“Snow Flake Babies: Sometimes Column's Point Gets Overlooked”


Ruth Wood Cresbard   

July 8, 2005; One of the most satisfying benefits of writing a column is the feedback from readers. I enjoy all feedback - even comments from people who disagreeably disagree. The main idea of a recent column about embryonic stem-cell research (which all of the letter writers who disagreed with me ignored) was President Bush contradicting himself when he says he would never "take a life in order to save a life" when discussing embryonic stem-cell research, but his also saying that war and the death penalty save lives. Some interesting side topics were brought up by letter writers. One writer wrote about the "Snowflake Babies," which is a very worthwhile project. The Snowflake Project was started in 1997 (the year before embryonic stem cells were separated) to allow leftover frozen embryos to be adopted by infertile couples.

              After doing some research I found out this project is not “trouble free.” Even with the help of Federal funds, only 81 babies have been born in eight years. While reading the success stories, I discovered the success rate is about 10 percent. One couple who appeared with President Bush at his Press Conference "adopted" 17 embryos. After thawing 15 of the embryos, there were two successful implantations, resulting in twins from one embryo and a singleton from another. This means 13 embryos were lost in the process. Was each of these embryos "a life?" Was "life" killed by trying to thaw it? Should these "babies" have been left in cold storage so they would remain ‘alive’?

              Another couple received 10 embryos and three survived the thawing process, resulting in one pregnancy. The website said usually 50 percent survive the thawing process. Other success stories had the same results. I believe this is remarkable, but to say that ESCR is not successful and that this project is successful is certainly misinterpreting the facts. Both projects are “remarkably successful” and are getting better with practice.

              One person pointed out that only 2.8 percent of the 400,000 embryos in IVF clinics are tagged for research by their biological parents. I will accept that statement as fact. That would mean 11,200 embryos are available for research. If there is a success rate of 10 percent, 1,120 new stem-cell lines could be created. What a wonderful improvement over the 22 lines that are now approved for Federally-funded research. With further research, I found fewer embryos have been put into the adoption project than have been tagged for research. Some biological parents have ethical and moral concerns about giving up their offspring to someone else to bear. The sad part is that most embryos are sitting there in cold storage -- in limbo -- without a future. In the IVF process, the healthiest, most viable embryos are implanted into the biological mother for pregnancies. Just as with natural pregnancies, there are many that will not implant themselves into the uterus, no matter what. Other embryos are imperfect and could not be carried to full term, resulting in spontaneous abortions (miscarriages or stillbirths). These still could have been used for research to study particular problems; therefore, in fact, there are spare embryos for research.


              The possibilities of embryonic stem-cell research are endless, and yes, the research is promising and dramatic. There are also promising possibilities using cord-blood and adult stem cells. All have their special purposes. It just happens that ESCR is more promising for certain conditions like Type-I Diabetes, which is close to my heart. What drives the desire to slow down one avenue of promising research? The 30 percent (including President Bush) who oppose Federal funding are very vocal, and say they do not think they should be forced to fund something they find morally objectionable. Using this logic, does that mean the 59 percent of the American people who find the war in Iraq morally objectionable can stop paying taxes? Again, I ask the question, is this drive against embryonic stem-cell research conviction or is it contradiction?

Ruth Wood Cresbard, is a retired teacher, farmwife, the Mother of three and Grandmother of 11. Write to her at...


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