The Moral Price of Sight

By Chantal Foster Lindquist

Rightgrrl Contributor

A recent article in The Chicago Sun-Times reveals that we've found another use for America's unwanted children: recycling their eye tissue. On Sunday, Dr. Marco Zarbin of the New Jersey Medical School told the Foundation Fighting Blindness ( that using the tissue from cadavers or aborted fetuses could help cure macular degeneration in the elderly. To many, this might seem like an exciting advance in treating blindness, but to me it seems a twisted example of medical technology gone awry.

And no one seems to pay serious attention to these ethical considerations. Dr. Terry Ernest of the University of Chicago says this procedure "has enormous potential.'' According the Sun-Times article, "Ernest uses fetal cells because they grow rapidly." And in Time Magazine online, they call Ernest a "Hero of Medicine," describing how he dealt with the ethical questions regarding the use of fetal tissue. Time writes, "As Siegler [medical ethicist at University of Chicago] and many others saw it, there were no insurmountable barriers to the use of fetal tissue for medical purposes. After all, organs and tissue from brain-dead children and adults are donated for transplantation all the time. And while such deaths are tragic, they are caused not in order to obtain the organs but by events, such as automobile accidents, over which transplant teams have no control. Abortion, advised Siegler, could be viewed as another such tragic event."

While I agree that abortion is tragic, harvesting the eyes of unborn children seems to me another chapter in a much larger tragedy. Imagine being the doctor who removes eye tissue from the corpse of an unwanted child. There could be little or no avoidance of the truth. While the baby's mother may have pretended the new life wasn't for real, putting a scalpel to the eye of an unborn child erases any doubt that life existed in those clear brown, blue or green eyes. Cutting into innocent cold bodies small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Would you pay this price for your eyes? And what has Medicine and Science become if these men are our "Heroes?"

To read the Time online article, go to:

Email Dr. Marco Zarbin at:

Email Dr. Terry Ernest at:

Contact the Foundation Fighting Blindness at:

This article is copyright © 1998 Chantal Foster Lindquist. All rights reserved. It may not be reproduced with out specific consent of the author.