Union University
Union University Dept of Language


Cain's Medical Research Program

Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

June 19, 2009 - According to recent statement released by the Empire State Stem Cell Board (ESSCB), New York will become the first and only state in the U.S. to compensate women who donate eggs for stem cell research. The ESSCB’s decision has generated a firestorm of discussion among bioethicists.

As one might expect, this public policy decision is thoroughly utilitarian. The ESSCB reasons as follows: “There is no principled reason to distinguish between donation of oocytes for reproductive purposes and research purposes when determining the ethicality of reimbursement. The risks associated with donating oocytes to stem cell research are no greater than those associated with reproductive donations. Moreover, donating oocytes to stem cell research arguably confers a greater benefit to society than does oocyte donation for private reproductive use.”

Concerning the claim that there is “no principled reason to distinguish between” donating for research versus donating for reproduction, the ESSCB is surely right. Culturally, our society opened the door to this new practice when we legitimized the donation of eggs for infertile couples desiring children through IVF. If we compensate women for the latter (which we do), there is no “pincipled reason” for refusing to do so when the donation is for research. The process is the same in both cases. And arguably, the donor is effectively disposing of her eggs in profoundly disordered ways either way.

But the ESSCB’s claim that donation for research “arguably confers a greater benefit to society than does oocyte donation for prviate reproductive use” is doubtful at best, sinister at worst. Current stem cell research overwhelmingly invalidates this claim. Moreover, the claim itself fails to take into account the fact that the research itself will involve the creation and destruction of hundreds (if not thousands) of human embryos. Thus, the “society” that the ESSCB has in mind, clearly does not include that society of tiny human beings that will be unmercifully destroyed in the name of scientific advancement.

In approaching Cain after the murder of his brother Abel, God said, “The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.” Thousands of years hence, we have found ways of killing our brothers and sisters before they can bleed. One wonders whether God will curse the fruit of such destructive research in the same way he cursed the ground soaked with Abel’s blood. Perhaps Christians should pray to that end.