Ethicists make Distinctions about Stem Cell Research

Saint Mary's College psychology professor Mary McCall was quoted in a Catholic Voice article about stem cell research. She said "understanding the science of stem cells and where you get the cells" is key to engaging in a debate about the ethics of it. As Californians consider the Prop. 71 initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to fund stem cell research, the articles notes that not all stem cells come from embryos. Some come from adults and others from the umbilical cord blood of newborns.

McCall, who helps teach a multidisciplinary course titled Human Genetics, Applications and Ethics, said that when the general public hears the words "embryonic stem cells, people don't think of a cluster of cells. They think of a fully formed human being in a sac." In fact, embryos used in stem cell research are part of a hollow ball of up to 200 cells that developed from an egg fertilized four or five days earlier, usually for in vitro fertilization.

McCall said that using frozen embryos from fertility clinics could be "heading down a slippery slope" because we could be opening up a market for embryos and there could be some who would want to "harvest embryos for this purpose."

In describing what women go through to donate eggs to fertility clinics, McCall said: "The process is not pleasant. You need daily injections or you take drugs to ramp up the normal hormone level. Women gain weight, they become incredibly moody. It's really very uncomfortable."