12, June 2000
By the Oomoto Foundation
In Japan, the Subcommittee for Human Embryo Research under the Bioethics Commission belonging to the Council for Science Technology (advisory body of the prime minister) submitted a report to the Bioethics Commission. The report recommended permitting such medical research to use and produce the embryonic stem cells (called omnipotent cells) from human fertilized ovum, with conditions attached. The Commission approved the content of the report. Receiving this approval, the Agency of Science and Technology is in the midst of making a guideline for research involving ES cells.
At the same time, the Bioethics Commission is making a reasonable procedure to prohibit by law producing “cloned humans”, but the Commission is expressing that “it is not indispensable for the research of ES cells to impose legal controls”. However, we cannot easily agree with the above view, because it means to violate the dignity of human life when the human fertilized ovum is destroyed as an object of a study in medical experimentation, in order to produce the ES cells, even if it is used for practical application to medical treatment.
Onisaburo Deguchi, co-founder of Oomoto, taught us that offspring (soul’s seed) of celestial beings descend into the physical world (human bodies) at the moment of conception, so we recognize that the beginning of human life is the moment when human ovum is fertilized. That is to say, it can be explained embryologically as follows: In a fertilized ovum after sperm enter into the ovum, “the moment when the membranes of the nuclei of both the sperm and the ovum are in solution to create an original gene construction.” From a spiritual view, we can say that “it is the moment when a new and rarefied spiritual life (soul’s seed) descends”. This soul’s seed gradually grows up to be a spiritually full grown soul, together with its physical growth. The soul’s seed is in a stage of very rarefied spiritual life, yet the seed already has a spiritual individuality (personality). In other words, the spiritual status of the embryo and fetus is not changed from “nothing” into “being” during the embryological process; they are existing constantly and consistently as “being” from the stage of the initial embryo. They have essentially the same spirituality as a grown human being, as well as the same dignity of life as a person. A new life, implying individual personality, begins at the moment of fertilization. Therefore, we, the Oomoto Foundation, take a stand strongly against permitting the research of ES cells, which is biomedical experimentation using human fertilized ovum.
Germany, France and other countries prohibited such research by law, from the point of view that “human life is already residing in the fertilized ovum”. Also, the United States is prohibiting expenditure for such research by the law related to the federal budget. At present, the research of ES cells is still now a heatedly controversial issue concerning the dignity of human life between scientists and religious people. On the contrary, in Japan, there are no legal controls as to handling the fertilized ovum, also there has been no controversy or widespread discussion within Japanese society. Nevertheless, the Japanese government was the first in the world to give “permission” in favor of such research. We can’t help being astonished and seriously anxious at such a determination.
In this January, the Agency of Science and Technology of the Japanese government conducted an investigation among Japanese people, inquiring about the moral sense of the research. Over half are opposed to the research, or do not clarify their attitudes toward whether it is right and wrong. Notwithstanding the fact that there is no national consensus on this issue among Japanese people today, the government gave an acknowledgement to promote the research as a national policy, in order to keep up with the international competition of the research. Such policy is only a rough-and-ready (ad hoc) decision. Careful deliberation about such research should immediately be commenced, and include in the discussion religionists and philosophers.
The ES cells are regarded as a new hope for a source of supply for the medical transplantation of internal organs in chronically short supply, but the reproductive technology implies discontinuation of life, because a fertilized ovum is destroyed when using the technology (we don’t mention here the regenerative medicine utilizing patient’s own somatic stem cells). They say that the fertilized ovums used in the research are supplied from “unnecessary and extra” ovum produced by external fertilization for infertility therapy (we don’t mention here the moral sense of the external fertilization). However, even though these ovums are “unnecessary and extra”, they should not be used for other purposes, and also should not be abandoned as waste matter. They should be buried in the earth with due respect, because the ovum is conceiving an initial individuality of human life.
The ES cells are being examined for use in the development of medicines, toxic experimentation, genome project, and so on by private and for profit enterprises. These utilitarian practices could be connected to a kind of “human experimentation”, or “commercialization of human life”. We are seriously apprehensive about the future, that is to say, such affirmation of these inhumane practices further expand the more materialistic aspects of humanity, and negligence of human life, both of which are bases of present social problems, and devastation of human minds the world over.
Furthermore, medical specialists are pointing out unknown dangers regarding the research of ES cells in the future; therefore, lots of problems are still remaining, to be considered carefully, regarding the risks involved in the research. In this situation, it is a matter for deep regret that the government did not formally consult the religious segment of society on this bioethical issue, in spite of its intrinsic problems with respect to human life. We, the Oomoto Foundation, seriously request that the government fundamentally reconsider all the research using human fertilized ovum including ES cells, in order to eliminate the sources of serious misgiving on humankind in the future, by broadly seeking views on this subject from religious society.