August 2010. Catholic News Agency (CNA)
By Richard Doerflinger
In 1998, Dr. James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin first isolated human embryonic stem cells (ESCs). These early, unspecialized cells were hailed as a way to create all cell types of the human body at will, a Holy Grail for curing diseases. Moral qualms about killing embryos for the cells were swept away in this wave of enthusiasm. In a few years, it was said, life-saving medical advances would show that such objections should be ignored.
A decade later, it is time for a reality check. ESCs have been involved in some interesting experiments, but are not close to producing cures. This is not due to limited federal funding—it is equally true in countries with no such limits, and in states pouring their own public funds into the research. ESCs in fact are unpredictable, difficult to control, and prone to causing tumors in animals. Experts now admit that human treatments using them may not emerge for decades, if ever.
The bishops’ statement Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship urges Catholics to become informed on important moral issues in public life, including this issue of destroying embryos for stem cell research.