Thursday, March 22, 2007

Destroying 'Left-Over' Embryos: Aren't We Assuming Something? [SK]

An Email:
I am trying to come to terms with how it is better to discard an embryo rather than use it for research. I should first state that I believe that creating more embryos than a person is willing to implant is wrong. Second, I believe that killing the extra embryos created by invitro is also wrong. Third, I would that all extra embryos be adopted. But if I am faced with two options, throwing them in the trash or using them to possibly create cures for diseases, why wouldn’t I choose the latter?
Me: All of us are going to die sometime. Assuming we can benefit, do those of us who will die later have the right to kill and exploit those who will die sooner?

In the case of the leftover embryos, I see only one morally acceptable option: Wait for adoptive parents.

Imagine this: You oversee a Cambodian orphanage with 200 toddlers that are unwanted. The facility cannot care for them any longer. Funds are low and food is scarce. A scientist has offered to take the toddlers off your hands and use them for grisly medical research designed to cure cancer. He makes a good point: Many of these children will soon die or suffer grave hardship. Nonetheless, you refuse. You could never, even for a moment, consider turning the kids over to the scientist on grounds that "these kids are going to die anyway so let's put them to good use." True, given your impoverished circumstances, you are powerless to prevent them from dying, but you would never be complicit in actively killing the kids, which is what ESCR does.

Of course, there are many other examples to consider. Prisoners on death row are going to die anyway, but no one (especially liberals!) suggests that we use them for destructive medical research. And we don't slit the throats of mortally wounded soldiers to recover their organs.

In short, unless one begins with the assumption that the embryos in question are not human beings, the "they're gonna die anyway" claim doesn't work. So we're back to the one question: What is the embryo? That question, more than any other, brings moral clarity to the issue.

For more, see Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Morally Complex?

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