I asked myself this question as I sat in my office preparing to testify before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health regarding stem cell research. It was a daunting task, trying to convince this committee that they should include prohibition of research on embryonic stem cells in the government’s proposed Bill C-13 (now C-6), An Act respecting human assisted reproduction and related research (passed and given Royal Assent on March 29, 2004).
What would I say? What was my position? Not wanting to risk spouting off rhetoric I had absorbed throughout a life of evangelical indoctrination, I started from scratch and got to the heart of the matter: when does human life begin? There is a vast diversity of opinion on this question. Several physical and time-based criteria are used to signify the start of life. What tipped the balance for me was more of a spiritual or metaphysical criterion; the acquisition of a soul. Although we do not often hear of this criterion, it should be considered since 83.5 per cent of Canadians identify with a religion that professes belief in a human soul. The definition of the start of human life is important since destruction of human embryos—and therefore human life—is central to the issue of stem cell research.
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