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Environment

Human Embryos In Research

December 14, 2009 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 87, ISSUE 50

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I write in response to the letter from Greg Maguire in which he discussed the use and destruction of human embryos in research (C&EN, Oct. 19, page 4). Once an embryo is formed, it has all the directives needed for development into a mature human being. By using and destroying a human embryo, a person (researcher) is deciding who lives and who is sacrificed.

Maguire poses the situation where there is a life-threatening fire, and you have a choice to save your child or 100 frozen embryos in a nearby freezer. The same dilemma can be posed this way: What would you do if you had to choose between two or more children? Regardless of the decision one makes, it does not and cannot alter the truth of what a human embryo is. In making decisions regarding life, we should answer the question as to what we should do rather than what we would do.

I think it would be of interest to C&EN readers if Maguire would give his view as to when an embryo becomes a human being and what leads him to his conclusion. Maguire is to be commended for his desire to alleviate human suffering, but such ends do not justify the means of embryo destruction. I also wonder if he and his colleagues are aware of the advances that have been made in the use of nonembryonic stem cells to enhance human health.

Clarence G. Johnson Jr.
Memphis

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