By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Less than a week after the Vatican issued a sweeping Instruction calling attention to the destructive nature of many new forms of reproductive technology, a leading stem cell researcher confirmed just how lethal this research can be.
Renee A. Reijo Pera, 49, director of Stanfordâs Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Education, revealed the shocking scope of the destructiveness of this technology to New York Times reporter Claudia Dreifus.
Â âRight now, we donât fully know what a healthy embryo in a Petri dish looks like,â she admitted, even though fertility clinics routinely âscreenâ embryos to determine viability before implantation.
As the Vatican document warned, aside from causing the destruction of thousands of healthy embryos, this lack of knowledge also leads to implanting too many embryos in a woman causing multiple births and the too frequent use of the option of âpregnancy reductionâ to abort unwanted fetuses.
âIf we could figure out what a healthy embryo looked like and what the best medium was to grow it in, weâd cut down on that,â Pera said.
While defending the use of human embryos in research, she went on to reveal even more appalling numbers: â . . . (W)e study embryos donated by couples who finished their I.V.F. treatments. They would be destroyed anyway. Nationally, the clinics discard about 400,000 unused embryos every year â and yet few people consider I.V.F. clinics âimmoral.â Stem cell researchers use about 10,000 of those about-to-be-discarded embryos.â
When asked if she had any moral qualms about conducting research on human embryos, she said no, adding: âI grew up a deeply religious Christian â Iâd go off into the woods and sing hymns. My sister is an Evangelical. Iâm sure there have been moments in my life when I havenât been a model Christian, but my work on embryonic stem cells isnât one of them.â
She believes her research will lead to healthier women and children. âThere are people who believe that when we use embryos for research at all, our society becomes hardened. Iâve searched myself on that and I donât think Iâm hardened. I can honestly say I still get goose bumps when I see embryos develop. You hope you are humble enough to take in the information and not change your course.â
If there was a better way to study human development other than embryos, she would use it, she says.
âBut there isnât. Thatâs where the data is. I think that it is not good to throw human embryos away,â she said, then added âwithout studying them.â
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