One of the thornier issues that arise from our increasing technical knowledge involve the rights of embryos. Today, a friend pointed out an article that shocked me -- Great Britain is planning on allowing its scientists to create human based chimeras.
According to an article in the Telegraph entitled Chimera embryos have right to life, say bishops, by Jonathan Price, draft legislation in the U.K. would allow scientists to create "human-animal hybrid embryos" - "so-called 'chimeras'" in their laboratories for research "as long as they destroy them within two weeks."
Now, I personally don't believe that such chimeras should be created at all. I don't care if it they are created for scientific research because they call for the creation of a new type of human being -- one that is mixed with a non-human. Regardless of my religious beliefs, the idea of intentionally creating such chimeras simply strikes me as mad-scientist-type behavior.
Moreover, it raises issues involving humanness and the life to right: if the chimera is half-human, does it have the right to life? The article says that the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church say that even half-human chimeras should retain that right as fully as any other non-chimera human.
But the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, in a submission to the Parliamentary joint committee scrutinising the draft legislation, said that the genetic mothers of “chimeras” should be able to raise them as their own children if they wished.
The bishops said that they did not see why these “interspecies” embryos should be treated any differently than others.
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The bishops, who believe that life begins at conception, said that they opposed the creation of any embryo solely for research, but they were also anxious to limit the destruction of such life once it had been brought into existence.
In their submission to the committee, they said: "At the very least, embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and should be treated accordingly.
"In particular, it should not be a crime to transfer them, or other human embryos, to the body of the woman providing the ovum, in cases where a human ovum has been used to create them.
"Such a woman is the genetic mother, or partial mother, of the embryo; should she have a change of heart and wish to carry her child to term, she should not be prevented from doing so."
Wow, what a mess. Sometimes our great technology drives us forward into areas of philosophy, sociology and theology faster than we can handle. This is one area that the United Kingdom should hesitate to legitimize without thinking long, hard and carefully about the implications accompanying creating half-human beings.