Stem cell project violates basic ethical principles

I WOULD like to express my total outrage at the recent decision of my former college, UCC, to permit research on human embyros to take place under its authority.

A human embryo is a human being at the earliest stage of his or her existence. All the embryo needs to grow and flourish is time and the right environmental conditions — just like any human being at any stage of his or her development.

Experimenting on powerless human beings is simply the victory of the strong over the weak.

The most fundamental ethical principle known to mankind is the golden rule, found both in western and eastern traditions, which exhorts us always to treat others as we would have them treat us.

Kant’s categorical imperative, an internationally accepted fundamental ethical principle, states that we should never treat others as ends, but always as means.

Embryo experimentation violates these fundamental ethical principles. From a scientific point of view, embryo research is unnecessary and has been fruitless thus far.

Since the passing of the British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in 1990, more than three million human embryos have been destroyed in the course of research — without a single cure resulting. In contrast, research on stem cells emanating from the placenta and bone marrow, among other sources, have resulted in more than 80 fully documented breakthrough treatments and cures.

UCC’s rationale that they have found an ‘ethical solution’ demonstrates their awareness of the immorality of such research.

If they did not believe that the killing of embryos was wrong, then they would not attempt to justify their decision by stating that the killing will take place elsewhere, and that they are just making use of the human parts — stem cells which result from such killing. I think it’s fair to say that such an argument will strike the majority of people as morally repugnant. In fact, Irish people, when polled, have repeatedly demonstrated their overwhelming opposition to embryo experimentation.

It is disgraceful then that UCC has formulated a policy in the absence of legislation on the issue, which would almost certainly prohibit such research.

Academic council member Brian Bermingham, the Lord Mayor of Cork, is to be commended for his public opposition to the decision of UCC, as is Archbishop Dermot Clifford, another member of the council, who released a statement condemning the decision.

The Government now needs to legislate to prohibit such research.

This disgraceful decision must be overturned without delay — UCC should in fact set about overturning it themselves if they want to restore their reputation.

Michael O’Driscoll

Menloe House

Blackrock

Cork

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