Human Body-Parts for Sale?
Occasionally, we come across stories that appear so horrendous that we assume they must be urban myths or Internet hoaxes. Well, this time the story appears to be real. The Times, a leading newspaper from the United Kingdom, reports that a medical institute in Ukraine is selling fetal body parts on a Web site—body parts they argue would otherwise be disposed of. Jeremy Page and coauthors Sam Lister and Anthony Browne noted: “Tatyana Zakharova shook her head as she ran her finger down the page and read out the products on offer. ‘Fetus spleen cells, fragments of fetus spine, fetus liver cells...’” (2005). These body parts and more are offered at the Web site: www.celltransplantation.iatp.org.ua/specialist.htm by the Institute for Problems of Cryobiology and Cryomedicine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. [The Web page is in the Ukrainian language.]
Much of the pressure for selling fetal body parts comes from stem cell research and cosmetics. In many countries, the only value a fetus receives is due to the stem cells they inherently possess. As European countries relax their guidelines on stem cell research, more and more unregulated countries look for ways to meet “supply and demand.” Additionally, fetuses are also used in the cosmetic industry of Eastern Europe where “fetal stem cell therapy” has emerged as a potential way to stave off aging. This injection therapy is supposed to reverse wrinkles and give the skin a more youthful appearance—but at what cost?
Indeed, we Americans have watched as the inherent value placed upon human life continues to decline steadily. We kill the young and innocent through legalized abortion, fertility practices that result in embryos that are subsequently destroyed, and embryonic stem cell research. We also extinguish the elderly by euthanasia in states like Oregon, where this practice has been legal since 1994. Our children listen to news reports of gunfire being exchanged over something as trivial as a pair of tennis shoes. Public school classrooms dogmatically teach that we share a common ancestry with apes. Is there any wonder why the value placed on human life continues rapidly down the slippery slope? If someone is honestly looking for evidence that we should not proceed with embryonic stem cell research, here it is.
The Ukrainian Institute argues that their “materials” are produced legally using early aborted fetuses that would otherwise be disposed of as “biowaste.” [Designating body tissue from unborn humans as “material” does not change the fact that the tissue for sale came from living infants in the womb.] Nevertheless, their procedures and ethics are now being questioned. As Page and associates observed: “[I]ts highly specialized and controversial research is now under scrutiny after renewed allegations that live babies—or their dead bodies—have disappeared from maternity hospitals in Kharkov” (2005, emp. added). They continued:
Under Ukrainian law, babies born before 27 weeks or weighing under 1 kg (2 lb. 3 oz.) are automatically considered abortions, rather than births. The babies are therefore not officially registered, and are sometimes taken away from their mothers and not returned (2005).
Juliya Kopeika, a physician who previously worked at the Institute explained that “Ukrainian scientists in the field had long benefited from a more relaxed approach to ethical issues. ‘Often you wouldn’t even ask the parents if you could use the material. That’s why they’ve had much more access in Ukraine than here in Britain’” (2005).
Many Christians do not see any problem with researchers carrying out stem cell research on human embryos. They would argue that this field holds great promise for individuals suffering from chronic maladies. But in doing so, they place the care and comfort of one individual over that of those lives which are used in the experimentation process. Unfortunately, many have forgotten the sanctity of human life. We no longer view life as God given (Acts 17:25). Can anyone reasonably argue that human body-parts being sold online is in accordance with God’s will? How much farther can we slip?
Page, Jeremy, Sam Lister and Anthony Browne (2005), “The Research Institute that Advertises Fetus Body Parts on Internet,” The Times, [On-line], URL: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,13509-1773726,00.html.