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“Take this in remembrance of me”

Imagine a single embryo, hanging virtually weightless in a liquid nitrogen tank. He’s chilling next to hundreds of his compatriots—waiting—relaxed and ready.

The little guy has been on my thoughts a lot lately. His unlimited potential has been the center of heated debates and ground breaking legislation.

Motor Neuron Progenitors

Motor neuron progenitors are derived from human embryonic stem cells and could be used to treat spinal cord injuries. Illustration by Liz Davenport. Original photo by Sharyn Rossi in the lab of Hans Keirstead at the University of California, Irvine.

He’s also only steps away from curing my sister.

As science continues to grapple with embryonic stem cells and their temperamental—though significant—role in regenerative medicine, our society continues its philosophical fisticuffs over the moral implications of using embryos for research.

The debate again garnered media attention this month when the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine sponsored a poetry contest to promote Stem Cell Awareness Day. One of the two winning poems, “Stem C.” by Tyson Anderson, uses Christian rhetoric to defend stem cell research.

This is my body
which is given for you.
But I am not great.
I have neither wealth,
nor fame, nor grace.
I cannot comfort with words,
nor inspire to march.
I am small and simple,
so leave me this.
Let me heal you.
This is my body
which is given for you.
Take this
in remembrance of me.

The poem’s small, childlike innocence is much more provocative considering its use of the communional passage to illustrate the gift that stem cell research can provide.

According to fellow blogger John Lundberg, the Life Legal Defense Foundation took the bait in a news release:

“The choice of this poem for a prize represents the deliberate pilfering of the holiest of voluntary, sacrificial acts in the history of humanity for a shoddy pep piece in CIRM’s campaign to promote the wholesale destruction of human life.

Beyond the blasphemy, however, is the poem’s inadvertent acknowledgment of the personhood of these embryos whom the CIRM otherwise sees merely as a source from which to harvest pluripotent stem cells.”

It’s evident by its response that the LLDF concentrates on that single suspended embryo too.

Unlike me, they tend to envision it as the next President of the United States, voice of world peace or even an important spinal cord researcher. However, they are under the misconception that these embryos are destined for a womb. They are not. If they’re not used for research (after the informed consent of the donors), then they are discarded – trashed.

Anderson’s poem demonstrates that the only humane and moral thing is to use the embryos to benefit and cure the diseases and injuries of our friends and loved ones.

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