Biological data and ethical issue

A stem cell is an undifferentiated, unspecialized cell that is capable of multiplying identical copies of itself, or of transforming itself into one or more specialized body cell types (for example: the skin, the liver). Some laboratories undertake research based on human embryo stem cells. This practice does in fact lead to the destruction of these embryos. They intervene directly in research and/or conclude partnerships with other institutions. For example, Roche has signed agreements in the United States with Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University (Cambridge, USA), and with I-Stem in France. The laboratories justify their research by highlighting promises of healing for certain patients.

The legitimate determination of laboratories to develop regenerative medicine and to provide care for diseases which are currently incurable nonetheless raises objections of an ethical nature : given that the embryo is a human being, is it legitimate to destroy it, even with a view (as yet hypothetical) to providing treatment for serious diseases ? Whilst carried out in compliance with the legal framework, this praiseworthy objective does not justify the use of any means whatsoever; as it turns out, the instrumentalization and destruction of a human embryo. What the laboratories all have in common is that they are based on an authority that comes in varying shapes and forms (legislation, ethics committee and/or parental agreement) in order to legitimize the instrumentalization of the embryo. The embryo’s integrity is no longer respected solely because it exists or because it is a human being, but instead is based on the protection that another human being may – or may not – decide to grant him. His inviolable dignity of being human is no longer based on his essential nature, but on the shifting whims of another being.

Moreover, these hastily offered justifications feed false hopes in patients: to date, no cell therapy based on embryo cells has produced results, either in France or the rest of the world. Indeed, the risks of rejection by the recipient are major, and when the embryo cells are injected into an organ, tissues cancerization is noted.

Effective and ethical alternative technologies though already exist.