Re "Bible Guides Senate on Stem Cell Studies," July 19: The Senate is trying to decide when "life" begins? This is an example of the type of question that politicians should not touch. Moral questions cannot be answered by political groups. Indeed, the question of when life begins has been around for millenniums and has a variety of answers. Some believe that the sex act itself is when life begins, while others think it's when the sperm and egg join. Still others think life begins when the embryo loses its tail and pig-like nose and begins to resemble a human.
I've read that life begins when certain chemical reactions cause a heartbeat-like vibration to start. A lot of people think that life begins when the fetus is capable of surviving outside the womb, while others stick with simplicity and say that life begins at birth.
The answer to the question is moral and personal and changes over time and culture. Still, I like what my grandparents had to say: "Life begins when the kids go off to college and the dog dies."
I have been following the debate over embryonic stem cell research. My mother lived with Parkinson's disease for 37 years until her death in 1998. And my husband was diagnosed with this illness in 1983. I have witnessed its destructive toll firsthand.
When Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) refers to embryos, he speaks of the "dignity of the young human." What about the dignity of someone like my dear mom, who was unable to walk, dress or feed herself, who lost her ability to speak, who suffered from dementia, who eventually needed a feeding tube? Her life was ultimately a living hell. Where was her dignity?
I urge opponents to change their thinking, to look upon this issue not as the destruction of life but as the potential return of life to millions of people who struggle daily to maintain their dignity as they live with devastating and degenerative illness.
If wanted, an embryo is called a child. If not wanted, an embryo is simply an undifferentiated mass of cells. As a Buddhist, I believe in karma. We create our destiny by many lifetimes of making causes both positive and negative. These causes determine our battles in this lifetime. Often these battles come in the form of serious illness, illnesses that may ultimately enable a person to develop greater emotional and spiritual strength.
While no one wants to suffer or to see their loved ones suffer, to sacrifice life in any form--and let's not kid ourselves that these embryos are not life--is perhaps the greatest form of greed. I shudder at the karma this wholesale killing is bound to create.
Penelope Helenick Addy