What is the value of human life? Is our existence measured by our ability to throw a ball, paint a picture, or move a crowd to action? Does the yardstick by which our worth is measured include the number of our Facebook friends, or the popularity of our website?
Can it be gauged by the books we have written, or the awards and accolades we have garnered? Can our worth be measured by the amount of money we amass, or the size of our home? Or eschewing earthly trappings, should we turn instead to greeting- card philosophy and measure the value of a life by good works, charitable actions, the people we love and who love us, and by the other lives we have touched?
Chances are good that if we were to query any sizable sample of people as to what gives life value, we would get any number of combinations of the above answers.
But does a life, even a life unfulfilled have intrinsic value? Can we measure the value of any life by the mark it makes up on the world and the trail, both physical and metaphysical a person leaves in his wake? Does a life only have value if it leaves a measurable impact upon the world? How do we measure value?
Recently, the issue has resurfaced over the use of HEK 293 by a company called Semonyx. The opinions about HEK293 cover the gamut. In a nutshell, HEK 293 stands for Human Embryonic Kidney, Experiment 293. It is a line of cells developed from a fetus back in the 1970’s in Holland. The latest debate involves the use of HEK 293 to test the efficacy and side effects of additives to various sodas, candies and in some cases, vaccines. I blanched a little bit when heard about the process, and many are up in arms about the idea.
The rumor that will not die is that HEK 293 is added to various drinks and treats to make them tastier, and perhaps healthier to consume. That is not the case. No one is adding fetal cells or tissue of any kind to anything being consumed by people. There however is a great degree of consensus on the matter that the original cells were taken from an aborted baby.
Proponents point out that it is not as it if a steady stream of babies is being harvested to provide these cells and that they are clones of the original that was used over 30 years ago, and hence it is no big deal. Some cite the medical advances made from the use of such cells, others note that some have gone so far as to say waste not want not, the fetus was dead already, why not put its organs to good use? I myself am an organ donor, and after I’m gone, whatever medical science or people in need can find, they can have. But note: I made the choice to hand over my innards at the moment of death.