My baby!! Save my baby!! frozen embryos...

Ok…here’s kind of a thought experiment geared more to the pro-lifers. Now it goes without saying that if a baby were trapped in a burning building, a fireman should have a reasonible duty to try and save it…right?

So…should the same heroic efforts be made to save the frozen embryos, fertilized eggs, and whatnot in a burning fertility clinic? (For simplicity, lets say the firemen have some sort of container to keep it alive indefinitely).

Not all “pro-lifers” have the same beleifs. Some believe that a new human being exists from the moment of conception, while others believe that a new human life begins at implantation. The latter pro-life group would not consider fertilized eggs to be on a par with a post-birth baby.

A poll commissioned by Newsweek in 2003 found that 46 percent of Americans believe that life begins at conception, while an additional 12 percent believes that it begins at implantation. Only 11 percent believes that life begins at birth.

Why do you ask the question, out of curiosity?

And in answer to your question, I do not see why the fireman should risk *his * life with the same fervor as he would for a living baby.

For what it’s worth, I believe that life begins at conception…but I don’t think it trumps a woman’s right to have an abortion. Nor do I think that it trumps the life-saving research that can be done with these embryos when they are no longer ‘needed’ for fertility purposes.

As for the OP…well, I’m not a pro-lifer, so I’ll leave it to them to answer. But if a PL fireman saved a batch of embryos at the expense of a fully formed human, there would be hell to pay.

Seriously doubt you will get a real response from a pro-lifer. You’ll get propaganda that of COURSE the fireman should risk his/her life to rescue what is essentially a bunch of test tubes. Realisticially though, there is a huge difference emotionally between a living breathing baby and a frozen embryo. I doubt even the most fanatic would REALLY risk their life rushing into a burning building to save some test tubes…while I can see most folks (some on this board excepted :)) risking their lives to save an infant from death. Its how we are wired.

As I’m pro-choice though I’ll duck out now and just say…carry on.


I’m pro-choice myself, but I can recognize a false dilemma when I see one.

msmith, I am prochoice and anti-abortion. Speaking from the mother’s point of view, I would want to know something about the parents who would be receiving the implantation. I wouldn’t want enough information to identify them, but I would want to know something about their values.

I would not want the embryos preserved indefinitely without purpose or chance of implantation.

I would also be grateful if the embryonic stem cells could be used to generate new skin for a burned child or to ease the pain of another living human being and that person’s family.

Actually I got the idea from 60 Minutes or some similar news magazine show about cloneing embryos for dtem cell researcha few days ago. One of the speakers on the show made a similar analogy.
I suspect that most reasonible pro-lifers would make a distinction between a frozen embryo and an actual baby. I guess the question is if there is such a distinction, how does that reconcile with their pro-life views.

msmith537, you want it both ways. You imply that if a pro-life person believes a frozen embryo and and an “actual” baby to have an equal right to life, that person is being unreasonable. But if a pro-life person doesn’t, that person is being hypocritical. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Interesting. We don’t really need my grandfather anymore; can I donate him for medical experiments? What about the homeless guy on the corner? Is he needed? Think of all the people who could benefit from his organs!

This is the sort of rhetoric that the hypothetical posed by the OP is suppose to reveal as misleading. Many pro-life arguments rely on equating embryos with people (“killing embryos isn’t any different then killing the homeless guy on the corner”). The hypothetical is supposed to make people realize that they do in fact draw a mental line between human life and the life of an embryo.

OK, I’ll answer the OP directly, then.

Yes. The key word being reasonable. I wouldn’t expect the firefighter to put her life in serious jeopardy to save the embryos; but, I wouldn’t expect her to put her life in serious jeopardy to save a baby or anyone else either. However, if there is a reasonable opportunity to save the embryos, the firefighter ought to do that.

Would the reasonable risk you were willing to take be the same in both these cases though? Would you be willing to take the same amount of risk for a frozen embryo as you would for a small child.

There are probably people who would answer yes to this question, but I think they are few and far between.

You are probably right, but what does that prove? I would take a greater risk to save my brother from a fire than I would a stranger; that doesn’t testify to the comparative objective value of either one of them.

It’s a very big step to try to go from “You wouldn’t risk a firefighters life to save an embryo” to “you don’t really value embryos as much as you say you do” to “therefore, we should be willing to sacrifice them for the Greater Good” which is where I infer that the OP was going.

I think the point of the OP was simply to show that even people who pose pro-life arguements suggesting embryos are equivalent to human life (your homeless guy == embryo statement from earlier in the thread) deep down don’t actually think that’s the case.

As you say, just because we don’t hold embryo’s to have all the value of a human life doesn’t mean that we should sacrafice them wily nilly. The OP is merely countering an arguement againt stem-cell research and the like, rather then proposing his own pro-stemcell research arguement.

But his argument isn’t demonstrating that embryos aren’t equivalent to human life; he’s only suggesting that pro-lifers don’t really consider them equal to a baby’s life. Which isn’t really the point of the anti-embryonic stem-cell folks (at least most of them). Fine, a baby’s life is dearer to most people than an embryo’s. It doesn’t follow that embryos are disposable.

On an emotional level, I tend to assign a variable level of ‘worth’ to people. My wife and son, for example, are more important (to me) than my friends; and my friends more so than my coworkers; and they more than strangers on the street. In that sense, I have no problem admitting that I would risk more for a baby than and embryo.

But on a rational/philosophical level, I can still assert that one life is just as important or valuable as another - be it my wife, my mother, a strange baby, or an embryo – even if I can’t really live up to that belief. It doesn’t excuse me from defending those who are defenseless.

I don’t think the baby bit is really that essential to the dilemma. Replace the baby with any other human, let’s say a 99 year old quadrapeligic with no surviving family to miss him. If he and the frozen embryo were in the burning building togeather, which would you save? I still think the answer for most folks would be the human over the embryo. Again, the point is that most people don’t see the embryo as human life at a gut level.

Again, I think you’ll find that many anti-embryonic stem-cell folks do argue that an embryo is equivalent to a human life. Consider the use of the term “murder” that is often used to describe the destruction of an embryo. Murder is usually used in everyday speech to describe killing a human being, so they’re suggesting that killing an embryo is indeed equivalent to killing the homeless guy on the corner.

I agree, just because an embryo is not held to the same value as a human life doesn’t make it “worthless”. It just means that we shouldn’t argue it’s worth saving because otherwise we’d be killing a human being.

What do you mean that you can’t live up to it? The hypothetical asks you which you would rather save, presumably you would choose the one you value more (or if you value them the same, you can say it wouldn’t matter). It’s a question asked on a “philosophic/rational” level, so you should give the choice your philosophy tells you to. I assert that most people would try and save a human over an embryo, that they do not hold the life of an embryo to be as important or valuable as that of another human being.