Clayton Cramer has c…
Clayton Cramer has come up with an idea for a source of hundreds of thousands of embryonic stem cells every year, without the ethical issues.

There are several sources of embryonic stem cells, however, that provide no ethical problems: non-elective abortions; miscarriages; and deaths of pregnant women. Ectopic pregnancies are one example of a non-elective abortion, and even the Catholic Church recognizes that this is legitimate. Since there are about 100,000 ectopic pregnancies a year, this is a vast number of sources of embryonic stem cells.

Miscarriages also produce embryonic tissue–and since a miscarriage is not an intentional act of killing the embryo, there is no ethical problem is using this tissue for research. I couldn’t find a figure for the number of miscarriages annually, but I would be surprised if it isn’t in the hundreds of thousands.

At any given time, there are hundreds of thousands of American women who are pregnant. Unsurprisingly, there are on any day hundreds of pregnant women who are killed in car accidents, murders, falls from ladders, or other circumstances where the embryo or fetus can’t be saved. These are also legitimate sources of embryonic stem cells.

The third item is a little morbid, but no less a viable source. As much as I’ve come out against embryonic stem cell research as “human experimentation”, I have to admit that these ideas do have merit. As opposed to IVF embryos or abortions, there is no actual choice involved; nature has already taken its course. I consider all these cases a loss of life, but not one where any blame or culpability can typically be assigned. We do have a big source of embryonic stem cells. Is the scientific community willing to work with it?

Clayton does end his post with a reasonable caution.

I can see why some might be concerned about where embryonic stem cell research might take us. For example, imagine that the scientists doing this research find a way to fulfill all the promises that Al Gore and John Edwards made last year: a cure of paralysis; for cancer; for Alzheimer’s–in short, the miracle cure. Would this lead to an increase in demand for embryonic stem cells? It certainly would, and I could see a serious debate about whether to use aborted embryos and fetuses in making this miracle cure. I would come down against this–but that isn’t the question before us right now. We do have an ethical source for embryonic stem cells for research purposes.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)

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