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Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | Last updated: 2:37pm

ALS donations need not override moral convictions



All across the country, people are rushing to their buckets and video cameras and taking part in the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. As of August 24, the ALS Association has raised over $70 million with the challenge’s help.

According to its website, the ALS Association seeks a world without the disease, and with nearly 15 people diagnosed with ALS each day, it seems like a no-brainer that people would want to help fight such a terrible illness.

However, for some people, donating to the ALS Association violates their personal moral convictions.

One part of the ALS Association’s research involves the use of embryonic stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells come from fertilized embryos that are less than a week old and which have the potential to become a human being. Using these stem cells in any way that could do harm to human life, even if that life is in the form of a cell, is prohibited by the Roman Catholic Church as the church believes it violates the dignity of the human person.

While the Catholic Church has not formally condemned the ALS Association, some Catholic dioceses have. The Archdioceses of Newark, N.J., and Cincinnati have warned parishes and church leaders to “immediately cease” donations to the ALS Association.

Despite a warning from church leaders, not all Catholics agree that embryonic stem cell research is bad. A recent Gallup poll found that 63 percent of Catholics support embryonic stem cell research.

Nonetheless, for some noble UA students, being part of the ice-cold fun isn’t worth participating in something they believe to be morally wrong.

In an era of knee-jerk activism, where people don’t think before doing something as long as it “makes a difference,” seeing some choose to make a difference while also courageously remaining true to what they believe is right is refreshing.

Jose Escobedo, an industrial engineering junior, is one such student. He recently participated in the ice bucket challenge but has decided to donate to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, an organization that only uses adult stem cells and not embryonic stem cells for medical research, instead of donating to the ALS Association.

The institute, named after a pope who denounced the “culture of death,” believes that medical breakthroughs can be found by remaining faithful to Catholic doctrine on human life.

For Escobedo, participating in the ice bucket challenge had to be consistent with his moral convictions.

“I chose to donate to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute because ALSA funds embryonic stem cell research,” Escobedo said. “I do not wish to fund something that goes against my faith and my morals.”

Students like Escobedo have realized that staying true to one’s moral convictions doesn’t mean you can’t help fight ALS by donating to a group other than the ALS Association.

While those who donate to the ALS Association may believe in their mission and may not morally object to embryonic stem cell research for genuine reasons, it is admirable to see people who do object ensuring that their monetary donations do not conflict with their moral convictions.

—Casey Hoyack is a politics, philosophy, economics and law senior. Follow him @Hoyack_


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