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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 11, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Stem-cell research

Fighting the medical-waste monster

Let’s say I’m a parent and my young child suffers a head injury, is brain-dead and cannot survive on life support for more than a few hours. As a parent, I have the right to donate my child’s organs, despite the fact the child never signed a document stating he or she wanted to donate organs and couldn’t have signed such a document because they were under the age of consent.

What sort of monster would step in and tell the grieving parents they cannot donate their child’s organs, so something positive can come from their tragedy?

Now, suppose my wife and I must use in-vitro fertilization to have children, so we donate sperm and eggs for the process. We subsequently have three wonderful children and don’t want any more, but there are a dozen fertilized eggs still frozen in vitro, and we have to decide what to do with these remaining embryos.

The clinic is under no obligation to preserve the extra embryos in perpetuity, so, in all likelihood, they will eventually be destroyed.

What we cannot do is donate their organs because they don’t have any. So, what then, is wrong with donating the embryos for stem-cell research, which might play some small part in saving the lives and health of more human beings than could ever be helped by donating one child’s organs?

There is a clear equivalency here with respect to the parents’ rights. It seems if you are against using donated embryos (not for monetary benefit) for stem-cell research, then, in order to be morally and ethically consistent, you must also be against in-vitro fertilization, which creates extra embryos, and allowing parents to donate a child’s organs in the case of the accidental death of a child.

What sort of monster would force parents to allow a clinic to discard extra embryos as medical waste when they could choose a fate of greater benevolence for these embryos?

— Bob Kennedy, Kent

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