From an anonymous reader comes this question:
Situation: Doctor is referring me to an oncologist because I may have Myeloma. Note that I have not yet gone for additional screening. Internet is useless in looking for statistics on false positives. I am in the dark.
Problem: Indications are that actual death results from not being able to take the pain anymore. So I have been sentenced to death by agony.
Ethical dilemma: Some websites indicate total remission from a stem cell replacement process. So, if a doctor of medicine tells me I can live a long time by using murdered baby stem cells, how should I morally respond?
Myeloma is blood cancer and stem cell therapy is one of the treatment options, one which is not always indicated. Hematopoietic stem cells are those which make blood in the marrow. Only 1 or so out of 10,000 cells in the marrow are HSCs. According to the NIH guide,
The longevity of short-term stem cells for humans is not firmly established. A true stem cell, capable of self-renewal, must be able to renew itself for the entire lifespan of an organism. It is these long-term replicating HSCs that are most important for developing HSC-based cell therapies. Unfortunately, to date, researchers cannot distinguish the long-term from the short-term cells when they are removed from the bloodstream or bone marrow.
The study by Child and others “High-Dose Chemotherapy with Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Rescue for Multiple Myeloma” is, as far as I can tell (and I am not a physician), typical. They say, “High-dose therapy with supporting autologous stem-cell transplantation remains a controversial treatment for cancer. In multiple myeloma, first-line regimens incorporating high-dose therapy yield higher remission rates than do conventional-dose treatments, but evidence that this translates into improved survival is limited.” Their statistics show wee p-values for slightly longer survival times for high-dose therapies. The conventional-dose was a standard therapy of chemotherapy (cycling through drugs over a set time). The high-dose had chemo plus HSC replacement.
Where do the HSCs come from? The NIH says they used to come from bone marrow donors, but that now “doctors now prefer to harvest donor cells from peripheral, circulating blood [from donors].” Umbilical cord blood and the placenta are “rich” sources. Cancer kids injected with HSCs harvested from these latter sources do okay; some “have now lived in excess of eight years”. No panacea, then.
Now some HSCs are taken from “tissues of fetal animals”—and this includes human animals. “Gallacher and others reported finding HSCs circulating in the blood of 12- to 18-week aborted human fetuses that was rich in HSCs.” Yet some embryonic stem cells “can now be cultured in the lab”.
Amounts are important. “Doctors are rarely able to extract more than a few million HSCs from a placenta and umbilical cord—too few to use in a transplant for an adult,” but which might be sufficient for a child. From my understanding, sufficient amounts cannot be taken from aborted babies for direct use in therapy or transplants, although any amount can be used in research.
Those are the facts. Now the morals. Killing an enwombed baby is taking the life of an innocent human being, and it is therefore immoral (and sinful) no matter what. In the past—and this is important—the bodies of the slaughtered were used in research, and this research led to knowledge of how to culture stem cells in the absence of fresh meat.
Some conclusions can now be had. If a therapy directly uses aborted babies, it is immoral. I mean, if your doctor, at your behest, put in an order at Planned Parenthood for such-and-such number of corpses for use in your therapy, it is immoral. You cannot kill an innocent to save your life. If a therapy indirectly uses aborted babies such that corpses are required to “tune” research for your therapy, it is immoral. For instance, your replacement HSC source are not aborted corpses, but these are needed in the process to test this or that, then the therapy is immoral.
Now some knowledge already exists because of previous abortions. Using this knowledge is not immoral, as long as it does not provide temptation (for you or others) to collect new corpses to gain new knowledge. Those who order murders are as immoral as murderers. The same argument holds for stem cell cultures that might have, in the past, originated in baby corpses. As long as this happened before, without your desire for it, and it won’t create temptation or facilitate the occasion of future killing, then you’re acting morally.
Of course, there’s a fine line there. I’m not sure where exactly to draw it generally. What causes sufficient temptation depends on the individual circumstance.
The therapies provided by HSC replacement do not always lead to greatly extended life over conventional drug therapies, and they often provide no additional benefit. Also, all of the therapies that I have been able to discover here in the USA do not directly use blood taken from aborted corpses. If this is right, you can’t be tempted. Blood taken from babies that died naturally (miscarriages or other misfortunes) can be used. Note also that even if HSC therapy gave complete remission, it changes nothing above.
Do not despair. Many myelomas, it seems, are not painful and some, at early stages, do not require treatment. I’m not giving you medical advice nor am I advising you to avoid seeking a physician. I’m sure the readers of this blog will say a prayer for you.