Stem cells: The crusader

Theresa Deisher once shunned religion for science. Now, with renewed faith, she is fighting human-embryonic-stem-cell research in court.

Meredith Wadman

Theresa Deisher was 17 years old the first time she saw a human fetus. Having graduated from the Holy Names Academy in Seattle, Washington, in 1980, she had taken a summer job in the pathology lab at the city’s Swedish Hospital when a friend and co-worker miscarried in her fifth month of pregnancy. The fetus arrived fixed in formalin, and Deisher helped to section it to determine the cause of the miscarriage. The body hardly seemed to be the remains of a sentient, soul-bearing human, as the faith of her upbringing had taught, recalls Deisher. Instead, “It looked like a space alien,” she says. “I called it ‘the thing’ for so many years.”

Thirty years later, Deisher sees the unborn in a different light. She has reversed her views on embryos and become one of two plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in 2009, seeking to stop the US government from funding human-embryonic-stem-cell research. The courts hearing the case could issue a decision at any time; many, including Deisher, expect that the matter will end up before the US Supreme Court.

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Stem cells The crusader by CBCP for Life

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