British Scientist Robert Edwards, a retired professor at the University of Cambridge, England has been named as the Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine.
He is being recognized for his achievement in developing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) which led to the first so-called “test-tube baby” in 1978. The Nobel Award Committee noted that nearly 4 million have been born since IVF’s inception and that Edwards “contributions represent a milestone in the development of modern medicine.”
There is no doubt that Robert Edwards advanced a new era in the area of human reproduction but to award him a prize for this development without considering the considerable negative side-effects is unfortunate. The Nobel Committee either ignored or forgot the controversial and unethical side effects of IVF such as marketing of immature egg cells, freezers full of frozen embryos waiting to be adopted or serve as science experiments for immoral medical research. As Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy of Life, noted in his comments on the notorious selection of Edwards, “the extraction and trade of human eggs and the number of frozen embryos that end up being abandoned or left to die all represent a problem for which the newly awarded Nobel winner is responsible.”
The church has long taught that IVF is immoral because it separates procreation from the conjugal act in marriage and because the unused embryos that result from IVF are so often discarded and thus violate the teaching that the human person is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception. While IVF has brought joy and happiness to many couples who have used it to conceive children, the cost to human dignity is too great. The use of IVF has resulted, according to the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, in “a culture where human embryos are regarded as commodities rather than the precious individuals they are.”
The awarding of a Nobel Prize is usually an occasion of great joy and pride in highlighting the significant achievements and contributions of individuals to our world through literature, science, arts, medicine and politics. However, what should be an occasion of joy has become an occasion for great consternation and dismay due to the controversial and immoral results of this new medical development created by Robert Edwards. Yes, Dr. Edwards opened a door to a brave new world in medicine but in doing so he also opened a door for a medicine that has led directly to attacks upon the respect for human life and human dignity that is due every human being made in God’s image and likeness. Clearly such a dubious distinction should not be a highlight to be praised but rather a low point to be passionately condemned if ever we are to truly build up the culture of life and a civilization of love in our world.