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4.36 What about stem cells and genetically modified crops?

Artificial insemination, embryos, and cloning

Stem cells are special cells that play an important role in the development of the human body. Some types of stem cells can be grown in a laboratory to create tissue that may help people with specific diseases. Whether that is a good option, depends on the origin of the stem cells.

For instance, if these cells are obtained from the umbilical cord, that is fine: this procedure does not harm a human being. But an embryo, a tiny human being, must never be used for this purpose. However, there is no principal objection to genetically engineered crops and animals, as long as this is done with respect and serves people.

> Read more in the book

Stem cells can be used for cures, but never at the cost of another human life. We can use, with caution, genetically modified crops.

The Wisdom of the Church

What is the common good?

By the common good is meant the sum total of those conditions of social life which allow people as groups and as individuals to reach their proper fulfillment. [CCCC 407]

What is involved in the common good?

The common good involves: respect for and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person, the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of persons and society, and the peace and security of all. [CCCC 408]

Where can one find the most complete realization of the common good?

The most complete realization of the common good is found in those political communities which defend and promote the good of their citizens and of intermediate groups without forgetting the universal good of the entire human family. [CCCC 409]

What is the office confided to a Bishop in a particular Church?

The bishop to whom the care of a particular Church is entrusted is the visible head and foundation of unity for that Church. For the sake of that Church, as vicar of Christ, he fulfills the office of shepherd and is assisted by his own priests and deacons. [CCCC 327]

Is it permissible to experiment on a live human being?

Scientific, psychological, or medical experiments on a live human subject are allowed only when the results that can be expected are important for human well-being and cannot be obtained otherwise. Everything, however, must take place with the free and informed consent of the subject in question.

Moreover, the experiments must not be disproportionately risky. To make human beings the subjects of research against their will is a crime. The fate of the Polish resistance fighter Dr. Wanda Poltawska, a close confidant of Pope John Paul II, reminds us what was at stake then and still is now. During the Nazi period, Wanda Poltawska was a victim of criminal human experiments in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Later Dr. Poltawska, a psychiatrist, advocated a reform of medical ethics and was among the founding members of the Pontifical Academy for Life. [Youcat 390]

This is what the Popes say

Of course, the Church appreciates and encourages the progress of the biomedical sciences which open up unprecedented therapeutic prospects until now unknown, for example, through the use of somatic stem cells, or treatment that aims to restore fertility or cure genetic diseases. At the same time, she feels duty-bound to enlighten all consciences to the only authentic progress, namely, that scientific progress truly respect every human being, whose personal dignity must be recognized since he is created in the image of God.  [Pope Benedict XVI, To the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, 31 Jan. 2008]