Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Christians, Vaccines, and Moral Complicity (Part 1: Are we gaining life at the cost of death?)

So I started writing this while preparing to leave the US for a class in Feb. 2016. And this has brought a certain issue up in my mind: "Do I get the vaccines for Hep A and B before I go?" This is a question, because there is a particular moral question about vaccines that concerns me as I think about what I should do.

First of all, before I go on any further, let me tell you what this post is not about:

    1) it is not about whether vaccines as a concept are good or bad...because they are clearly good (no one I'm aware of is a fan of dying for no reason nor is suicide or killing someone by neglect anything close to what God calls Christians to do)

    2) it is not about whether there may be some medical risks associated with using a vaccine, since obviously all medical treatments involve risk (and thus one could discuss the ratio of risks, but to summarize my thoughts, cost-benefit analysis seems almost always to be in favor of vaccine use)

    3) it is not (at least directly) about whether choosing not to vaccinate puts others at risk (although you and I are responsible for the well being of others, disregarding this is called reckless endangerment or neglect)

Q: So then what are we going to discuss?
A: The relationship of some vaccines and abortion

While most members of the American public and thus most members of the American Christian community are unaware of this issue, it is actually an issue. Apparently, some vaccines, NOT ALL, have had to be developed using human cells to culture the virus in question, because the virus in question did not culture in animal cells well enough to be useful.

This leads us to the question of where exactly researchers got those human cells from to do their research and produce the vaccines we all enjoy the benefits of today. And that is where the vaccine issue arises. And unfortunately the answer is a murdered pre-birth baby.

(That abortion is murder is generally uncontested by the Universal Church, that is to say virtually all Christians agree that it is, if you want to discuss that issue, please comment one of my earlier posts about that issue.)

The way vaccines were produced from human cells was that certain cells were harvested in the 1960s from two aborted babies. Those cells, unlike most human cells, have the ability to replicate indefinitely, whereas most human cells can only replicate about 50 times. It is from those cells' daughter, grand-daughter, great-granddaughter, etc. cells that vaccine researchers produced vaccines by infecting them with a virus and letting the virus adapt to non-normal cell conditions over several viral generations. The result is a virus that is still the same virus but unable to be successful at infecting a real human body.

The human tissue harvested from those two aborted babies continues to generate new cells such that no new human tissue is required. However, the morality of using cells derived from murder for our own benefit is certainly a question worth considering.

Is it moral to benefit from the murder of someone else? Yes and no depending on the circumstances, right?

If you murder someone, you obviously do so for some personal benefit, even if you killed someone just because you could, you are still fulfilling your desire to kill and thus directly benefit from that person's death.

On the other hand, if someone gets murdered and you are given their liver so that you don't die, that is probably just fine, unless you are the one that killed the person to get their liver.

The issue with the fetal tissue is that the persons donating the tissue are the same ones who are killing the child. Moreover, while the tissue was harvested post-abortion, it should be asked whether the researchers solicitation of the tissue contributed to the decision to kill the children.

It is rather like one person telling another that they are going to kill someone, but instead of the other person turning them in or trying to persuade them not to kill the person, that person responds with "Hey, so when you've done it, can you give me their wallet?" or if we wanted to be a bit more grotesque "Hey, so when you're done, can I harvest some organs from the body? I know I could help a lot of people (and make some money in the process) with those parts."

A person like that would likely be considered some sort of accomplice in court even though that person never personally killed the victim. Moreover, if a person was still wavering on their decision to kill, it is very possible that the knowledge that the murder could have medical benefits derived from it would push the decision towards murder.

The question is whether that short story is the best parallel to the way vaccine researchers acquired the tissue they would use to produce a number of very helpful vaccines.

Obviously it would be best if all vaccines were made with non-human tissue, or rather made with tissue not acquired via an immoral act. Unfortunately that is not the case, although as Christians, we should advocate for that to become the reality.

However, we obviously have not really settle much of anything here...at least not yet. In the next part we will continue to consider whether users of vaccines share in the moral complicity of the abortion that made them possible by looking at the issue through the parallel of slavery. Hopefully, at this point there is a bit of discomfort simmering within, let's humbly walk together through the process of considering whether that discomfort should be brought to a boil or taken off the heat. 

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