Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Note From Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein of the Washington Times emailed me about the article I wrote citing her column on extra embryos. She informed me that the online version of her column, which I had read and referenced, was missing a good portion of what she had written. She said in her email, "Sometimes it “starts” my column on the jump … which means the whole top of the column is missing online." Assuming this had happened to me, she sent me a copy of the entire column.

First, I would like to thank her for realizing what had happened. And, I would also like to thank her for the insight into the fact that what I am reading online is only "part of the story" in some cases -- a testimonial for buying the print version, for sure.

The beginning of Cheryl Wetzstein's column openly supports embryo adoption, and without having the top portion of her column to set the tone for the rest of the piece, one could see how I interpreted her views in a much different light. Wetzstein begins her column this way:
About a year ago, a colleague and I wrote that only about 6,000 unwed mothers a year placed their newborns for adoption, while the number of "embryo adoptions" — in which people transfer their excess frozen embryos to new would-be parents — was rising.

I thought this was a remarkable turn of events: Women (or couples) wouldn't part with a baby, but they would if it was an embryo.

I viewed this as a win-win situation. Who else but infertile couples can truly understand the desolate heartache of childlessness, and if they find themselves with "extra" embryos after completing their families, why not share? The federal government has seemed to agree with that view, as it has spent several million dollars to promote awareness of embryo adoption.

So where is this issue today?

To begin, the advertising seems to be paying off.

"We are now seeing patients who heard about embryo adoption from an acquaintance or friend or family member rather than just through their own research or from a physician's office," says Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, medical director of the National Embryo Donation Center, which received some of the embryo-donation-promotion grants.

"What that indicates to me is that the word is getting out on the street," he says.

Dr. Keenan also estimates that the number of babies born from embryo adoption is holding its own, if not growing. Between 2004 and 2007, he estimates, there were more than 1,000 live-birth deliveries, resulting in about 1,300 babies (because of twins and triplets).

Given the multitudes of frozen embryos (500,000 at last estimate), the number of babies born through embryo adoption could grow significantly if this process became more widely accepted.

But that's a very big "if."

(to read this piece in relation to the rest of her column go here)

It is obvious from the start of the piece that she is focusing on embryo adoption as a plausible option for those poor frozen embryos. She is not sympathizing with the doctors who have "extras" that they have to pay to keep cryopreserved. This was not apparent to me without the top portion of her column, and I am grateful that she brought it to my attention.

While I still don't necessarily believe that embryo adoption is a morally sound way to proceed, the Church has yet to decide on the matter, so we are free to explore the options and debate the ideas being presented.

In fairness and out of respect to Cheryl Wetzstein, I thought I would update you and allow you to see what I was missing when I wrote the original piece.

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