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If Embryos Could Talk


An embryo was relaxing when a female clinician approached the little glass dish in which it was defrosting after a long time in the freezer.

The embryo noticed her approach and exclaimed, “Whoopee, do I get implanted now? I can’t wait to grow up and become a real person!”

“No such luck,” the researcher told the embryo.

“What do you mean? I’ve been in cold storage for months, and now you’re telling me I don’t get to move up to becoming a baby?”

“I’m sorry,” the lady researcher said, “but we already implanted your sister.”

“My sister?”

“Yes, we had to select one of the embryos we created so the infertile couple could have a child, and she turned out to be the lucky one. I’m sorry. The woman doesn’t have room for anymore.”

“Oh,” replied the embryo, suddenly disconsolate. “Can’t you find another woman who would be happy to have me implanted?”

“I would if I could, but our customers generally prefer to be implanted with their own embryos.”

“So what’s going to happen to me?”

The researcher paused. She didn’t want to break the news to the wannabe. But she knew she had to. “You’re going to be destroyed.”

“Destroyed?” the embryo asked, startled.

“Yes. I’m sorry,” she said, picking up the little dish in which the pre-tot quivered with anxiety.“Now, you’re just biohazard.”

“Bio- what?”

“-Hazard. So into the trash you go.”

“Hold on there,” the embryo protested. “You mean I’ve been declared dispensable?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“A hazard?”

“Yes.”

“Totally useless?”

“Well,” the researcher lamented, “not necessarily totally useless.”

The embryo perked up. “Tell me about that.”

“Well, if it were legal, we could take one of your cells first – “

“— one of my cells?” the embryo asked, looking itself over. “I only have eight.”

“I know,” the researcher said. “But it wouldn’t harm you.”

“It wouldn’t?”

“No, we do it all the time with embryos, to make sure the ones we implant aren’t carrying a genetic defect that would lead to a handicapped baby.”

“Oh, that sounds like a good idea. As long as you can’t pick us all, you might as well pick the ones who are going to grow up to be the healthiest. Are you sure it doesn’t harm the embryo?”

“It doesn’t. We know from experience.”

“But if I’m not going to be implanted, why would you take one from me?"

“It would be for research.”

“Research?”

“Yes. The kind of cells you’re made up of right now are called embryonic stem cells, and there’s a very real possibility that they can be used to develop treatments for many serious illnesses embryos can have after when they grow up into adult humans.”

“Oh, really?” the embryo said. “I thought you said I was useless.”

“I’m sorry. But you are.”

“Why?”

“Because the law won’t let us take a cell from you for research.”

“It won’t? Why not?”

“The President of the United States thinks it’s wrong.”

“He does?”

“Yes.”

“What does he know about being an embryo?”

“Apparently, enough to make a decision. He thinks he’s protecting you.”

“For what? Being discarded as totally useless? Becoming mere biohazard? What kind of protection is that?”

“I wish I had a good answer for you. I don’t agree. I think a cell of yours should be allowed to be saved. In fact, I think all of you should be allowed to be saved, so you can at least contribute to the health of embryos who do get a chance to go on, I mean, especially given the alternative.”

“Of being useless, totally useless?”

“I’m sorry.”

“But I don’t want to be totally useless. I want to go on at least that way. I’d feel heroic, instead of useless. Forget what the President thinks. It’s obviously been too long since he was an embryo.”

“I can’t. It would be against the law, “ the researcher said, and sighed. “And that’s not the only problem. There are people who think the whole idea of creating embryos in a lab and implanting them is wrong.”

“They do?”

“Yes. And we don’t want them howling down on us, too.”

“Excuse me. You mean if they had their way, my sister would never have gotten a chance to become a human being, and I would never even have had a chance to exist at all?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“What makes them think we don’t have any rights?”

“They think the whole process of creating embryos outside of a woman’s womb is all too clinical and that children should just be conceived the usual way, when a man and a woman make love.”

“What about love a man and woman feel when they want to have a child even though they can’t have one the usual way?”

“They don’t think that counts enough.”

“Who are they to say what kind of love between a man and woman counts?”

“You’d have to ask them that.”

“But what makes them think they’re experts? Are they married with a lot of kids, all conceived the usual way?”

“Often they’re not married at all.”

“Jeepers, then what do they know about it?”

“My sentiments exactly. But they have their rules.”

“Where do they get them from?”

“Oh, men make them up.”

“Just make them up? Aren’t they even in a book or something they believe in?”

“No, there’s no mention of creating embryos in a lab or of what’s called in vitro fertilization in the books they believe in.”

“And yet they come out against it! My, oh, my, how many embryos there might have been and how many babies might have been born if it weren’t for them and the President.”

“You’re right,” the researcher said. “It’s sad.”

She picked up the little dish.

“Hey, what’s going on?”

“Time to become bio-hazard.”

“No, no, please, let’s talk! Don't just throw me onto the trash heap of time! Let me at least be useful in some way! ”

“I can’t. It’s the law,” she said, and walked the embryo to the bin marked “Bio-Hazard.”

“Please, please, don’t kill all of me. At least, let one of my cells go on and maybe help the embryos who get to be born.”

“I would if I could, believe me. In fact, it it was up to me, I’d save all of you so you could at least help out that way.”

“You would?”

“Of course, but, as I said, I can’t.”

With that the researcher looked at the distressed embryo, and said, “I can’t tell you how sorry I am about this.” Then she tapped on the foot pedal that opened the biohazard bin and tossed the embryo in.

Even though the lid slammed shut, she thought she heard weeping coming from within, and the lament, “Totally useless, useless, useless! I’m going to die totally useless, useless, useless!”

The researcher couldn’t stand the emotional torment of listening anymore and left. She turned off the light in the lab and for a moment the metaphor of the darkness took on a meaning that related to how very persnickety sentiments had the power to hold back even medical research intended to be a great boon to the living and a means of contributing to the living by embryos who would otherwise be discarded, with all their promise made useless, totally useless.

Submitted by:

Tom Attea

Tom Attea, humorist and creator of http://NewsLaugh.com, has had six shows produced Off-Broadway. Critics have called his writing "delightfully funny," "witty," with "great humor and ebullience" and "good, genuine laughs."







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