Classifying embryonic human beings as “substances of human origin” erases the fundamental difference between embryos and other human cells. Unlike a skin cell or a blood cell, a zygote of an embryo is a whole, separate, valuable human being. Ignoring or disregarding that fundamental distinction is to remove all barriers from any person, born or unborn, being considered a mere “substance of human origin.” Part of what is driving the increased interest in harvesting fetal tissue and embryos for use in medical treatment is to address what’s been billed as an “organ shortage crisis.”
Late last month, a large majority of Members of the European Parliament (MEP) voted to pass a regulation that will protect the donation and destruction of so-called “substances of human origin” for the sake of “patient health.” According to European media service Euractive, the regulation is intended to “set a framework to provide donors and patients with a future-proof and harmonised system for transplants and donations.” However, a group of European Union Catholic bishops warns that the language of “substances of human origin” (or SoHOs) includes not only donated blood or tissues from adults, but also embryos and fetuses.
The language is so broad, according to the bishops, not only would the donation of unwanted, artificially inseminated embryos and unfertilized cells be permitted, but also unwanted, naturally conceived preborn children prior to viability. And, because the regulation requires special steps to ensure that “genetic conditions” not be transmitted to SoHO recipients and offspring, the regulation could give researchers and practitioners license to destroy embryos with, say, Down syndrome or other disabilities diagnosed in utero.
Classifying embryonic human beings as “substances of human origin” erases the fundamental difference between embryos and other human cells. Unlike a skin cell or a blood cell, a zygote of an embryo is a whole, separate, valuable human being.