"Every product label known to man touts its so-called purity from 'gluten free' to 'low sodium' to 'free range' to 'without antibiotics' to 'grass fed' to 'halal' to 'kosher' to 'air chilled' to 'low fat' to 'caffeine-free'… but NO product label has ever advertised 'no aborted fetal cell lines have been used in the development or testing of this product.'"
Listening to an Ancient Faith Radio (AFR) Podcast on the Covid-19 vaccines (Part 1), an interview between Fr. John Parker and Dr. Ryan Sampson Nash, reminded me of that feeling you get when the rug is unexpectedly pulled out from under your feet, only in the Twilight Zone. You don’t believe what just happened, but after being momentarily suspended in mid-air, instead of finding yourself back on the floor, you find yourself in an entirely different world.
Fr. John Parker is the Dean of St. Tikhon’s Theological Seminary “where Saints have walked.” He introduced Dr. Ryan Sampson Nash MD MA, as a Medical Doctor and Orthodox Christian who does clinical work in advanced cancer care. He also holds several prestigious positions in the area of Bioethics, in which he also consults.
I was pleased to hear Dr. Nash admit that he is “a sinner” (as everyone is) and is “neither Bishop nor any rank of the clergy.” It is here, I believe, where St. Tikhon’s Theological Seminary made two critical errors. Since Dr. Nash is a not a member of the clergy, an Orthodox Bishop with a strong Orthodox phronema (mindset) and ethos should have been invited to participate in the podcast to balance the secular/scientific and personal opinions of Dr. Nash. No matter how highly credentialed he may be in his field, he spoke as a scientist would speak. The eternal and timeless wisdom of our Holy Orthodox Church was desperately needed and sorely lacking during that interview, since Dr. Nash, despite identifying as “Orthodox,” did not bring an Orthodox perspective to the podcast.
The second error made by the Seminary’s Dean, Fr. John Parker, was to prejudice the podcast in advance by encouraging the listener to “trust” a scientist like Dr. Nash, rather than our God-given Holy Scripture and the teachings of our Holy Church Fathers and Saints, some of whom “walked” at St. Tikhon’s Seminary – “for the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). The reasons given for this “trust” included the medical credentials of Dr. Nash and his claim to be an Orthodox Christian, but the end result of the bias was to elevate the secular altar of science above the divine altar of God – not something one would expect from the dean of an Orthodox Seminary.
These two errors at the outset – promoting the opinions of an (albeit highly educated) lay person before his opinions are even made known, with no Orthodox Theological counter-balance – can only set the stage to bias the listener – an arguably unethical way of presenting a topic in “Bioethics.” In this case, the bias was to present the use of fetal cell lines in the development and/or testing of the Covid-19 vaccines as a moral dilemma of small proportion because we already live in a world tainted with fetal cell lines. In other words, these cells have already been used for several decades in the development and/or testing of other drugs and products making this a well-established practice. Therefore, there is no point in resisting taking a Covid-19 vaccine on these grounds, since the abominable, but pre-existing and far-reaching use of these cell lines, greatly overshadows their use in just one more product (a vaccine), rendering the vaccine of minimal ethical importance. A similar justification was made by Josef Stalin, when he said, “the death of one man is a tragedy, but the death of millions is a statistic.”
This same argument is being used by a hospital system in Arkansas, and by the US Military Coast Guard to deny individuals Covid-19 vaccine exemptions on grounds of religion, ethics or conscience. In the podcast, Dr. Nash echoes the same religious exemption narrative. However, this new narrative is also coming from someone claiming to be an Orthodox Christian, and even from the Orthodox Dean of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.
Chaplain Religious Accommodation Questions – United States Coast Guard
To be fair, perhaps Fr. Parker encouraged the listeners to trust Dr. Nash believing the podcast was going to unfold differently, and perhaps he was just as shocked as I was and couldn’t find the right words to respond right away when Dr. Nash’s message became clearer. It even took me some time to collect and process my own thoughts and reaction to respond myself, which is why this article comes a bit late.
And yet, this is not what pulled the rug out from under my feet, as I have grown wearily accustomed by now to the “new normal” of apostate clergy, corrupt church officials and unethical governments and regulating bodies who scratch each others’ backs.
What threw me into the air was the disclosure that many commonly used drugs, like Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Claritin, Benadryl, Albuterol, Pepto Bismol, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Sudafed, Prilosec, Preparation H and Zoloft – to name a few, because Dr. Nash rattled off several others as well – all involve the use of aborted fetal cell lines! My knee jerk reaction was utter disbelief, followed by a dash to my computer to search the product monographs of some of these products.
Before computers and the Internet made their way into our medical practices, the product monograph of every available drug was meticulously described in the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties (CPS), a Canadian drug reference for health professionals. This reference was a huge tome, about the size of a telephone book, that was updated and circulated each year to provide the most detailed and up-to-date information on all available drugs in Canada, for their safe and appropriate prescribing. It sat on every doctor’s desk as the drug “bible” until the Internet finally replaced it.
All physicians still heavily rely on product monographs to check the nominal details of any drug, but during the 35 years of my medical career, I have never found any mention of fetal cell lines in the product monograph of any drug, except for one hint in the product monograph of Merck’s M-M-R II vaccine – the rubella portion is “propagated in human diploid lung fibroblasts.” A quick Internet search of “human diploid lung fibroblasts” confirms that these cells belong to the WI-38 cell line derived from the lung tissue of a 3-month-gestation aborted female fetus. However, the product monographs of Tylenol, Ibuprofen and so on, make no mention of the use of aborted fetal cell lines. Even if one targets Google with “is Tylenol made using fetal cell lines” or something similar, this information does not come up.
What does come up is an article published in Church Life Journal (of all places) as recently as March 19, 2021, which mentions the HEK293 cell line that Dr. Nash also mentioned in his podcast. The article begins as follows:
We have learned, in the last few months, a lot about the cell line HEK293, derived from the remains of an unborn child in the Netherlands in 1973. Not only is it the most common cell line used in vaccine production and testing (even the synthetic mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer had recourse to it in testing), but it is, apparently, ubiquitous in modern life. Our homes are chock full of products at least tested on HEK293, from drugs (almost all of them, in fact) to processed food to cosmetics. Avoiding every product with any connection whatsoever to HEK293 is virtually impossible.
Just click on the last hyperlink above to read the January 28, 2021 edition of the newsletter Through Catholic Lenses, and you, too, may find yourself falling back down, not on the floor, but in an entirely different reality. You will see a long list of very familiar drugs, including the much talked-about Ivermectin and Remdesivir. By searching “fetal cell lines” on the internet, you will also discover several sites from where anyone can purchase some…for just a few thousand dollars. The more one searches, the more sordid the whole (literal) business of aborted fetal cell lines becomes, something else Dr. Nash failed to mention in his “bioethics” podcast.
I am still reeling from the discovery that we have only just learned about our society’s thoroughly systemic use of fetal cell lines “in the last few months.” And yet, were it not for this AFR podcast and the vaccine exemption statements of the Arkansas hospital system and the US Coast Guard – attempts to render support for the pro-jab narrative in the name of “bioethics” – we would still be in the dark. Thanks to Covid, the systemic and sordid fetal cell business is finally being revealed to the general public, including the average medical professional, such as myself, all because the old narrative had to find a new narrative that could justify the denial of religious vaccine exemption letters to people of conscience.
Aborted fetal cells aside, this whole issue of religious exemptions from the Covid-19 vaccine has uncovered another bioethical problem which Dr. Nash failed to mention – the problem of UNinformed consent. Why is there no readily available product information on the use of aborted fetal cell lines? Why are most of our drugs and products, even essential drugs like insulin, predominantly derived using aborted fetal cell lines in the first place?
Every product label known to man touts its so-called purity from “gluten free” to “low sodium” to “free range” to “without antibiotics” to “grass fed” to “halal” to “kosher” to “air chilled” to “low fat” to “caffeine-free”…but NO product label has ever advertised “no aborted fetal cell lines have been used in the development or testing of this product.” No mention of this detail, when the use of aborted fetal cell lines has become so systemic, is NOT ethical or fair to anyone – not to people of conscience, not to any religious groups, not to vegans or vegetarians, not to anyone.
Even the training of physicians to “inform” their patients on the risks, benefits, efficacy and cost of a prescribed drug involves a type of narrative that has never included a discussion on ethical sourcing, which suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. This whole issue of product development and use based on UNinformed consent was the gaping hole in Dr. Nash’s podcast on “bioethics” that forever altered my reality. I say “gaping hole” because Dr. Nash never mentioned it.
Right behind the gaping hole followed the second issue – Dr. Nash’s suggestion that since we already live in an abortion-tainted society – in other words, since we have all consumed products made using aborted fetal cell lines – now that we have been informed of this shocking reality, we should all realize that there is essentially no difference in taking just one more such product – a Covid-19 vaccine. Is the implication here that if one is opposed to elective abortions, one still bears inherent guilt in the practice of abortion because one has already (unknowingly) benefited one way or another from products made using aborted fetal cells? Does this make those who seek a vaccine exemption on religious grounds hypocrites since they have already used other drugs tainted with aborted fetal cells? This, apparently, is the angle – the new narrative – used by the US Coast Guard, the Arkansas Health System (and apparently also Fr. Parker and Dr. Nash) to deny people a religious vaccine exemption. Is this ethical?
How do I, as a prescriber, deal with this new ethical dilemma when I must ensure informed consent is being given for every prescribed treatment? Do I pretend I don’t know anything and stick to the prescribing narrative I was taught in medical school; or do I pass the burden of the problem of the abortion tainted drug that my patient desperately needs to my conscientious patient and give my patient the impossible decision, between suffering physically by not taking the drug or suffering psychologically by taking an abortion-tainted drug that can relieve their physical suffering? Which of those two approaches is ethical? The problem is that neither approach is ethical because the first option does not provide informed consent and the second option gives a suffering patient NO option between a tainted or untainted drug because ALL drug options are tainted. Bioethicist, Dr. Nash, who pulled the rug by exposing this new ethical dilemma did not address it in the least. We only heard one narrative from him – basically that the use of aborted fetal cell lines is unfortunate but it’s systemic, so we should get used to it and move on.
But what about CHOICE? Do bioethics not support choice? Where are these ethics when society allows a woman to choose between keeping or aborting her baby but does not allow a consumer to choose whether or not the product he/she consumes is derived from the cells of that aborted baby? Is this lack of choice ethical? It is absolutely NOT ethical, which is why I fully expected Dr. Nash, in his podcast, to describe how he, as a prominent bioethicist who self-identifies as Orthodox, was working towards advocating for that CHOICE. Even God gives us choices between good and evil and every grey area in between. How can we claim to live in a free society when the use of aborted fetal cell lines has become so systemic, thanks in part to the concealment of their use for so long, that when it comes down to choosing an ethically sourced drug, there is no choice?
It seems that our God-given free will, expressed through freedom of choice, has been taken away incrementally, first passively, through the concealment of the systemic use of aborted fetal cells in science and research, and now actively through vaccine mandates. The loss of one freedom is used to justify the loss of another. I will not ask Dr. Nash if this is ethical. I will just say that hypocrisy has become the new norm when the abolishment of systemic racism is on everyone’s agenda, while the abolishment of the systemic exploitation of aborted children is ignored. We know how to weep and drop the flags at half-mast when we discover the remains of innocent indigenous residential school children in unmarked graves, but we shout from the rooftops to defend the killing of innocent and defenseless babes in the womb who never get to see the light of day. Who is the hypocrite? Is it still the conscientious objector to the aborted fetal cell derived Covid-19 vaccine? I don’t know what a bioethical response to this question might be, because now we have crossed over from secular “bioethics” to divine judgement. My own Orthodox response would be that we are all, more or less, hypocrites, and we all need to repent, begging God for his great mercy, not just for our individual sins, but collectively as a society and for the sins of our neighbour.
The fact remains, however, that it is not ethical to use fear or guilt to pressure or manipulate anyone into consuming an unwanted product. Doing so strips the other of their dignity and their humanity because it takes away their freedom of choice. The good news is that there are still some choices we can make.
- We can choose to raise awareness around the bioethical issues at hand.
- We can choose to advocate for transparency on the development, manufacturing and testing of all drugs, cosmetics, skin care products, foods and so on. Transparency enables informed consent.
- We can choose to advocate for clear aborted fetal cell line use labeling on all products.
- We can choose to advocate for starting non-aborted human cell lines from placenta, umbilical cord blood, tumour cells, adult donor stem cells or other ethical sources to replace current aborted fetal cell lines. We can start by writing letters like this one, to pharmaceutical companies, encouraging them to switch away from using aborted fetal cell lines in their research, development and testing.
- We can choose to lobby governments for new legislation banning the sale of aborted fetal body parts and aborted fetal cell lines.
- We can choose to switch from using common over-the-counter drug store remedies to naturopathic remedies.
- We can choose to simplify and naturalize our use of cosmetics, skin care products and foods since many of these, especially processed ones, are also derived using aborted fetal cell lines.
Choosing to become more aware, more selective more responsible and more vocal consumers will send a clear message to all companies to operate more ethically, because one tainted drug does not justify another; one aborted fetal cell line does not justify another; and one murdered (let’s be realistic) baby only justifies another in the monstrous world of Stalin. This is what I expected Fr. Parker and Dr. Nash to say as Orthodox priest and Orthodox bioethicist in their Covid-19 vaccine Orthodox podcast, but Kyle Christopher McKenna, PhD says it better in his article Use of Aborted Fetal Tissue in Vaccines and Medical Research Obscures the Value of All Human Life:
Each medical benefit or scientific advance from the use of fetal tissue from elective abortions desensitizes beneficiaries, scientists, and doctors to the original evil act that produced these cells. Aborted fetal tissues used in laboratories are minimized to merely human cells, and the human beings whose lives were taken to provide those cells become irrelevant and with time forgotten. Of greatest concern is that desensitization ultimately leads to scandal by erroneously validating elective abortions for a greater good. Without careful oversight, the fetus could become, like fetal tissue cell lines, merely cells, cultured within the uterus for scientific exploration. All people of good conscience have the responsibility to voice opposition to the use of fetal tissue from elective abortions in order to promote development of alternatives, affirm the value of all human life, and limit scandal.
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