Blurring the Lines Between Humans and Animals
What will happen when scientists take human stem cells and insert them into animal embryos? We’re about to find out.
Opportunity for Public Comment
“The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking public comments on the proposed scope of certain human-animal chimera research that will be considered internally by an NIH steering committee and on a proposal to amend Section IV and Section V of the NIH Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research.”
The 30-day public comment period ends September 6, 2016.
Questions of the Day
- What does it mean to be a human being?
- What is the value of human life? What happens when people are treated as products and are assigned a dollar value either in whole or for parts?
- In what stages of development is human life worth protecting?
- Is human life ever disposable? Who decides?
- Who should make babies besides mom and dad? Should human beings be developed in a laboratory? Should scientists make human beings for the sole purpose of research and should your tax dollars fund that kind of research?
- How do we demarcate ethical and unethical scientific research using human-animal chimeras?
- Is now the time to end the moratorium on human-animal research? What ethical issues, if any, have been resolved in the past year during the moratorium?
- Are the “safeguards” that the NIH has put in place sufficient?
- If there is nothing inherently wrong about creating human-animal chimeras, then why is it forbidden to bring such creations to term? If there is something inherently wrong about human-animal combinations and they violate a fundamental ethical principle, why are they allowed at the embryonic stage?
- “What if the embryo that develops is mostly human? It’s something that we don’t expect, but no one has done this experiment, so we can’t rule it out.”
Start Learning About the Human-Animal Chimera Research
including Catholic and NonCatholic Perspectives
- Read Getting the public involved in chimera research (Carolyn Plunkett Neuhaus, bioethics.net)
- Read US agency to lift ban on funding human-animal hybrids (Sara Reardon, Nature, August 5, 2016)
- Read NIH to lift moratorium on human-animal chimera research (BioNews, August 2016)
- Read / listen NIH Plans to End Moratorium on Funding Controversial Chimera Research (NPR, August 4, 2016)
- Read / listen Should human stem cells be used to make partly human chimeras? (NPR, November 6, 2015)
- Read What’s wrong with human-animal chimeras? (Celeste McGovern, NC Register, February 29, 2016)
- Listen NIH Changes Chimera Policy – What You Can Do (Kresta in the Afternoon, August 26, 2016)
- Read Stem Cell Ethics and the Things We Refuse to Do and “Animal Rights” vs Human Rights and Half Human, Half Animal (Father Tad Pacholczyk, Catholic Education Resource Center)
- Read Pope didn’t endorse animal/human hybrids but expert says we can talk (John Allen, Jr, Crux, February 6, 2016)
- Read Ethical considerations in chimera research (Goran Hermeren, The Company of Biologists – Development, 2015)
- Read about the Dickey-Wicker Amendment (The Embryo Project Encyclopedia)
- Read Tell the NIH “No” to Funding Controversial Chimera Research (NAVS, August 15, 2016)
- Visit Center for Genetics and Society
- Visit National Catholic Bioethics Center
- Read Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions (Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican, 2008)
- Read Prospects for Xenotransplantation – Scientific Aspects and Ethical Considerations (Pontifical Academy for Life, Vatican, 2001)
- Read Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem-cell Research (National Academies)
- Read Chimeras: The Ethics of Creating Human-Animal Interspecifics (Doctoral thesis of Constanze Huther, 2009)
Quotes of the Day
(a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for—
(1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or
(2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero under 45 CFR 46.204(b) and section 498(b) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 289g(b)).
(b) For purposes of this section, the term ‘‘human embryo or embryos’’ includes any organism, not protected as a human subject under 45 CFR 46 as of the date of the enactment of this Act, that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one or more human gametes or human diploid cells.
The gift of life which God the Creator and Father has entrusted to man calls him to appreciate the inestimable value of what he has been given and to take responsibility for it: this fundamental principle must be placed at the centre of one’s reflection in order to clarify and solve the moral problems raised by artificial interventions on life as it originates and on the processes of procreation. Thanks to the progress of the biological and medical sciences, man has at his disposal ever more effective therapeutic resources; but he can also acquire new powers, with unforeseeable consequences, over human life at its very beginning and in its first stages. Various procedures now make it possible to intervene not only in order to assist but also to dominate the processes of procreation. These techniques can enable man to “take in hand his own destiny”, but they also expose him “to the temptation to go beyond the limits of a reasonable dominion over nature”.(1) They might constitute progress in the service of man, but they also involve serious risks. Many people are therefore expressing an urgent appeal that in interventions on procreation the values and rights of the human person be safeguarded. Requests for clarification and guidance are coming not only from the faithful but also from those who recognize the Church as “an expert in humanity ” (2) with a mission to serve the “civilization of love” (3) and of life.
It would on the one hand be illusory to claim that scientific research and its applications are morally neutral; on the other hand one cannot derive criteria for guidance from mere technical efficiency, from research’s possible usefulness to some at the expense of others, or, worse still, from prevailing ideologies. Thus science and technology require, for their own intrinsic meaning, an unconditional respect for the fundamental criteria of the moral law: that is to say, they must be at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God.(7) The rapid development of technological discoveries gives greater urgency to this need to respect the criteria just mentioned: science without conscience can only lead to man’s ruin. “Our era needs such wisdom more than bygone ages if the discoveries made by man are to be further humanized. For the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser people are forthcoming”.(8)