Human beings, no matter how small, weak, or dependent, possess inherent dignity and intrinsic worth by virtue of their humanity. Thus the intentional harm or destruction of a human being for the supposed benefit of another human being is wrong.
This bedrock principle of traditional medical ethics was famously violated throughout the 20th century. Witness the gruesome “research” conducted on Jews and prisoners-of-war by the Nazis at Auschwitz and Dachau, the syphilis experiments performed on uninformed African Americans at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and the intentional exposure of unwitting American servicemen to radiation during the 1940’s. As Prof. James Burtchaell observed, the history of these experiments “shows well that when scientists and therapists set out to exploit one group to benefit another, it is invariably the disadvantaged who suffer for the powerful.”
During the last decade, the same kind of reckless disregard for the intrinsic dignity of human life has characterized the practice of conducting experimentation on pre-born children. This experimentation takes two different but closely related forms:
- Fetal Tissue Transplants: The transplant of tissue from dead unborn babies who have been aborted or live unborn babies who are about to be aborted into individuals who have incurable conditions or diseases.
- Live Human Embryo Research: The creation or use of human life in the laboratory for harmful tests that involve destroying or discarding the live human embryo.
Of all human beings, pre-born human life is most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. While Ohio Right to Life welcomes legitimate medical advances to alleviate suffering and cure disease, those advances must never result from the intentional death and destruction of unborn human beings. As Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics (www.stemcellresearch.org) recently concluded its statement, On Human Embryos and Stem Cell Research,
“If anything can be gained from the cruel atrocities committed against human beings in the last century and a half, it is the lesson that the utilitarian devaluation of one group of human beings for the alleged benefit of others is a price we simply cannot afford to pay.”
The foundation for this baseline principle of medical ethics comes from the Hippocratic Oath.