Stem cell the new frontier of medical break through poses an important ethical dilemma for humanity do we support the destruction of embryos to further science or do we support the protection of embryos. We are faced with a critical decision to protect embryos from being a part of a science experiment or do we think that it is ethical to kill a few embryos in the name of science. I will discuss the pros and cons of stem cell research.
I will discuss the positive outcomes associated with stem cell research from a medical aspect and the negative outcomes from a biological aspect. I will also argue for stem cell research and against stem cell research.
What is Stem Cell Research?
Stem cell research is the use of cells retrieved from embryos which are capable of becoming all or many of the 210 different types of tissues in the human body. Stem cells have traditionally been defined as not fully differentiated cells or tissue types.
The use of these undifferentiated cells or tissues is used to replicate cells in the human body. These cells are from embryos fertilized between days 5-7 of human development. The cells are then retrieved from the embryo and used by researchers to replenish dying or damaged
cells in the body. These cells show great promise to help solve medical illnesses and diseases. The argument we face with this type of research is the use of the embryo to
harvest the stem cells from are the cells considered humans or just cells.
Argument for and against Stem Cell Research
The argument for stem cell research is medically motivated providing for potential cures to debilitating diseases. I consider stem cell the future of medicine by replicating cells and replenishing old cells we would then prolong human beings lives. The argument for science promoting the possibility of future cures and eradication of diseases is a compelling argument in itself. There are those that argue that embryonic stem cell research holds great promise for understanding and curing diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injury. Opponents argue that the research is unethical, because deriving the stem cells destroys the blastocyst, an unimplanted human embryo at the sixth to eight day of development. The moral question we are faced with is the unimplanted human embryo a human being or just a cell. They are those in the religious community that have moral belief that the embryo is a human being and by destroying the embryos in research is the equivalent of killing a child. The notion that by destroying an embryo during research is the equivalent to killing a child is a ridiculous conclusion.
We can compare the embryo to the skin cells that are alive on our bodies. When we shed these skin cells everyday during showers are we killing millions of potentially children by taking a shower. The belief that an embryo in such an early stage of development is considered a human being with out being implanted in the uterus does not pose a very strong argument in my opinion. The fact that this cell is never going to materialize into a human being and will never grow outside of an etri dish is enough evidence to allow stem cell research to continue.
The claim an embryo outside of the uterus is a human is up for serious debate between those for and against stem cell research. Our beliefs may be deeply rooted in religion and our religion determines how we view stem cell research. Some may compare destroying an embryo to killing a child because of their religious beliefs. We all have our beliefs, that belief may be for stem cell research to further science or to limit stem cell research due to our religious convictions. We must put aside our religious convictions in order to further science research into finding cures for debilitating diseases. In order to further any science research we must sacrifice someone or something to reach our goal. We could have not found cures to diseases or create vaccines without having subjects to test these theories on.
The fact that an embryo is used in these research procedures has made such a political and moral controversy a hot topic is no surprise. We have debated this issue because it is claimed that the embryo is morally equivalent to a person, a fully developed human being. Those that hold the view that the embryo is a human compare extracting the blastocyst is as morally abhorrent as harvesting organs from a baby to save other people’s lives. There are some that believe a human embryo is a human being just like you and me, and it deserves the same respect that our laws give to all of us. There are those that believe that an embryo is a human being and embryonic stem cell is immoral because it amounts to killing a person to treat other people’s diseases. Some base their belief on religious convictions that the soul enters the body at the moment of conception.
While others defend there belief without religion by reasoning that human beings are not things. That their lives must not be sacrificed against their will even for the sake of good ends like saving other people’s lives. I agree that we are not things to be used for research and not considered to be humans, but in the same sense a cell is not a human until it grows in to a viable human being. The real question here is do we consider a cell to be a viable at such an early stage in development our religious beliefs may teach us a cell gets a soul upon conception. The idea that at the moment of conception the soul enters the body does not make the cell a viable human being and therefore this cell should not be considered to be a human being.
The Pros and Cons of Stem Cell Research
The pros of stem cell research are unlimited potential for possible cures to diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, stroke, bone diseases, and screening drugs for pharmaceutical companies, instead of using animals to test drugs. The use of the stem cells to reproduce organ tissue and replenish cells has shown great promise for eliminating diseases for mankind. The possibilities of stem cell therapy are endless from cloning to reproducing spinal cord tissue. The use of stem cells to replicate human tissue and organs will help to prolong lives of human beings and possible slow down the aging process by replacing our cells.
The cons of stem cell research are the use of stem cells and the ethical issues associated with using embryos to harvest cells for research. Another disadvantage of stem cell research is the idea that we as humans are on the verge of playing God by creating life. There are also issues with the stem cells having mutating and causing more harm than good. The research has shown possibility of the cells being cancerous in some cases and not growing into the desired organs. The destruction of life is most distinct disadvantage associated with stem cell research.
Positive and Negative Outcomes of Stem Cell Research
The positive outcomes of stem cell research are endless possibilities of curing a wide range of diseases processes and prolonging human life. The use of stem cells has been proven to replenish muscle and organ tissue in humans. Research has shown that the use of stem cells to treat Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease has significantly increased the functionality of the affected patient. Other patients have had success in replacing heart tissue from heart attacks and cancer patients now live symptom free from cancer.
The negative aspect of stem cell research has been linked to how the cells are obtained and the morals issues surrounding them. Another negative outcome of the research is the cells often grow out of control into tumors and immune system sometimes rejects the cells. The use of the embryo to harvest the stem cells poses the most negative outcome of all with the belief that the embryos are human being and harvesting the cells destroys the cell therefore killing a human being.
Stem cell the new frontier of medical break through poses an important ethical dilemma for humanity do we support the destruction of embryos to further science or do we support the protection of embryos. The protection of the embryo from being destroyed for the advancement of science will ultimately put humanity at a loss by protecting a cell from destruction. The destruction of that same cell has the possibility of curing diseases and prolonging humanity for generations. We are ultimately stuck with the decision do we take a life in order to prolong future generation’s life’s by promoting science over humanity in order to further mankind.
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Ethical concerns of using stem cells for medical treatments
In the modern world there have been many diseases, illnesses and epidemics that have been avoided due to the development of technology. One of the most recent successful developments have involved the research into stem cells. Stem cells are cells which can specialize into many different types of cells, they are known as totipotent cells. Scientists have found that it is possible to harvest organs, such as, livers, hearts, and lungs.
Or remake dead cells which have been deceased from various illnesses, such as dead brain cells, that could be re-grown and cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Some people may see this is a good thing as it could help many unfortunate people who have genuine diseases. But many people have raised ethical concerns about the research procedure involved. The procedure involves an embryo’s nucleus being taken out and replaced by the nucleus of the cells which need to be reproduced. This process is known as nuclear transfer. A very famous experiment conducted via nuclear transfer was the birth of Dolly the sheep; a mammary cell nucleus was taken and added to the embryo, which was then added to the uterus of a ewe and then in February 1997, Dolly’s mother gave birth. The cloning was successful but some people say she died at an early age because she was cloned, whilst others argue that she died because she was affected by the retrovirus JSRV. This is very common in sheep and causes many of them to die.
Some people argue that using embryos is very unethical, as it involves tampering with God’s creations. Many people believe that embryos are human beings that also have rights and do not deserve to be killed or employed for medical reasons. Some people also argue that people may go too far with cloning, which may result in evil doings.
Dr. Piete who is a member of the European Parliament stated, “The cloning of embryos would be like a bursting damâ€¦â€¦ Once human embryos are cloned and used for the breeding of organs, there would immediately be attempts to go further”.
It is understandable why some people are afraid that along with a lot of help there may be risks of corruption. People may use the advances in stem cells to clone armies. Religions play a huge part in stem cell research. Most of them believe that killing or using an embryo is wrong because it means that a life is being taken. During a coalition of 11 religious leaders, it was concluded that, “There is widespread agreement that the huge philosophical and ethical implications of these development have not been considered fully”. The law protects an embryo/zygote after it has lived for 24 weeks. This law was introduced in 1990 and was known as the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act 1990. This is known as the final abortion date; you can not have an abortion after the 24th week. This is roughly half the life of the baby in the womb of the mother. Although people argue that there are bad sides to stem cells research, there are many people who believe that the benefits outweigh the detriments.
One must hold consideration for all the sufferers of; diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, Parkinson’s, brain disease, as they are waiting for a cure and right now the only cure seems to be research into stem cells which can help many sufferers fight the disease and beat it. At the moment diabetes is a huge problem in England. Diabetes is associated with obesity, which is a current problem that could soon lead to a global epidemic. Obese people can now have the chance to fight diabetes with advances in stem cells research. A representative of the Parkinson’s Research Interest Group states “Those who oppose this development need to show good reason why people with chronic illnesses should be denied advances in medical treatments that would substantially improve their quality of life”. This agrees with the idea that people who suffer from fatal diseases have the chance to live a healthy and normal life. As for the people who believe that embryos have the right to live and that we should not use them for research into preventing diseases, I believe this is a matter of preferences. How can people put the ‘feelings’ of a few embryos higher than the treatment of people with diseased lives? This is totally inhumane and is a crime against humanity. The embryos don’t feel a thing when they are being used for research but a human feels a lot of physical and emotional pain when it is going through these fatal illnesses. I personally think that millions of humans have a higher priority than that of a few cells. Lord Hunt who is the junior Health Minister states, “The embryo has a special status, and we owe a measure of respect to the embryo. But we also owe a measure of respect to the millions of people living with these devastating illnesses and the millions who have yet to show signs of them”. This explains my views exactly and Professor Julia Polak who is the Director of the Tissue Engineering Centre in Hammersmith hospital London also says “I may feel sorry about two or three cells but I also care about the millions of cells that are a human person”.
We should consider this matter logically and ethically. Fair enoughâ€¦ the embryos deserve respect but one has to question whether their rights overcome the rights of the millions of sufferers out there in the world. Therefore, in conclusion, I believe that stem cell research should be carried out, but the security precautions that are to be implemented, should be handled appropriately and also the governments of the world should not allow the research to fall in the wrong hands.
Stem Cell Research:
Beneficial or Detrimental?
The use of stem cell research has helped to make many progressions in the medical field and has helped save many peoples’ lives by treating and curing many diseases and other illnesses. If scientists continue to research the uses of stem cells, it could prove to improve life for all human beings. However, the end result of researching stem cells could be beneficial or detrimental to our society. While research on cord and adult stem cells could show to improve life for those who are in medical need, embryonic stem cell research requires a life to be taken so therefore should not be supported.
What are stem cells?
“Stem” cells can also be distinguished as “differentiated” cells. They are primal cells found in all multi-cellular organisms. They maintain the capability to renew themselves through mitotic cell division, and they have the ability to grow into almost any type of cell.# That is why they are so useful. Dead cells of almost any kind, regardless of what type of injury or disease, can be replaced with new healthy cells thanks to the remarkable flexibility of stem cells.
So if the use of stem cells is such a breakthrough in the medical field, why should anyone be against it? The answer lies in where they come from. There are three main sources for acquiring stem cells: cord cells, embryonic cells, and adult cells.
Cord cells are cells that can be taken from the umbilical cord at birth and can be stored and later on used as a type of insurance policy for the newborn for use in the future. Cord cells can also be used by close relatives such as the mother, father, siblings, or other people of close relationship. However, the more distant the relationship, the more likely it is that the cells will be rejected by the person’s immune system and it will not work.
Next, there are the adult stem cells. Research on adult stem cells has been around the longest and has proven to be the most useful and successful of the different types of stem cells. Adult stem cells are attained from living bone marrow, blood, body fat, brain tissue, and skin. In order to be distinguished as an adult stem cell, the cell has to have these two properties:
1) The ability to divide and create another cell similar to itself
2) The ability to divide and create a cell even more distinguished than itself.
Although these stem cells are called “adult” stem cells, they can also be found in children.
The use of adult stem cells has helped to save many peoples’ lives in the past and is still being proven to have therapeutic effects in cancer treatments, autoimmune diseases, leukemia, and heart disease today. Every year more and more of United States government funding is being provided for cord and adult stem cell research due to its many successes.
The last type of stem cells are the embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are derived from human embryos. In order to harvest embryonic stem cells, an embryo must be destroyed. The reason why scientists are so interested in embryonic stem cells is because these cells can develop into each of the more than 200 cell types of the adult body when given sufficient and necessary stimulation for a specific cell type. However, after twenty years of research, there are still no approved treatments or human trials using embryonic stem cells. This means that they have the combined abilities of unlimited expansion and pluripotency, so because of this, embryonic stem cells remain a theoretically potential source for regenerative medicine and tissue replacement after injury or disease.
What the Bible Says
The Bible speaks concerning matters of stem cell research. In the Bible, there were many healers and physicians, and even Jesus healed some of the sick, wounded and diseased.
” And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with diverse diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.”
Matthew 4 : 23-24
Therefore, many would see no reason to believe that research on cord or adult stem cells is wrong and would believe it is a legitimate field of study, well within the will of God. Many also believe that it is God’s will for us as children of God to try and help those in need, just as Jesus Christ did when he came to earth; so it would only be right for us to continue studying and researching the many uses and benefits that can be discovered using cord and adult stem cells.
However, while the use of cord cells and adult stem cells do not require the destruction of a human life in order to be obtained, embryonic stem cells do. The biblical teaching is that human existence begins at conception.
“You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they are all written, the days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.”
Psalm 139 : 13-16
“The word of the Lord came to me thus: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, Before you were born I dedicated you, A prophet to the nations I appointed you.”
Jeremiah 1: 4-5
Since nothing has been accomplished with the use of embryonic stem cells, its potential still remains untested. Even after twenty years of research, there are no approved treatments or human trials using embryonic stem cells. However, embryonic stem cells hold the most potential out of the three types of stem cells because you can get up to 150 cells from just one embryonic stem cell line; where you can get only a small number of the adult or cord cells. Their tendency to produce tumors and malignant carcinomas, cause transplant rejection, and form the wrong kinds of cells are just a few of the problems that embryonic stem cell researchers still face and are trying to overcome. Many nations currently have a suspension or a ban on either embryonic stem cell research or the production of new embryonic stem cell lines. Another reason why embryonic stem cell research is wrong is because in order to start a new embryonic stem cell line, therapeutic cloning may be required.
The Government and Stem Cell Research
The fact that this type of research is wrong has not gone unnoticed by the United States government. Steps have been taken to help stop embryonic stem cell research (although adult stem cell and cord cell research is widely supported). In 1995, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Dickey Amendment which prohibited all federal funding for research that resulted in the destruction of an embryo regardless of the source of that embryo. In the past 7 years, President George W. Bush has enacted numerous laws that restrict federally-funded stem cell research on embryonic stem cells to the already derived cell lines. Then, on July 19, 2006, he vetoed H.R. 810 (Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act), a bill that would have reversed the Clinton-era law which made it illegal for federal money to be used for research where stem cells are derived from the destruction of a human embryo.#
Although the government prohibits federal and public funding of embryonic stem cell research, private funding is still legal. On February 16, 2007, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine became the biggest financial backer of embryonic stem cell research in the U.S. when they awarded nearly $45 million in research grants.
Currently, if the United States decides to vote a Democrat into office, they will most likely be a supporter of stem cell research – embryonic stem cell research included. However, if a Republican gets voted into office, such as McCain or Huckabee, they would be against embryonic stem cell research but would still support the research of the possibilities of adult stem cells and cord cells.
The Future of Stem Cell Research
Researchers and physicians are working to design stem cell therapies that are more effective and reduce the invasiveness and the risk to patients. Today’s stem cell therapies usually rely on cells that are denoted by another person; this raises the possibility of donor cell rejection by the patient’s immune system. In the future, it may be possible for a person to use a sample of his or her own stem cells to regenerate tissue, which would reduce or even eliminate the danger of rejection.
The only problem with this is that in order to use a sample of one’s own stem cells, the process of cloning would have to be endorsed. There are a couple of verses in the Bible that speak against this.
“Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.”
“Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, â€¦ I have formed you, â€¦Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone.”
Isaiah 44:2, 21, 24
As you can see from these verses, the Bible states two main things that relates to cloning:
1) Life begins early in the womb.
2) God forms life.
Because we are God’s creation and because we are created in His image (according to Genesis 1:26), life is precious. Much of the desire in the scientific community is to create clones for “spare parts,” to use their stem cells, organs, and so on. Although it sounds like cloning these things would be more beneficial than not, cloning even the smallest of parts would be devaluing natural human life.
On the surface, the possibilities of stem cell therapies seem limitless. Would it be possible to use stem cell technologies to replace any diseased or damaged tissue in the body? To answer this question, researchers must figure out the true potential and limitations of stem cells. Researchers are asking themselves many questions, such as how long will a stem cell therapy last and can we ensure that stem cell therapies will not form tumors in the body. There are so many things we can do with stem cells that the opportunities to improve human life seem infinite. Stem cells have helped us in ways such as reversing cancer, developing cures for diabetes, replacing damaged organs and nerves, and much more. Stem cells today are being used to treat diseases such as leukemia. Stem cell transplant procedures also show promise for treating neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
In 2001, nearly 80,000 people needed organ transplants, fewer than 24,000 got them, and 6,000 died waiting. Of those receiving organs, 40 percent die within the first three years after surgery.# If we continue to fund stem cell research, being able to obtain an organ to save one’s life would be much easier. For example, say a person is in need of a pancreas; just place your order, and three weeks later a new one lies ready and waiting in the surgical suite. Heart failure? No worries – a few injections with multipotent stem cells will grow new cardiac tissue. It is statistics like these that draw us into the idea of stem cell research.
In conclusion, one must really look at the facts to truly understand the true potential stem cell research holds for us for the future. One must use his own judgement to decide for himself whether he supports stem cell research or whether he believes it is immoral or unethical based on his own opinions and beliefs.