Pope Francis has urged scientists not to take part in a “throwaway culture” by destroying human embryos in the search for a cure to Huntington’s disease.
“We know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos,” the Pope said yesterday.
“In many cases, the sick and their families have experienced the tragedy of shame, isolation and abandonment,” Pope Francis said to a group of people living with Huntington’s Disease, their families, neuroscientists, researchers and caretakers.
“Today, however, we are here because we want to say to ourselves and all the world: ‘HIDDEN NO MORE!’” he said, to an ovation by those present.
These words, Francis said, are pronounced with a conviction derived from Jesus who, throughout his ministry, “met many sick people; he took on their suffering; he tore down the walls of stigma and of marginalization that prevented so many from feeling respected and loved.”
In his remarks, the Pope addressed each of those present specifically, with words for the patients and their families, but also for the doctors who treat them and the geneticists and scientists who “sparing no energy” have spent their lives studying and researching a treatment for Huntington’s Disease.
Huntington’s is an inherited disorder that results in the death of brain cells. Although the symptoms may vary from one patient to the other, it affects mental abilities, generates a lack of coordination, and as it advances, uncoordinated, jerky body movements become more apparent.
Physical abilities gradually worsen until coordinated movement becomes difficult, making it impossible for the patients to speak. The mental ability of many decline into dementia.
Pope Francis told geneticists and scientists that “there is a great deal of expectation” regarding their work, since on it rests the hopes of finding a way to cure the disease, but also of improving the living conditions of those suffering from Huntington’s.
However, he said, finding the cure must be done in a way that doesn’t fuel the “throw-away culture” that at times “infiltrates even the world of scientific research.”
“Some branches of research, in fact, utilize human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction,” the pope said. “But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos.”
The is not the first time Francis has spoken out against embryonic stem cell research. In his 2015 environment encyclical Laudato Si, he decried “a tendency” within the field of science “to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos.”
“We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development,” he said, adding that once technology disregards ethical principles, “it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit.”
“When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.”
Once the human being seeks absolute dominion, the foundations of our life “begin to crumble,” the Pope said in Laudato Si, so that instead of cooperating with God, man puts himself in God’s place “and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature.”