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The next step

Fetal tissues heals burns..

One fetus could theoretically provide material for hundreds or thousands of burn victims, although Hohlfeld said he suspected that would not remove some people’s objections to the use of tissue from an aborted fetus.

Some people. That means you.

Professor Bainbridge comments.

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reluctant penitent

posted August 18, 2005 at 11:59 pm

I wonder whether fetal tissue researchers (if that’s the correct title) would approve research into whether the tissues of fetal tissue researchers have uses?

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posted August 19, 2005 at 1:42 am

I think it is safe to assume that you do not object to organ donation. What, specifically, is the basis for objection to this?
1. The fetus/child cannot consent as an organ donor can? But in ordinary organ donation I believe that it is ultimately a decision left to the remaining family members, who can decide to donate on behalf of a dead relative who has not signed a donor card, and refuse to donate on behalf of a relative who has not.
2. That while relatives can ordinarily be trusted to act on a loved one’s behalf, in the case of abortion they cannot be trusted to act on behalf of the one they just killed?
3. That it is wrong to obtain any benefit out of an evil act; that it is somehow cooperating with evil? But we don’t feel this way about a murder victim being an organ donor, so I think there’s something more here.
4. That we fear this would lead to more abortions? I think the idea that a couple would conceive a child with the intent of aborting it and donating it for skin grafts is wildly implausible. Do you disagree? Do you fear that people will receive money for having abortions & donating the body to science? But such financial incentives could be banned regardless of whether the research was legal. Or do you simply think that knowing this will salve people’s conscience and convince them that abortion is morally okay, and/or cause doctors to deliberately or inadvertantly steer people towards abortion? I find this somewhat implausible and a lot less direct than the lives saved, though, so I suspect it’s not this alone.
Stem cell research requires the destruction of embryos that potentially could be implanted in a women’s womb and develop into children if they were not used in this research. That is not true after an abortion. The fetus, or child, is dead and is not coming back.
And I don’t believe this sort of research would increase the number of abortions if they took some really obvious steps regulating it.
I can think of a lot of potential reasons why you would not consider this morally equivalent to organ donation by a murder victim; I just wanted to figure out exactly which one it is.
Or is it a combination of these? Something I’ve left out?

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posted August 19, 2005 at 5:00 am

Nobody here objects to ordinary organ donation, and indeed my skin is an organ which I may donate if I choose. And yes, a parent may donate a child’s tissue.
However, whenever you see “fetal” anything being used, the vast majority of it is not obtained from stillborn or miscarried babies. If you read medical articles, the doctors are quite open about using babies who have been “electively aborted”, as this reassures people that the babies were healthy right up to the moment they were killed.
If you just aborted a baby, or if you are the aborter himself, you may have the legal but you do not have the moral right to control what is done to the body of your victim. Anything done with an aborted baby’s corpse besides burying it, is abuse of a corpse.
We don’t say, “All those Jews are getting killed off at Auschwitz anyway. Why should we let their bodies go to waste when we can use them for soap and lampshades?” So we also can’t say, “Why not use them for burn grafts, stem cells, and vaccine cultures?”
It’s not better than what the Nazis did; in fact, it’s worse. It’s putting people in the position of owing their lives to murderers and the proceeds of murder. It’d be less sick to sell fetal sausages in the deli.

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posted August 19, 2005 at 6:07 am

Meant to say, “And yes, a parent may donate a child’s tissue if the child should happen to die suddenly; and that includes murder as well as accident. But that would rarely happen, as a murder victim would most likely have to be autopsied.”

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John J. Simmins

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:41 am

Apparently you’ve missed the high profile cases in the last couple of years where children have been conceived to provide bone marrow transplants for siblings with cancer. In these cases the child was carried to term but in a world where people do not consider a ‘fetus’ a baby, anything is possible. Keep in mind that a woman can abort a baby at any time for any reason up to and during delivery. In Maryland, the most common reason for partial birth abortion is ‘mental distress of the mother’. Also, regulating abortions is not permitted, at least in Maryland.
You must have also missed the long arguments about the atomic bomb and the ending of the war: an immoral act can never be justified, even to achieve a moral result. Your example of a murder victim is only analogous when the murderers are the ones choosing to harvest the organs.

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Chris Burd

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:49 am

If one tissue from one fetus can be cultured to provide grafts for thousands of patients, is possible that that they could get enough tissue from spontaneously aborted fetuses to provide this therapy?

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julie b

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:50 am

“Something I’ve left out?”
In most of your scenarios, we see a loved one making a decision for or about someone they dearly loved, such as the decision to donate a beloved childs organs.
The aborted child’s remains lie in a humanly unloved heap; mere “tissue” – “parts to be used.” Oh my God….we have no right to anything these poor ones have in their horrible poverty!

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Mike L

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:12 am

Rats, I thought when I read the original article that the skin had come from a spontaineous abortion. In which case I think that here is no problem. Still, can you picture a loving parent loking at their severly burnt child and telling the doctor, “if you can’t guarante that the skin does not come from an abort fetus, let my child die or be deformed.” A tough decision that I hope I never have to make!

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posted August 19, 2005 at 9:46 am

Everytime a scientific advance is announced using “fetal” tissue, my mind automatically inserts “aborted babies.” Everytime science proclaims the wonders of fetal tissue, we (society) become more numb to and more accepting of (if that’s possible) abortion for any reason. I’m sure it would soothe a person’s conscience to think “well, I may have had an abortion, but look what GOOD it will do.” Abortion is no longer viewed as an evil, it’s now a SCIENTIFIC GOOD.

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scotch meg

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:00 am

Is “The Zero People” by Peter Kreeft still in print? In my memory, it was a Swiftian diatribe exaggerating the uses to which people parts from aborted babies were put to all sorts of good uses for those of us who managed to survive pregnancy. Now (in my memory) it doesn’t seem so exaggerated… it seems scary.

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Sandra Miesel

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:10 am

By the way, this discovery is medically unnecessary inasmuch as techniques for culturing replacement from the burn victims themselves are already available. Skin has successfully been cultured for years from newborns’foreskins. As for closing deep wounds, an Indiana company has a thriving business providing material extracted from pig tissue for this purpose. Itlooks like shrinky-dink and works splendidly.

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Sr. Lorraine

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:31 am

To use the tissue is wrong because it’s material cooperation in an evil act. It would be similar to accepting money as a gift from a friend who you know obtained it by robbing a bank. Nobody had the right to take it in the first place.
It’s reducing these babies to objects who are merely used as commodities: sources of products for the benefit of other people. But as Pope John Paul said so often in his theology of the body, a person is never to be used as merely a means to an end.
Maureen’s comparison was great with the products the Nazis made from their victims.

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Sr. Lorraine

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:39 am

To also respond to Katherine’s comment about a murder victim’s organs being donated, the two cases are not the same.
Harvesting fetal tissue would be done intentionally; a system would be set up whereby aborted babies would be used for this purpose. This is clearly cooperation in evil. This cooperation doesn’t require that the mothers aborting their babies intend this but merely allow it.
In the case of a murder victim, no one is being murdered presumably simply for their organs, although it might happen. If that did happen it would clearly be wrong. But if someone is murdered for other reasons, that doesn’t affect their previous decision to donate their organs after death. There’s also the issue of informed consent. An unborn baby cannot give that consent.

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Kevin Miller

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:17 am

To use the tissue is wrong because it’s material cooperation in an evil act.
Sr. Lorraine: You need to unpack that a bit more. I certainly agree that this is wrong. However, remember that material cooperation is not, per se, wrong, and in fact that it can be permissible or even sometimes obligatory, if it is mediate (rather than immediate) and if there is proportionate reason. So to explain why it’s wrong, it won’t work simply to say that it’s material cooperation.

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Susan Peterson

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:42 am

It is probably wishful thinking to hope that tissue from spontaneous abortions would be used. Babies that die in the womb begin to deteriorate very quickly.
I suppose there might be very premature babies born alive, say at 18,19,20 weeks, whose tissue one might use, taking them immediately after their death. But when these babies are wanted,parents are usually grieving a great deal. To say to them, yes, your baby is alive, but hour hospital policy is not to treat prematures below 20 weeks..or below 500 grams…but we do want to harvest tissues please sign here…. would not endear the hospital to their prospective future customers, to say the least. Furthermore, you would have to have procedures in place for getting someone in there in a timely fashion to do the “harvesting.” An abortion clinic, where the supply is endless and the parents aren’t touchy, is going to be the preferred source of supply unless this is illegal and the law is enforced.
Susan Peterson

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Sr. Lorraine

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:05 pm

Hello Kevin,
I’m basing myself on an article from the National Catholic Bioethics Center’s publication “Ethics & Medics,” on “The Fetal Tissue Issue.” (Vol. 14, n. 9)To encourage this use of fetal tissue would be “morally problematic becuse it is making use of tissue obtained from what objectively is a morally evil act.” Although material cooperation in sin can be allowed under certain circumstances, in this case the material cooperation would tend to promote and encourage abortions in general, because it would give women considering it an additional reason to do it. For example, they could think, “Well, aborting my baby isn’t so bad because it will help someone else.” The material cooperation is certainly proximate rather than remote, another key point. The article goes on to distinguish between this and using organs from a murdered person:
“The parallel does not hold because 1) the one who slays unjustly another person is considered by law as a murderer and is legally a criminal. This is not so in the case of an aborted child… 2) Murder is not a medical “industry,” whereas abortion is and is economically beneficial for the medical “team”… 3) abortion involves the most vulnerable and defenseless group of human beings. Anything which would place that group at even greater danger should be vigorously opposed. There is a much closer connection between abortion and the medical use of fetal tissue than there is between random murders and the medical profession’s use of cadaveric tissue from such a source since abortions are generally performed by physicians. Consequently, for the above reasons, one cannot persuasively argue for the moral use of fetal tissue from electively aborted preborn infants on the basis that the use of tissues and organs from a muderred person is morally acceptable.”
As a parallel, consider the German doctors who defended their use of the Nazis’ victims. It was still immoral for them to do so even if they themselves didn’t kill them, on the basis of the same moral principles.

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Kevin Miller

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:45 pm

Although material cooperation in sin can be allowed under certain circumstances, in this case the material cooperation would tend to promote and encourage abortions in general, because it would give women considering it an additional reason to do it.
Sr. Lorraine, yes, this begins the “unpacking” that I suggested. Thank you.

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posted August 19, 2005 at 5:29 pm

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.A Modest Proposal

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posted August 20, 2005 at 6:07 pm

Abandoned dead children, the products of abortions, are free and worth big money to the medical industry. This is the wave of the future. AND it is what some of us will go to martyrdom over, eventually.
Don’t gloss over it; don’t justify it. It’s purely evil.

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posted August 21, 2005 at 10:11 am

“It is true,” Screwtape continues with a shrug, “that much of the groundwork was already laid. We had already convinced people of the rightness of destroying inconvenient life. Now they talk quite coolly of “blastocysts,” and “clumps of cells” and “surplus embryos.” My genius was to recognize that they needed just a little push to be convinced, with their mania for recycling, that by harvesting something that would otherwise be chucked out, they are doing a positive good! Think of it: They believe they occupy “the moral high ground.” Oh, the profits for us — ”
Screwtape Revisited

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