'Respectful' Research: A Gross Misrepresentation

Well, I suppose I should have seen this one coming.

Recently, the pharmaceutical group, Neocutis--which specializes in the production of burn treatments and skin creams--cited a 2005 Vatican document from the Pontifical Academy for Life in defense of its implementation of aborted fetal tissue research in the manufacturing of biomedical products.

To develop its treatments, the company uses processed skin proteins derived from the tissue of a single, aborted, 14-week-old fetus, attained from the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland. Although none of the original tissue is still used, Neocutis defends its derivative research by stating that "the small skin donation that, ultimately, made the development of our treatment possible originated from a single terminated pregnancy that could not survive to term and was deemed medically necessary by the attending physicians."

Neocutis' directors released a statement, attesting to the morally disputed character of its research; but which also underscored the importance of research that is, in alleged accord with Catholic moral teaching, "respectful of the dignity of human life, and that is conducted in a highly controlled and responsible manner." ("Moral Reflection on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Fetuses," Pontifical Academy for Life, 2005) Ultimately, according to the Catholic News Agency, Neocutis believes that "'extremely limited use' of fetal skin tissue obtained in a respectful manner can lead to 'significant medical benefit.'" (CNA)

The real question raised by all of this seems to be: what constitutes "respectful" research; and what, ultimately, ought to be the object of such respect?

Certainly, I think, a few things are clear. First, it is clear that the Pontifical Academy for Life never intended to provide any justification for the abortion of human fetuses for any purpose whatsoever--including, even, for important and genuinely well-intentioned biomedical research. To abort a human being is always and everywhere a moral evil; and to do so with "good intentions" makes the evil no less severe. Neocutis' statement fundamentally opposes this basic stance of the Catholic Church, since it attempts to justify the abortion of the initial fetus on the grounds that the baby could not have survived to term, and that the elective termination of the pregnancy offered greater merit than would have been yielded otherwise.

Second, the directors of Neocutis (and I'm sure many other organizations and individuals) are grossly misinformed regarding their understanding of "respect," and the rightful object of respectful action. By its very nature--and certainly in the work of the Pontifical Academy for Life--respect must always and necessarily be concerned with the ultimate good of its object--not in some utilitarian sense, but rather in an absolute sense. In other words, to be "respectful" of the aborted child, whose initial skin tissue enabled the production of further processed skin proteins, is not to consider the effect such a child's vital contribution would have on the future of the biomedical industry; but rather, it is necessarily to consider what is good for that child itself. And this, for human beings, is always the opportunity for life, and the chance to flourish.

Neocutis' stance on biomedical research stemming from aborted fetal tissue is firmly rooted in an attitude of utility that quantifies human life according to the degree to which it can be used to further advance medical science; and it is strongly opposed to the dignity of human life that arises from the very incommunicable and unrepeatable personhood present in each human being.

For this reason, to have cited a Vatican document in defense of the destruction of human life is a vast misrepresentation of Catholic moral teaching, and a mistake that warrants an extreme reconsideration Neocutis' guiding principles, and subsequently a drastic change of action.

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    # by madebymeVM - November 8, 2009 at 5:45 PM

    I will start, Andrew, by saying that the title "et tres magnifique" specially the part "Respectful Research". I just love it.

    Then my question is... Are they really "respecting" the aborted child? They are probably saying that the fetus doesn't speak or can not decide or know nothing, but still is a human being.

    It's funny how criminals and/or assassins are more educated and polite now days..."With all your respect...I'm going to kill you"

    For me sounds the same...you are killing.