Pro-lifers have long warned that there are many ugly reasons for pursuing research on embryos. The cosmetics industry is one such reason. It has long relished creating beauty products from aborted foetuses. A recent article in London’s Daily Mail (August 7, 2006) by Andrea Thompson is yet another expose of this sordid trade.
Entitled, “A barbaric kind of beauty,” the author looks at how fashionable Western women are paying big bucks to reduce the effects of ageing. And they are travelling around the world to avail themselves of products made in the most unethical of ways.
She speaks of one 52-year-old English housewife who is availing herself of this nonsurgical treatment. “She doesn’t care if the treatment is expensive, involves babies and is so controversial that it is not allowed to be performed in this country – among her well-heeled friends, this is the ultimate new elixir of youth.”
She continues, “The attractive brunette has opted for a controversial stem- cell therapy where umbilical cord tissue from new-born babies will be injected into her body. It may seem distasteful, but thousands of women have already done it and it is organised by a seemingly respectable British clinic then carried out in Rotterdam, Holland, where rules regarding stemcell therapies are not so strict.”
And as is often the case, big money is involved: “Stem-cell therapy has been big business for beauty doctors since medics discovered the strong healing and rejuvenating potential of stem cells for medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But there has also been a furious ethical debate.”
The debate of course centres on the need to kill the embryo in order to extract the stem cells. Not all countries have the same guidelines on this process. “In Britain, stem-cell research is governed by strict ethical considerations – it is limited to registered institutions using cells from embryos up to 14 days old or aborted foetuses donated to science. But it has proved difficult to police clinics abroad and it is here that many people go for a range of stem-cell treatments, with a whole industry happy to cater for their needs.”
Indeed, the promises and hype are endless: “Such unregulated companies have mushroomed across the globe offering ‘aesthetic stem-cell therapies’ at exorbitant prices to anyone willing to pay. They claim that stem cells have the ability to rejuvenate the body and renew the cells, not just to produce younger, smoother skin, but increased sex drive and energy.”
The promise of a fountain of youth is mainly a pipe dream: “But scientists agree that further research is required to substantiate the claim that injecting stem cells can diminish wrinkles or reverse the signs of ageing.”
Thompson goes on to examine five such ‘clinics’ around the world: in Moscow, New York, Rotterdam, Barbados and the Dominican Republic. Many of these clinics are based in tourist spots, so wealthy Westerners can circumvent stricter laws back home, and seek the over-hyped treatment.
In Barbados the treatment of anti-ageing stem-cell injections made from aborted foetal tissue costs £15,000. “The past 12 months have seen this popular holiday resort become the stem-cell capital of the developed world, treating hundreds of patients in a year.”
She continues, “The upmarket clinic opened last year in one of the island’s most luxurious hotels – Villa Nova – after Ukrainian stem-cell researchers, who have been secretly pioneering stem-cell studies with aborted human foetuses for 20 years, teamed up with U.S. investors backed by the Caribbean tourist industry.”
Not everyone is impressed. There are voices condemning this practice. But the spin doctors keep the hype going: “Despite criticism from Church leaders and religious groups on the Island, Barnett Suskind, chief executive of IRM, is unapologetic about the treatment he carries out. ‘It is the most natural form of healing there is – in ten years, everyone will be doing this’.”
A Moscow clinic (one of about 50 in Russia) also charges around £15,000. But there is a dark side to all this, as with most of the clinics around the world. A growing trade in babies is taking place in order to allow the practice to flourish: “Russia and the Ukraine currently top the world abortion league, with more of the operations carried out here than anywhere else on earth. Evidence gathered by the Moscow police department has shown a growing black market in aborted foetuses, which are smuggled into Russia from the Ukraine and Georgia.”
This is sickening stuff: “Here, poverty-stricken young women are paid 200 U.S. dollars to carry babies up to the optimum eight to 12-week period – thought to be best for harvesting stem cells. They are then sold on to cosmetic clinics.”
This article makes for gut-wrenching reading. But this is just the sort of practice that we have been warning about for years. While all talk about curing disease, in truth much of the demand for embryo research is for this sort of activity.
The way to beat it is to declare a moratorium on all embryonic research. And part of the way that will happen is to get this sort of information out to the wider public.