If you are reading this blog, you have been on the Internet long enough to know about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - where people dump cold water over their heads, challenge three friends to do the same, and donate to the ALS Association. While I may accept a challenge, I won't donate to ALSA.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive degenerative neuromuscular disease that results in death. We need to find a cure and the phenomena of the Ice Bucket Challenge has been nothing short of amazing in raising awareness and funding for research. I don't have a problem with that. What I cannot support, however, is research that involves the use of embryonic stem cells - those are stem cells from aborted babies or embryos artificially created (in vitro).
Abortion is wrong - it is the killing of an innocent life. Period. On the other side of the spectrum, humans are creating life in vitro, probably with the goal of becoming parents. The problem with the in vitro process is the dilemma of the "extra" ones - whether they are selectively aborted after implantation or discarded because they are not used. In both cases the child's fundamental right to life is discounted. By using embryonic stem cells for research, we compound the ethical challenges. We cannot play God.
It is not ethical to use a human being as a product. Selling organs is unethical (and illegal in the United States). Donating blood or an organ to save the life of another is great as long as we all (including the donor) respect the donor's life. People can't donate their hearts while they are still in use. When we challenge a person's right to life by accepting that his parts might be more important than his life, we have reached new levels of societal collapse. We are one small step away from marketing embryos explicitly created for medical research, selectively choosing whose life is expendable for parts (the mentally ill, disabled or elderly) or allowing someone to commit suicide because he is more valuable dead than alive. The means don't justify the ends no matter how promising medical research or transplantation is.
So, what's an ALS Ice Bucket Challenged person to do? Donate to a charity that supports ethical medical research. I will donate (with or without the bucket of ice water) to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa. They focus on ethical ways to use adult stem cells and cancer cells for research on a number of diseases, including ALS. They also use more than half of their budget on the actual research.
Let's also pray for an end to all debilitating and life ending diseases.