BBC Wales - Wednesday Word
21st May 2008
During the last couple of days our MPs have been busy debating and voting on the many tricky issues regarding human embryos when it comes to research, reproduction and abortion. On Monday, they voted to allow the creation of human and animal hybrid embryos for scientific purposes as well as what are termed “saviour siblings”, the cloning of an identical twin for someone who needs a match of body tissue to cure a disease. And last night, they voted to retain the upper limit for abortions at 24 weeks.
There is no doubt that these are complex matters and there’s a wide range of opinions. Many religious leaders have claimed that tampering with human and animal cells to create a hybrid is a step too far. Whilst I agree that we should be extremely cautious in meddling with new life forms, the Hindu faith isn’t against IVF or even the idea of “saviour siblings”. However, it does recommend that we always give proper regard to the sanctity of life in all its forms and at every stage of its existence.
Last Saturday, we commemorated the foolishness of King Hiranyakasipu who was obsessed with warding off disease and death. He followed a rigorous lifestyle; he protected himself from all danger and he had minsters and doctors working to look after him. Sure enough, he prospered and seemed invincible. But, in his paranoia and obsession, the king began to believe he was in danger from his own son and he tried to have him killed. It was this madness that led to his inevitable downfall.
In trying to improve and save himself, he could no longer see the value of his own child’s life.
I worry that we might be in the same situation. I’m all for scientific and medical research – it has brought us enormous benefits. But, let’s be consistent: making progress shouldn’t be at the expense of any life. How can we improve the quality of our own lives, if we fail to honour and respect life in its most vulnerable condition – the newly-formed embryo, the child in the womb?
The brilliance of human life is not in our ability to know and discover things; it is that we have a developed spirit – an ability to understand the needs of others and a willingness to try to help them. If we keep that principle in front of us, then I’m sure we can find a way to carry out whatever research is necessary so that it not only brings us scientific and medical innovation, but it also promotes the best of our human qualities – kindness, compassion and a respect for all life.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Wednesday Word” on BBC Radio Wales.