Friday, August 27, 2010

The Inconvenient Facts About Your Inconvenient Facts

Steve Chapman writes an article titled Inconvenient stem cell facts, in the which he notes the cognitive dissonance of destroying a living embryo to potentially save life.  All well and good; indeed, a valid point that needs to be considered.  Unfortunately, Mr. Chapman glosses right over the dirty fact that every opponent of embryonic stem cell research wishes didn't exist:  Those embryos they'd like you to think are getting murdered in the name of science are slated for death anyway.

Mr. Chapman makes a passing acknowledgment of this - in scare quotes, themselves in parenthesis, so as to minimize the readers' valuation of those words - by stating they are left over embryos from fertility clinics.  "Left over," far from the euphemism you may think it to be after reading Mr. Chapman's article, is the simple truth.  Common in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures in the U.S. involve extracting, on average, between 8 and 15 eggs.  Depending on a host of factors, fertilization success rates vary from 5% to 50%.  The goal is at least 4 embryos. Those 4 are implanted in the hopes that at least one will stick, about a 50/50 chance.  (The chances of a single implanted embryo surviving is rougly 1 in 3.  IVF has high rates of multiple pregnancy.)  Embryos over 4 are usually frozen.  There are over half a million embryos frozen in the United States.  There's a (roughly) 60% success rate in thawing frozen embryos for later use.  There's no good numbers on how long an embryo remains viable in cryogenisis, but the industry guess is about 5 years is the average life span.

Now that you have the numbers, let's do the math.  Assume, for Mr. Chapman's sake, that a dead embryo is equivalent to a murder.

Any IVF attempt has a 99.2% chance of causing between 1 and 4 murders.  The probability of a murder-free IVF procudure is 0.8%.

IVF has pre-murdered half the population of Tucson, Arizona, by freezing them while knowing 4 in 10 will die in the thaw.  Of the remaining 300,000, only 100,000 will survive the IVF procedure, so I guess we can just round up and say IVF has pre-murdered about the population of Mesa.

For the remaining 100,000 to survive, we need to find 75,000 would-be moms with about $15,000 each for the cost of the procedure.   In the next 5 years, naturally.

So don't preach to me about how embryonic stem-cell research is murder, unless you want to join the Catholic Church as the only people in the world to have the cajones to *really* stand on principle and oppose the IVF procedure in its entirety.

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