The American public has been a haven of open scientific inquiry and it has always been a factor in creating globally accepted innovations in biotechnology and medicine. The issue regarding stem cell research has been a widely and hotly debated issue due to its ethical implications. The process takes the human embryo cells that have been deemed by the National Institute of Health as having greater developmental potential as opposed to adult stem cells.
Essentially, in order for one to have a so-called stem cell research line, it would translate to the destruction of a human embryo. In the legislative realm, that is where the clash of opinion begins. Translating that into the nursing practice, the issue touches ethics that involves many facets of professional conduct. Professional commitment is shown through a desire to help, a sense of obligation, efforts to enhance competence and compliance with professional standards. The stem cell research cuts across the professional accountability of the nursing profession where ethics is concerned with the conduct of nurses in performing acts that are deemed ethically right or wrong.
However, today, social values are changing rapidly with the constant advancement of technology and nurses are increasingly confronted by situations that have far-reaching ethical implications. In this issue, nurses must be aware of the ethical decisions involved in such situations as assisting with the actual utilization of human embryos for the research. Nurses must know their legal rights in such matters as well as those of the patient. It is important for nurses to realize the strength of their personal values in shaping their professional values. (Duffy, 2002)
To give an example, the state of Hawaii has passed the bill that allows stem cell research to continue under the express, written consent of the person who is allowing the use of embryonic fetal tissue. The bill that has been passed in the state of Hawaii explicitly permits that the “research involving the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells, human embryonic germ cells, and human adult stem cells from any source, including somatic cell nuclear transplantation” shall be permitted.
The state of Hawaii also distinctly provides several provisions for this research and some of these conditions require first and foremost the review and approval of an institutional review board. It also requires that the physician that is delivering fertility treatment would inform the patient well enough to make a voluntary and knowledgeable decision regarding the disposition of the human embryos. The physician is also mandated to give the option of storing, discarding or donating them to any individual or any research. (Human Stem Cell Research).
The bill automatically puts two fronts against each other by raising several ethical questions about the destruction of human embryos, which are essentially believed by loyalists to be human life already. The legislation process of the state of Hawaii is underway and it has already received several private donors who would want the stem cell research to continue. The bill that has been recently passed is one indication that there is a strong push for the legislation of stem cell research Human Stem Cell Research).
Advances in vitro culture of stem cells provided unparalleled opportunities for studying and understanding human embryology. Although it is impossible to predict the outcomes, scientists and the public will gain immense new knowledge in the biology of human development that will likely hold remarkable potential for therapies and cures. (Chapman, Frankel, Garfinkel, 1999).
How does ethical and legislative issues play a role on stem cell research and nursing/nurses
Society is rapidly changing its attitudes about major ethical issues. These changes often have a direct effect on nursing practice. Nurses in this situation are faced with providing nursing care in situations that contradict their own personal values. Changing social values and attitudes impact on various areas of concern to nurses and on the decisions they have to make. This is where nurses will have a difficult time reconciling. Human embryonic stem cells are “master cells” and just any other cell in the body, is capable of developing into a functional cell in the human body. (Duffy, 2002).
Still awaiting are several new implications that require further bills to be passed. This is a new breakthrough that challenges ethical standards. Some states are now debating as to whether embryos should be created rather than collected from fertility clinics. These are the current problems that affect the House of the United States where they are carefully considering the implications, both medical and ethical, of allowing such procedure to continue. There are suggestions to create embryos rather than relying on those left over from fertility clinics. (Macone, 2005)
Indeed, the issue on the stem cell will continue to be a highly charged one. Researchers will have to deal with this for a long time. Much research needs to be done. Many issues need to be reconciled. Both sides are powerful testaments to the positions they represent.