Debate over the morality of fetal tissue and organ transplants has moved from laboratories to legislatures.
She was named Theresa Ann Campo Pearson, but in the nine brief days of her life this spring, the nation came to know her simply as “Baby Theresa.” Born with a condition called anencephaly, she had no skull above the forehead, no upper brain, and no chance of living more than a few days.
Baby Theresa’s parents wanted her organs donated to save the lives of other critically ill children. But if doctors were to wait until Baby Theresa’s brain stem finally stopped working her heart and lungs, her organs would deteriorate too badly to be transplanted. So Baby Theresa’s parents petitioned the courts to allow her vital organs to be taken before she died, hastening her impending death.
But two Florida courts denied the request, ruling that because Theresa’s brain stem was still functioning, she did not meet existing state requirements that a patient be “brain dead” before organs are removed. On March 30, before the Florida Supreme Court could rule on the case, Baby Theresa died.
In the wake of her death, the national debate she ignited continues. Would taking her organs have amounted to a gift of life for another child, bringing good out of a tragic situation? Or would it be murderous “baby harvesting,” a grisly example of the end justifying the means?
Less than a week after Baby Theresa died, similar issues were raised in Congress as the Senate considered whether to lift a ban on federally funded medical research using fetal tissues obtained from induced abortions. In defending the ban, Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary James Mason spoke of the current situation in Europe, where he said medical researchers are extracting ...1
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