September 28, 2012 Print

Friday 5: Dawn McBane

by Bethany Monk

Focus on the Family has five priorities: Sharing Christ, strengthening marriages, equipping parents, advocating for children and engaging the culture. That fifth priority — engaging the culture — is what CitizenLink is all about, and we do that in a variety of ways.

In the latest of our several-part series discussing the various aspects of social policy we address, and why it’s important to do so, CitizenLink Bioethics Analyst Dawn McBane tells us how stem cell research impacts both individuals and society.

CitizenLink: What exactly are embryonic stem cells, and why are they so often touted as promising research options?

Dawn McBane: Embryonic stem cells (ESC) are part of a newly developing embryo, life at the earliest stage of development. ESC can be found in animals or human. The type of embryonic stem cells that are problematic are those gathered from human embryos. Obtaining these ESC always requires the destruction of a young human life — something that’s morally problematic for many people. In addition to the moral problems associated with this research, it also has numerous scientific and practical problems. The reality is that human ESC have yet to provide any successful cures or treatments for any disease or condition.

CL: What are some of the current debates surrounding stem cell research?

DM: For years we heard about the promise of ESC research and all the diseases it could treat within just a few short years. The sad reality is that this hype has not transformed into real hope for patients. Instead, we continue to see research in the world of non-embryonic stem cells continue to expand and provide real cures for patients. More than 70 diseases and conditions and thousands of patients are successfully being treated using non-embryonic stem cells. While some scientists and politicians continue to push for more research to fund embryonic stem cell research, the science has all but completely moved on from this type of research. Many scientists and those in the medical profession have been working on non-embryonic stem cell research because it avoids the moral dilemmas and is showing real promise and cures for patients.

CL: How does the Bible inform our perspective on stem cell research?

DM: We know from Scripture that God values all human life — from fertilization to natural death.  Human ESC is problematic from a biblical worldview because it intentionally destroys a young human life. Encouragingly, we can see how research continues to move forward in morally acceptable and scientifically promising ways — ways that uphold the sanctity of all human life.

CL: How has the Obama administration affected stem cell research? What legislation or executive orders could be detrimental to scientific advance? 

DM: The Obama administration has opened the floodgates for more federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The reality is that if the administration was truly looking for research that could help cure patients, funding should have gone to the many ways that non-embryonic stem cells are being used in research and the treatment of people. Funding this morally acceptable research would be the true way forward — for scientists, medical professionals, and those who are desperately seeking cures for a variety of ailments and diseases.

CL: What are some of the reasons Americans need to understand all the pro-life issues that are in our culture, and what role does this play in being an informed voter?

DM: Being pro-life isn’t just about being opposed to abortion — it also involves a wide range of other topics, like stem cell research and sex trafficking. As Christians, we need to be pro-life in this holistic way — caring about the sanctity of all human life, from fertilization to natural death.  Understanding issues like stem cell research, and the difference between immoral ESC research and morally and scientifically promising non-embryonic stem cells, should inform the way that we live out our faith as engaged citizens. So as you look to vote your values in November, remember that a comprehensive look at pro-life issues will help you choose wisely in the ballot box.

Read “What the Media Won’t Tell You About Stem Cell Research.”

Read “The Obama Administration and the State of Stem Cell Research.”