will.
Are we not spirit, which cannot be reduced to cells and brain function. The spirit that is granted to us from outside science. The spirit that grants us grace and something that cannot be reduced to profit.
St. Francis Catholic Worker Community
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