National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Fetal Tissue Transplants: Less Than Meets the Eye

BY Jim Cosgrove

March 22-28, 1998 Issue | Posted 3/22/98 at 2:00 PM

 

About 20 million people in the United States suffer from diseases and injuries that doctors allegedly could treat, to various degrees, with fetal tissue transplants. These maladies include Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, diabetes, head injuries, strokes, and paralysis. These are the conditions on which pro-harvesting researchers focus when they say that fetal transplants can be of help.

Some bioethicists and hospital researchers have become almost giddy over the prospect of having access to an abundant source of useful “fetal material” produced by millions of abortions.

As Dr. Abraham Lieberman of the New York University Medical Center put it, “This [fetal tissue techniques] is to medicine what superconductivity is to physics.”

Fetal cells can be used for transplantation because they are “immunologically naive,” meaning they have not yet developed all of the antigens that allow a transplant recipient's immune system to identify and reject them. Also, fetal nerve cells regenerate and grow unlike adult nerve cells.

Despite these remarkable qualities, fetal tissue transplants have not lived up to their advanced billing.

In Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II expressed a moral condemnation of those procedures “that exploit living human embryos and fetuses—sometimes specifically ‘produced’ for this purpose by in vitro fertilization—either to be used as ‘biological material’ or as providers of organs or tissue for transplants in the treatment of certain diseases. The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act” (63.2).

Source: The Facts of Life: An Authoritative Guide to Life and Family Issues, by Brian Clowes PhD (Human Life International, Front Royal, Va.) Reprinted with permission.