Why amniotic stem cells don’t solve the moral dilemma.

ABC News, VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican on Tuesday welcomed a new way of extracting stem cells that does not use human embryos, calling it a significant advance that could help medical research without going against Roman Catholic beliefs.

FoxNews/AP – Stem cell researchers reacted with enthusiasm and reservations to a report that scientists have found stem cells in amniotic fluid, a discovery that would allow them to sidestep the controversy over destroying embryos for research.

Seattle PI/AP – Researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard University reported Sunday that the stem cells they drew from amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells.

Stem cells extracted from amniotic fluid is all the buzz. Many say that acquiring stem cells without harvesting dead children (embryos, for those in denial) claimed to sidestep moral issues. I say maybe not.

While it is true that the bodies of children are not the source of the stem cells in this process, I don’t think that we can truthfully make the claim that there is no risk and no harm to the child. Especially if an industry develops that puts a price on amniotic fluid or stem cells extracted from the fluid. And let me assure you that a harvesting industry will be developed. I’m sure that there are scores of people with the wheels turning in their head even as you read this post.

What price can I get for this fluid? Where do I get it? How do I increase my supply? These are the questions and the quest that create the new moral dilemma. Can we supply the new market without harming children? From the little I know, I don’t think we can.

Amniotic fluid has one source; the womb of a pregnant woman. So in order to supply the market you must have a pregnant woman who is willing to give up some or all of her child’s fluid. We could obtain it all by aborting pregnancy. But killing the child for either amniotic or embryonic stem cells presents the same moral dilemma.

So can we take it a little at a time and solve the moral dilemma? Maybe? But there must be a reason for this fluid. Regardless of whether you believe it to be God’s doing or evolutionary process, it still would seem that it should have a purpose. I am not a physician so I will have to rely on the expertise of a few medical sites to explain exactly what amniotic fluid is.

Amniotic fluid is usually sterile, and contained in the sac that surrounds your baby throughout pregnancy. It helps to protect and cushion, and also plays an important part in developing many of your baby’s vital internal organs – like the lungs, kidneys and gut.

Sounds like amniotic fluid is pretty important to the normal development of a child. Do we know how much we can harvest without harming the child? Are we sure? What if too much is taken?

Too little amniotic fluid is apparently called oligohydramnios, and comes with this little list of complications:

  • Apart from the indications of possible birth defects in a baby, oligohydramnios can cause other, luckily rare, complications:
  • As amniotic fluid is very important in the development of various organs in your baby – especially the lungs – too little fluid, especially for long periods of time, may cause these organs to develop abnormally or incompletely.
  • Absence of the protective, cushioning function of the amniotic fluid may lead to possible intrauterine damage to your baby.
  • In situations where there is a slow leaking of fluid, there is also an increased risk of infection developing within the amniotic sac.
  • The biggest danger of a markedly reduced amount of amniotic fluid is complications at delivery; when there will be:
    • Increased risk of compression of the baby’s umbilical cord, thereby cutting off oxygen and nutrient supplies.
    • Possible aspiration – breathing into the lungs – of thick meconium (baby’s first bowel movement) during delivery.

None of this sounds good to me and so I am still left with this moral dilemma.

  • Kill the child for embryonic stem cells
  • Kill the child for amniotic stem cells
  • Sacrifice normal development and risk birth defects for amniotic stem cells

I am not saying that we should not do any research using the amniotic fluid. I am saying that if there is any risk to the child, or if it is part of an abortion process then we have a moral dilemma.

http://www.ivillage.co.uk/print/0,,184307,00.html http://www.marchofdimes.com/professionals/681_4536.asp