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Couples with leftover embryos favor research

RALEIGH, N.C. — The national debate over embryonic stem cell research centers on the sanctity of life. But the couples who create the leftover embryos would rather they be destroyed in the course of scientific research than given a chance at becoming babies, a new study from Duke University Medical Center has found.

The study, released Wednesday, says 41 percent of patients who had finished fertility treatment would seriously consider donating their embryos for stem-cell research. An additional 12 percent preferred to discard the embryos. Only 16 percent said they would be willing to donate the unused embryos to another couple, the sole option that would avoid destroying them.

"What we found was that people cared very much about what happened to their embryos, but one of their significant concerns was that their embryos not become children in families other than their own," said Dr. Anne Drapkin Lyerly, a Duke obstetrician and ethicist who led the study. Lyerly surveyed about 1,000 couples who had frozen embryos in storage at nine fertility clinics across the country, including one at Duke. She says it is the only large, comprehensive study of the way fertility patients deal with their unused embryos.

Deaths from measles decline

ATLANTA — Measles deaths worldwide declined dramatically to about 200,000 a year, continuing a successful trend, global health authorities reported Thursday.

From 2000 to 2007, annual measles deaths dropped 74 percent, largely because of vaccination campaigns, according to a report from the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations.

Measles still kills more than 500 a day. But health officials estimate 11 million deaths were avoided in the decline. The most dramatic improvements were seen in Africa and in Greater Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. The least progress was in Southeast Asia. The report appears this week in publications of the CDC and WHO.

Herald-Leader Wire Services