More MS news articles for July 2001

Stem-Cell Script a Real Horror Movie

July 8, 2001

THE controversy over stem-cell research has me thinking of a summer movie classic. It's a love story many people have forgotten, but the time seems right for a remake.

In the film, a husband and wife find their lives shattered when she contracts multiple sclerosis. The poor woman eventually asks her husband to end her ordeal, which he does, with poison.

At his murder trial, the husband publicly attacks "outdated" laws and a morality that purports to honor the dignity of life, but which makes the sick suffer. The judge and jury sympathize, agreeing that he is a hero.

This three-hanky weeper, titled "I Accuse," was wildly popular when it was released 60 years ago this summer - in Nazi Germany.

It was produced by the Third Reich's propaganda machine to turn public opinion in favor of Hitler's euthanasia program. Charles Chaput, the Catholic archbishop of Denver, calls the film "the classic example of how compassion can be manipulated to justify mass killing."

It's happening again this summer. President Bush is facing a tough decision over making federal funds available for research on stem cells taken from human embryos, which are destroyed in the process.

Those who back the research point to the potential for curing devastating diseases. But opponents say no benefit justifies taking innocent human life.

This used to be the view of stalwart pro-life Republicans like Sens. Gordon Smith, Strom Thurmond and Orrin Hatch, and former Sen. Connie Mack.

But now, moved by accounts of suffering within their own families, these men have decided that taking the life of unborn human beings for purposes that suit them is OK after all.

"I consider the sanctity of life paramount in my religious values and in my political principles," Mack has written. "[But] I think of my brother" - who died of cancer - and Mack realizes this research must continue.

This intellectual incoherence is a breathtaking moral surrender to the logic of abortion rights, which holds that the desires of the living are the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong regarding the fate of the unborn.

Compassion for the sick is required, of course, but we cannot make public policy regarding matters so grave based on sentiment, however worthy.

If human life begins at conception, then reason demands its defense.

In 1934, the cardinal archbishop of Munich warned that good and evil were being determined on the basis of what served society's interest.

Six years later, a Protestant bishop wrote to a Reich official that the state's declaring that life is not sacred would have a terrible effect on personal morality.

"There is no stopping on this slippery slope," the bishop wrote. "God is not mocked. What we consider to be an advantage, he may let become a curse." We know now how this terrible prophecy was fulfilled.

This, not opinion polls and personal testimony, is what President Bush should be meditating on as he makes his decision. History has not been kind to those leaders and societies who sacrificed the weak for the supposed good of the strong.