However, the topic of whether it is right to gain some good from something which is wrong is thrown up once more from this news story. I found the following article on the website Catholic Stand by JoAnna Wahlund which helps us with the debate.
Planned Parenthood has vehemently defended its practice of selling (yes, selling) the body parts and tissue of aborted babies to biomedical companies for use in scientific research. (In fact, Catholic Stand’s Editor Emeritus, Dr. Stacy Trasancos, has already written several articles detailing how the practice of using aborted fetal tissue for research has been quietly ongoing for decades).
What has baffled me is the response of so many people, including some Catholics, who say that while abortion was horrible, at least these babies didn’t die in vain. Does it really make sense, the argument goes, to “waste” all those valuable fetal organs and tissue just because they came from a victim of abortion?
In an article for the Washington Post, Bill Leinweber, President of the National Disease Research Interchange, echoes these sentiments: “We wouldn’t be where we are today in much of medicine without the use of human tissue. […] The important concept we strive to convey to folks is: Any donation of organ or tissue for research should be cherished as a gift.”
Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson also said, in response to allegations that he had participated in a study involving the use of aborted fetal tissue samples, “To not use the tissue that is in a tissue bank, regardless of where it comes from, would be foolish. Why would anybody not do that?”
These quotes reminded me of the words of another doctor, one who, like Dr. Ben Carson, was studying diseases of the brain:
“…those brains offered wonderful material, of mentally poor, deformities and early children’s diseases. Of course I accepted the brains. It really wasn’t my concern where they came from and how they were brought to me…”
Sounds very similar to what Leinweber and Carson said, right?
That particular quote was said by Dr. Julius Hallervorden during the Nuremberg Trials. Dr. Hallervorden was a Nazi scientist who experimented on the brains of Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Keep in mind that during that time it was perfectly legal under German law to kill Jews, thanks to the Nazi regime. Given it was legal to kill Jews, it seemed silly to Dr. Hallervorden to let their corpses go to waste. And indeed, Dr. Hallervorden and a colleague, Hugo Spatz (also a Nazi) discovered, through their research, Hallervorden-Spatz syndrome (now called Pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration).
Were Dr. Hallervorden et al smart and sensible to make use of the “material” legally “donated” to them, regardless of the origin? If not, why is there widespread acceptance of the use of aborted fetal tissue for medical research – especially by those who profess to oppose abortion? Would it have made a difference if the Jews were unborn?
The Washington Post article cited above, and this New York Times article, spill much virtual ink telling us how important fetal tissue is for research purposes. However, one key principle in medical ethics (or any kind of ethics) is this: the end does not justify the means.
The End Does Not Justify the Means
In other words, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “One may never do evil so that good may result from it.”
It doesn’t matter if aborted fetal tissue cured cancer, Alzheimer’s, made the blind see and the lame walk. It’s simply not moral or ethical to use the corpses of unjustly murdered human beings to advance medical research — especially when the human beings in question are murdered for profit (and the company that murders them further profits by selling the organs, tissue, limbs, and sometimes intact bodies).