Challenge Response: Use the Leftover Embryos for Research

Here's my response to this week's challenge:

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This week’s challenge is about embryonic stem cell research: “I think abortion is wrong, and it saddens me to think that hundreds of thousands of leftover embryos are going to be discarded by in vitro fertilization clinics or just kept frozen. Wouldn’t it be a more meaningful life for them and better for society to be used for scientific research that would benefit millions of people who suffer from diseases and disabilities rather than being wasted in death or endless frozen state?” 

This is a good question, and I understand the impulse to make the best of a bad situation. I don’t think the solution is to use the frozen embryos for scientific purposes. It sounds like the person who is offering this particular objection is a pro-life person. They’re saying that they think abortion is wrong. I’m going to assume then, that the reason they think abortion is wrong is because abortion kills an innocent human being. In other words, that thing that’s in the embryonic stage in a mother’s womb is a human being. What do we do with frozen embryos if they are really human beings just like the human beings we find in a woman who is pregnant or a woman who wants to have an abortion? 

I think the answer is the same as the answer with abortion. That is, if these frozen embryos are truly human beings just like the ones we have in cases of abortion, then we can’t kill the frozen embryos by taking their body parts and using them for scientific research for the same reason that you can’t kill the unborn in the case of abortion. 

Therefore, the moral principles would apply with regards to frozen embryos. I realize that many people say, “Well, Alan, these frozen embryos are going to die anyways. Therefore, why don’t we try to make the best of it and use their bodies for scientific research?” In order to really understand this challenge, you have to understand some of the facts of the matter. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates there are 600,000 frozen embryos currently left over from in vitro fertilization clinics. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also says that the vast majority of them are not available for scientific research, and that’s because most of them are slated to be used in what we call “family building efforts.” The vast majority of them are still going to be implanted in the mothers who conceived them in the first place. 

What about the rest of them? What about the ones that aren’t going to be put in some mother’s womb and eventually develop to term? Well, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) also indicates this other important statistic. There are over 1.5 million infertile women who are seeking fertility services. 

Here’s my suggestion: Rather than using these leftover frozen embryos for scientific research, which kills them because you’re taking their stem cells from their body, why don’t we give these frozen embryos a chance to continue to live? Women who are trying to get pregnant and seeking infertility services could adopt these frozen embryos. 

You might be thinking that sounds kind of strange. Frozen embryo adoption? Absolutely. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has millions of dollars they spend each year in trying to promote frozen embryo adoption. 

Here’s how this works: A woman and her husband who are seeking to have a child go to a frozen embryo clinic, and they pursue adopting frozen embryos. Once the adoption process is completed, physicians and scientists can take the frozen embryos, thaw them, implant them in the woman who wants to have a child, the embryo will start to grow inside the woman’s womb, and they’ll have a child. 

I know this sounds like science fiction, but in reality, this has been happening for many years. I know personally a couple that are friends of mine who have done this. In fact, I want to show you a picture of two little girls named Catherine and Claire (picture). Catherine was frozen for about five years at the age of just three days old. Claire was frozen for about eight years also at the age of three days old. My friends, who are husband and wife, adopted these two little girls and implanted them, (not at the same time, but one after another) inside the mother’s uterus, the pregnancy was successful, and now both of them are born human beings. 

Here’s a recent picture that was taken of Catherine and Claire (picture). They are beautiful little girls that run around and play just like every other kid on the block. These kids have played with my children, and they are normal children. 

Why not give children who are frozen at just a few days old a chance at life? We don’t have to kill these little girls and boys and use their body parts for scientific research. Let’s let them continue to live by offering them to the many millions of people trying to pursue having children rather than killing them. We don’t have to kill them; we can simply give them a chance of life.  

Alan Shlemon

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