Stem Cell Research Preferred To Embryo Adoption
In an article published in today's Science, Anne Lyerly and Ruth Faden report the results of a survey given to couples receiving infertility treatment at any of nine different fertility clinics around the country. Of the more than one thousand couples with currently frozen embryos, nearly half said that they were likely to donate their embryos for research purposes. What's even more interesting is that more couples were likely to donate their embryos if it was specified that they would be used for stem cell research. Somewhat surprisingly, nearly 30% of couples would even be willing to donate their embryos for use in cloning research.
What may be the most shocking of all is that many more couples were willing to donate embryos for stem cell research than were willing to donate them to another couple; only about 22% were amenable to the latter option. By way of explaining this (seeming) counterintuitive result, the authors offer the following:
There is a possibility, of course, that the reluctance of infertility patients to donate embryos to another couple is a prudential rather than a moral preference—that the idea of someone else gestating their embryo and raising their genetic child is experienced by these patients as intolerably worrisome, rather than as morally wrong. But qualitative work with infertility patients suggests a different moral view—that there are deep responsibilities to one’s own embryos—responsibilities that preclude allowing them to develop into children without the knowledge, participation, or love of those who created them.And what you may be wondering at this point- what would be the benefit to the field if sufficient funding was available to allow the use of these embryos? Given this survey's donation rate of 50%, a rough estimate suggests between 2000 and 3000 additional embryonic stem cell lines, or about 100 times more than are currently supported.
Something to think about.