Monday, June 11, 2007

What to do with Spare Embryos?

A great biotech watchdog organization, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, recently put out this press release regarding legislation and the use of “spare” embryos.

June 7, 2007 – Chicago, Illinois – The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity (CBHD) calls upon the President to exercise both his moral resolve and his presidential prerogatives and veto immediately the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007. This bill unhinges any restrictions on funding embryonic stem cell research derived from “discarded” embryos that result from excessive fertility procedures.

The debate over this bill misleadingly presented the source of embryonic stem cells as medical waste and thus of no consequential value. The growing number of Snowflake children seriously questions the nature of this assumption. CBHD Director, C. Ben Mitchell, PhD, comments: “Human embryos belong in nurturing wombs, not in dissecting dishes in a research lab. Killing human embryos for their stem cells is a form of biotech cannibalism that we must not countenance as a civilized society.”

While the Center applauds the House for rebuffing recent efforts to legalize human cloning research, we strongly urge members of Congress to examine the overwhelming evidence of successful trials of non-embryonic derived stem cell treatments. Mitchell comments, “We cannot permit good intentions to blur the moral boundaries of science. Compassion must be informed by ethics.” Thus, the Center calls upon Congress to approve legislation upholding its own interest to “prioritize research with the greatest potential for near-term clinical benefit” by supporting proven non-embryonic stem cell research initiatives that offer genuine medical assistance to those suffering from these difficult conditions.

I must admit a personal wavering from time to time when it comes to the use of “spare” embryos that are simply wards of the local utility company. But the more I reflect, the more I object to the notion of “spare embryos” itself, and am worried about the direction legislation is taking toward them. Since when has any human being been “spare”?

As the release notes, the number of snowflake babies is growing, and should be seen as not just a viable option, but as the primary objective. What we should be doing with these frozen embryos is finding ways to encourage their adoption, not their destruction.


Stushie said...

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Daria said...

What we really need to do is to STOP producing "spare" embryos!! It's morally untenable to continually add to the supply of human embryos sitting in freezers all over the post-industrial world. Add to that the fact that we have tens of thousands of children already in the world who need loving families, and...I think it's even more problematic! : (

And you know...on average, the embryos and (relatively speaking, rare) resulting babies from couples facing major problems around infertility tend to have serious problems/genetic anomalies. So, even simply from a realism/pragmatic perspective, it does not make sense to keep producing these at-risk embryos (not that pragmatics should win the argument, of course : ) ).

Phil Steiger said...


What you say is exactly right. The primary problem is that we have let the science out-pace our ethical reflection. And what is more, most Christians desperate for children either do not know what happens with processes like IVF, or don't consider it important enough to not go through with it.