Human-Embryonic Stem Cells

On December 2nd the Obama Administration approved the use of human-embryonic stem cells for experimentation by federally funded scientists under a new policy that will dramatically expand the governments support.The use of human-embryonic stem cells is a very controversial area of scientific research and it is no wonder that this was released in a very quiet way. Up to this point there had been no federal funding for this type of research.

What are human-embryonic stem cells and what is the Orthodox Christian position on their use?

According to the National Institutes of Health human-embryonic stem cells are: “Primitive (undifferentiated) cells derived from a 5-day preimplantation embryo that are capable of dividing without differentiating for a prolonged period in culture, and are known to develop into cells and tissues of the three primary germ layers.” The Orthodox Christian definition is much simpler to understand. Human-embryonic stems cells are simply life. The Orthodox Christian Church teaches that life begins at conception. The extraction of stem cells from the embryos kills the unborn child. In order for an embryo to exists it must be fertilized and therefore conception has taken place and thus it is life.

The position of the Orthodox Church on embryonic stem cell research is, “In light of the fact that Orthodox Christianity accepts the fact that human life begins at conception, the extraction of stem cells from embryos, which involves the willful taking of human life – the embryo is human life and not just a clump of cells – is considered morally and ethically wrong in every instance.”

Fr. Mark Hodges, Pastor of St. Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Church in Lima, OH has written as article that speaks of the position of the Orthodox Christian Church and why she teaches what she teaches on this topic.

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  1. "Up to this point there had been no federal funding for this type of research."

    This is not true: there has been Federal Funding for research using limited lines of stemcells (fetal and otherwise) that were in existence at the time of the Bush-era ban on funding. There was no federal funding for research using *new* lines of stemcells. And, of course, there were other funds available for this research.

    The Bush-era ban was largely cosmetic because of these reasons and, also because of these reasons, the current administration's removal of the ban is also cosmetic. Both Bushbama administrations were throwing bones to their dogs on the right and left without making much change one way or the other.

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