The Stem “Sell”

I found Dr. James Lamb’s January article “The Stem Sell'” well written, and I share his opinion.

I do not do so lightly. I am affected by Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT). CMT is a progressive, genetic neuropathy that affects the peripheral nervous system (hands/arms and feet/legs). Probability states that there are approximately 1,500 other LCMS Lutherans who are likewise affected with CMT, not to mention the scores of other neuropathies. Although considerable symptomatic research is being conducted, the likely cure for CMT will be genetic in nature.

Embryonic stem-cell research is the “rotten apple that spoiled the barrel.” As long as embryonic-stem cell research persists, I, and many others like me, may one day be faced with having to reject a cure because it may be impossible to detect the source of that cure. Obviously, this will mean that thousands of people will be denied participation in potential cures because of the irresponsibility of certain elements within the research and political community.

The solution to this situation is really quite simple: Remove the rotten apple before it taints the barrel. Should the AMA and the research labs simply abide by their own code of doing no harm and reject embryonic stem-cell research, embracing adult, umbilical, and now perhaps amniotic stem-cell research instead, then all cures would be available to all patients.

Two questions for God’s church on earth are: (1) In an effort to right a wrong and be of service to those in need, how do we convince the proponents of embryonic stem-cell research to change course? And (2) Is it possible for us to begin a worldwide foundation that funds medical research through strict pro-life methods? Today, the lines seem to be drawn, polarization seems to be the future; however, tomorrow, “all things are possible with the help of God.” May our Lord Jesus make it so!
Joseph Couch
Topeka, Kan.

I have a different view of therapeutic cloning than does Dr. Lamb. He assumes that any cell with a full set of chromosomes (46 in humans) is a potential human. That can be true, if the cell is in the proper environment. A cell with a full complement of chromosomes will only grow into a human if it is in a human uterus. Even then, there is a high rate of spontaneous abortion due to natural defects in the embryo.

Every cell, except sperm and ova, in our body has a full set of chromosomes. However, each cell doesn’t grow into a new human. Each cell fulfills its specialized duty, such as absorbing food or covering our bodies. If we get a scratch, our skin cells make more skin cells to repair the wound.

The research to grow new cells for our damaged ones is an extension of a natural process. We are able to grow new skin in the lab
for burn victims by starting with a sample of the patient’s skin.

Nuclear transfer also uses a cell with chromosomes that match the donor’s to make new tissue. The only difference between what happens in the body and in therapeutic cloning is the source of the cell. Ova are used because it is
easier to coax them to divide and produce new cells. Stem-cell research and nuclear-transfer techniques will provide an extension of our natural ability to heal.
Katherine Moore, Ph.D.
Oakland, Calif.

“The Stem Sell’ ” was an excellent article, but I felt it did not address the most important issue of all concerning abortion of all kinds, including stem-cell research. That issue is the fact that each baby, the minute it is conceived, is a human being and therefore has a soul. Each time a baby is murdered (and that is the only word that can be used), it’s possible that that baby’s soul goes to hell. The Bible says that all who do not believe cannot inherit eternal life.

I cry when I think of all the lost souls in this world but especially those of pre-born children who had no chance at all of coming to faith. I pray that God, in His infinite mercy, will save these little ones’ souls.
Elaine P. Culp
Battle Lake, Minn.

Dr. James Lamb constructs an argument based on the assumption that an embryo, in a lab, is a human being. He also uses the word “conception” for the process by which the embryo comes to be in a Petri dish. And he concludes that any Christian would certainly agree with his assumption. This raises some important questions, including “Does conception happen outside of a women’s body?”

If so, why do the Scriptures speak of conception as something that happens to women: “Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son” (Luke 1:36)?

The use of the term “conceived” for anything outside a woman’s body causes problems when we discuss what naturally happens inside a women’s body. There is a natural process in which a female’s egg is fertilized by a male’s sperm. However, we do not speak of conception until that embryo is attached to the uterine wall. If it passes out of the woman’s body (which it often does), we do not speak of her as having conceived or of a conception having happened.

Might we not be on firmer ground to speak only of those embryos that have attached themselves to the woman’s womb as having been conceived? The Jewish community does not recognize personhood until “quickening,” thought to be at 40 days.

Maybe we can avoid considerable anguish by adapting our language to realistic fact.
Rev. Robert M. Bjornstad
Salem, Oregon

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