Is Saving Umbilical Blood Okay?

fr. earlFr. Earl Fernandes returns with his monthly column for The Catholic Telegraph. Below is his December 2013 article on the legitimacy of using umbilical blood for research and cures.

Is it okay for someone to have umbilical blood saved from a live birth to use in stem cell research or attempts to find a cure for diseases like MS?

The answer to your question is Yes. Advent is a time for journeying with the Mary, an expectant Mother. It culminates in celebrating the birth of her son, Jesus, the Savior and Word of Life. As Catholics we are a people of life, cherishing each and every person, no matter how small or how big. As Catholics we care not only about the unborn child but also about those born into the world. Many suffer from sickness and diseases like MS, autism, Parkinson’s and cancers. The many healing ministries in the Church seek to alleviate human suffering and proclaim the coming of the Kingdom. Human life and health are great goods. One goal of medicine is to restore health to the sick person.
The goal of medicine (restoration of health) is good, but not all means to achieve that end are permitted. In Catholic moral theology, the ends do not justify the means. One cannot do evil that good may come about from it. One must choose wisely and prudently how to restore health to a person, while respect the life and dignity of every other human person and the common good. Among the potential means of alleviating suffering is to use stem cells.

The Catholic Church is very clear in her opposition to the use of embryonic stem cells in research. The embryo is to be treated as a person. No one has the right to experiment upon another person without his or her consent. No one has the right to use another person as an object to achieve some good result. No one has the right to take the life of an innocent person – even for a good purpose like curing a disease. Church teaching is found in the Catechism (2274-2275), in the Instructions from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Donum vitae (1987) and Dignitas Personae (2008).

However, there are other types of stem cells that are not embryonic. The Church does not oppose the use of these types of cells to find a cure. For example, stem cells occur naturally in human tissues and have been found in almost every body tissue- skin, muscle, fat, bone marrow. Sometimes these cells can be derived from the sick person himself; other times from a donor. Take the example of a bone marrow. Bone marrow stem cells can differentiate into many other types of tissues and have proven effective in treating many diseases. No one is harmed in using these types of cells. The Church does not oppose the use of adult stem cells.

Continue reading here. Questions? Comments?

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