Ethics Statements

Share This    

Human Hybrids and Chimeras Position Statement

Science has developed the capability to create novel organisms by combining cells or tissues (chimeras) or genetic information (hybrids) from different species. The creation of novel organisms that combine human and animal living cells or human and animal genetic material raises moral concerns not only regarding individual patients but also the whole of humanity and the human future.

CMDA believes that a distinct moral boundary separates human from nonhuman animal life. This boundary is not definable by cognitive, physical or genetic criteria alone. God established this boundary when he created humankind in his own image. God granted humankind alone a spiritual nature and gave humankind responsibility and dominion over all other creatures, which, by his design, reproduce according to their own kind. We must respect the created and clear boundary between humankind and animals.

Nonhuman animals are a valuable resource for medicine. From animals medical science has acquired knowledge about cellular and organ function, gained insights into genetics, and developed models of human disease and drug effects. For example, from animals we obtain transplantable heart valves that save human lives. CMDA recognizes valid ethical frameworks for each of these enterprises, which derive benefit for humankind from the anatomical, biochemical, genetic and physiological similarities that humans and nonhuman animals share as earthly creatures.

Ethical Guidelines

  1. As Christians and as medical professionals, we are bound to actively seek the spiritual and physical well being of all humankind.
  2. The use of research and technology must be guided and limited by ethical principles. There is no unlimited or unrestricted technological imperative.
  3. There are compelling moral reasons to refrain from applying biotechnology to create chimeras or hybrid organisms that are partly human and partly nonhuman. These reasons include:
  • Humankind alone was created in God’s Image.
    • We are not to desecrate the image of God by reducing a human being to animal status.
    • We are never to elevate animals to human status.
    • We are not to create intermediate or indeterminate species sharing human and animal genetic material.
  • Humankind alone has the unique capacity to enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ his Son. Because human dignity is not wholly reducible to cellular matter or fully determined by genes, some limited combinations of cellular or genetic material across species lines may be ethically permissible (see Appendix). However, there are certain human characteristics that are inviolate and should not be blended with animal characteristics. We must not compromise that which makes us human. Fundamentally this includes the ability to know God and may encompass such characteristics as human reasoning, free will, and sexuality. The formation of human organisms that have nonhuman progenitors or are capable of generating nonhuman offspring is an affront to God, his created order, and his image within us.
  • It is not permissible to use human subjects for research purposes without disclosure and informed and voluntary consent.
  • In matters this consequential, full disclosure and discussion should extend to society as a whole. Societal consent, however, does not determine moral acceptability.
  • Preventing harm to human beings is a moral mandate. The potential consequences of human chimera/hybrid research are so far-reaching and troublesome that the most stringent precaution is required. For example:
    • Chimeras and hybrids will enable diseases to cross species lines, bypassing normal barriers and resistance, imperiling both the individual and the species.
    • Transferring genes encoding disease may cause novel virulence, or create new diseases, gravely threatening the host species and public health.
  • We are stewards of the animal kingdom and owe to it our care and concern. Although it is permissible to use animals in experiments designed to improve human care, we must not violate the mandate of stewardship by engaging in cruel or needlessly destructive experiments.
  • The creation in the laboratory of creatures or species with novel sentience would place upon society moral obligations for which we are unprepared.
  • Moral problems are not resolved by terminating the life of the chimera prior to the emergence of any particular stage of development.
  • Moral problems are not nullified by anticipated scientific or medical gains.

Conclusion

CMDA endorses ethical chimeric and hybrid research and technology designed for the benefit of humankind, provided that these are safe and do not degrade the unique status of humankind.

CMDA opposes chimeric and hybrid research and technology that fundamentally alters human nature as designed by God.

Approved by the House of Representatives
Passed with 52 approvals and 2 abstentions
June 20, 2008, Chicago, Illinois

Download file Human Hybrids and Chimeras Position Statement