Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Let's talk about stem cells

You can't mention stem cells without infuriating some folks. Some reactions I've heard include claims that stem cell research kills innocent lives. Now, if you want to get people's attention and quickly get them on your side, I can't think of a better way than yelling, "If you support stem cell research, you support killing babies!" Who wants to jump on the stem cell bandwagon when faced with that proposition? Spouting a statement like this is an Appeal to Emotion, which is a fallacy. It's when someone attempts to manipulate or appeal to your emotions in place of evidence, to get you to support their claim. Don't get me wrong, it's hard to combat this fallacy. But, you've got to try! The problem is that this statement is NOT TRUE. Incendiary, misinformed comments like this lead to the spread of ignorance and can be quite harmful.

Let's talk facts. There are a few different types of stem cells, but the ones that most people refer to in these discussions are embryonic stem cells. So what are they? They are cells that come from four day old embryos. At this stage, the embryos are more accurately called blastocysts and contain 150 cells. What's the dilemma? To get the cells to use in research, the embryo must be destroyed. So if we are establishing the fact that we must destroy a four day old embryo to further our research, the real question becomes, Where do these embryos come from? I think it may surprise a lot of people to know their origin. Embryos used in stem cell research come from donated frozen embryos that were no longer needed or wanted at in vitro fertilization clinics. So these embryos were fertilized in clinics, for the original purpose of implantation into women. Later it was determined that they weren't needed for fertilization, so they were donated. If they hadn't been donated, what would've happened? They would have remained frozen embryos indefinitely, never to become living, breathing human beings, or they would've been destroyed anyways.

To me, having this knowledge, this issue really becomes a non-issue. Let's see, I purposely and intentionally and legally went to an in vitro clinic to aid in my attempt to get pregnant. I froze my fertilized embryos for future use. After I used some, or changed my mind and didn't use some, I pondered what to do with my remaining eggs. MY remaining eggs. If I chose to donate them, why should they be turned away? Embryonic stem cells can divide into more stem cells and can become any type of body cell. This makes their potential for regeneration or repair of diseased tissue and organs extremely high. It also means they hold promise for the potential treatment of debilitating diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, etc. So I can either destroy my unwanted embryos with no benefit, or I can destroy my unwanted embryos and possibly contribute to future medical breakthroughs. I don't see how this is even a decision.

It seems like if people knew the facts and still had a problem with stem cell research, they'd start pushing for legislation against in vitro clinics. That's where the problem starts, right?

Props: I referred to All About Popular Issues and the Mayo Clinic and PBS in my research.

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's About Life

Jer and I visited the Bodies Exhibit in Las Vegas last week and got to see some pretty neat things. It's amazing how complex our bodies are, and how much scientists have been able to learn from them over the years. It really got us thinking. Seeing actual human bodies on display, used for research and the spread of knowledge, reminded us that being buried in the ground really doesn't do any good. I'm sorry if this offends people, but it honestly made me view the act of choosing not to donate your organs or not to donate your body to science as a selfish one. If you have the option of giving your organs to someone else to prolong or improve their life, why would you choose not to do so? When the time comes, let's face it - you're dead. Do you need your organs while your body decomposes? Lately I've been reflecting on my life alot, and how I'm living it. I want to be remembered as a generous, giving person after I'm gone. If I chose not to donate my organs, that would be contradictory to my purpose. If I am giving in life, I can be giving in death. If you'd like to find out more information about becoming a donor, visit the Donate Life America website. I'm proud to be a donor.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My March Selection

My thanks to Katie for her suggestion! This month I'm choosing to support the World Wildlife Fund. The WWF is a multinational conservation organization that (among other things) protects natural areas and endangered species, and promotes sustainable and more efficient uses of resources and energy. Being a humanist, I am drawn to the WWF's mission of aspiring to the greater good of humanity.

There are many ways to support the WWF including species adoption, buying apparel promoting the WWF, or purchasing crafts that support indigenous communities. If you don't have a few dollars to spare, there are also ways to make a difference that don't involve money! Click here to find out how you can help combat climate change by making a few changes around your house. You can also take part in "Earth Hour." Turn off your lights for one hour on March 28, 2009, starting at 8:30pm, to raise awareness and take action to fight climate change.

Also in March, Jeremiah and I are participating in the "Strut Your Mutt" walk sponsored by the SPCA. It's a 3K Walk/Fun Run on Saturday, March 21, 2009. We'll be bringing our dogs and supporting the cause. We'd love for you to join us out there on the walk, even if you don't have a dog to bring along! Or, consider donating on our behalf if you'd like. My page can be found here and Jeremiah's page is here. Thanks and have a great month of March!