ASRM President Authors Editorial Taking Issue with Unscientific Nature of “Life Begins at Fertilization” Arguments

Richard J. Paulson, MD, President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), has authored an editorial in the Society’s journal Fertility and Sterility, on the concept of “life begins at fertilization” arguments.
In the editorial, Paulson makes the case that scientists have a special obligation to correct “unscientific conclusions attributed to science.”  In order to protect the credibility of science, Paulson argues, it is vital that scientists call out misinformation and not be complicit in its spread.
Paulson then takes on one such example of misinformation of importance to reproductive medicine - the argument that life begins at fertilization. The editorial points out that life is clearly a continuum. The cells which contribute to the creation of a zygote, the sperm and the egg, are both clearly and definitively alive. The trait of being alive therefore existed prior to the union of sperm and egg.  Moreover, Paulson argues, the concept of “human life” is often misconstrued into meaning a new invidualized human being. In reality, the cells that constitute the early stage human embryo are totipotent, that is capable of giving rise to other kinds of cells, including, as we see with twinning, a completely different individual.
Paulson concludes the editorial by making the case that ignoring misinformation from policy makers or the media does not serve the interests of the field, or the patients.

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