Letter to the Editor: Stem cells for stem-cell research are not from “babies”


I would like to respond to the letter from Desiree Hausam (“Being anti-abortion and anti-stem-cell research OK,” June 30) concerning RuthAnne Frost’s recent column on stem-cell research (“Stem-cell research needs to be reconsidered by ‘pro-life’ supporters,” June 23). In her letter, Hausam argues that the debate surrounding stem-cell research should center on the question of “whether the embryo is to be destroyed for its stem cells is or is not a human baby.”

I consider this to be a valid question. However, it is promoting a common misconception about embryonic stem-cell research. The question implies that embryonic stem-cell researchers are single mindedly killing babies in order to harvest their stem cells.

The majority of human stem-cell research utilizes unwanted samples of in-vitro fertilization attempts. Couples who choose to undergo IVF create more samples than needed to ensure the highest probability of success. IVF has a relatively low success rate (about 20 percent) at a very high cost (around $15,000 a pop). Embryos that are not used are most often stored in a freezer. However, they are only usable for a limited amount of time (approximately two years).

Other options couples may take include immediate disposal, putting unused embryos up for adoption or donating them to scientific research. The last option has been seriously hindered by the actions of our current president.To paraphrase one of my favorite movies, if embryonic stem cells are to be considered “babies,” then the people who knowingly create several “babies” with the intention of abandoning some are committing reckless endangerment.

If we are to question the ethics of obtaining embryonic stem cells from (unwanted) embryos, shouldn’t we question the ethics regarding the source of the embryos: the act of creating several embryos in hopes of having success with the implantation of one?

Teresa Tuan

Junior, Biological Chemistry