Embryonic Stem-Cell Research: Where will this road lead us?

President Obama’s recent repeal of Bush’s ban on embryonic stem-cell research (ESCR) has brought out a major discussion point about a problem that is gaining momentum in the public eye. That problem is what do we do with cryogenically frozen embryos? There are more articles everyday that are addressing the issue that there is currently hundreds of thousands (the latest estimate I have seen is 500,000) of frozen embryos sitting in cryobanks. The three options for people who have frozen embryos is to have them destroyed, allow another couple to “adopt” their embryo(s), or to donate them to “science” (i.e., ESCR). These issues are not as cut and dry as we would like them to be. People are struggling to answer the question of what to do with their unused frozen embryos as well as what do we do with those of people who have died or fallen off the grid.

A few months ago I was asked about cryogenically frozen embryos by a deacon in my church (who is also an OB/GYN). He specifically asked the question, “Do you think we are torturing embryos when we freeze them?” Now I must preface this with the understanding that this question was asked following the question about what I thought happens to babies who are still born, die at birth, or are aborted—did I think they were granted salvation or were they sent to hell (which is a completely different matter I am not going to address in this post)? Part of my answer included my belief that we receive our souls at conception. This is why the follow up about torturing embryos—because I believe they have a soul.

I think as Christians we cannot hastily jump to a conclusion about this issue. The nation as a whole is struggling with this topic and if we act like we have got it nailed, they will view our answer with skepticism. But here are some of my thoughts and some questions to which we must look for some answers: (1) Are frozen embryos dead or alive? (2) Are we “torturing a person” when we freeze an embryo? (3) What is the best solution to the vast number of unused frozen embryos? (4) Is it ethical to use “embryos” for scientific purposes (whether from extra embryos or those purposely created for such purposes)? (5) Are we killing a human when we destroy an embryo? There are numerous other questions about this issue, but these are a few that are fast arising to the forefront. I will share my thoughts in a post later this week about how I have answered some of these questions.
What'd you think? 


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