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Stem Cells: Jewish Values and Stem Cell Research

Jewish Values and Stem Cell Research

Jewish tradition teaches us that preserving life and promoting health are among the most precious of values. These values have informed our affirmative commitment to medical science throughout the ages. Judaism has always encouraged scientific and medical advances. As Nachmanides taught, the practice of healing is not merely a profession, it is a mitzvah, a righteous obligation. A recent CCAR responsum applies this principle to human stem cell research: "If we define the administration of lifesaving medical therapy as pikuach nefesh, we should not forget that physicians could not save lives were it not for the extensive scientific research upon which our contemporary practice of medicine is based. Since research into human stem cells partakes of the mitzvah of healing, surely our society ought to support it" (CCAR Responsum 5761.7, Human Stem Cell Research, Rabbi Mark Washofsky). Indeed, our tradition requires that we use all available knowledge to heal the ill, and "when one delays in doing so, it is as if he has shed blood" (Shulchan Aruch, Yorei De`ah 336:1)