Imagine a future where diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis were eradicated. Well, you might not have to wait for that very long! New therapies and research may be able to accomplish just that and more. Stem cells are specialized types of cells that can restart themselves and reproduce to form different cell types all over the body, replacing damaged, mutated, or missing cells. This type of stem cell research requires the usage of an embryo, making it a large issue for many reasons. Those reasons range from morals, ethics, all the way to political agendas. Many say that destroying embryos for research is unethical and immoral based on the belief that embryos are considered alive and deserve the same respect and rights that others have (Mirabile 1). Those that would like to pursue the usage of stem cell in research say that using and destroying embryos is an acceptable loss for all of the benefits we may have in the future. In this paper, I will explain what stem cells are, then I will assess the two main beliefs of the story that are involved in the stem cell debate, and lastly I will look at the ethics and morals of these many arguments.
As defined by The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “human stem cells are an undifferentiated cell of a multicellular organism that is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells of the same type”. Stem cells in general have an enormous amount of potential for the future of the medical industry. These days, new therapies involving stem cells have been used to
treat illnesses that no one ever believed there would be a cure for. One big example is the usage of bone marrow to treat leukemia and other known blood disorders. The stem cells which are injected into the patient are capable of fighting back and replacing damaged cells (Mirabile 3). This fixes the patient’s immune system and greatly improves their quality of life. It is such an amazing feat to be able to treat people with such debilitating conditions.
Quite a few others are heavily supporting the benefits that stem cells have to offer. Some people think that not continuing to developing this technology could potentially lead to the deaths of millions of people. (CIRM 6). The usage of stem cells does also have disadvantages that should be taken into consideration when making the argument for continued support. Stem cells have a high risk of causing tumor formation in the patient’s body after the they are implanted (Swaminathan 1-4). Stem cell-based therapies also include the risk of an immune system rejection – which is a rejection of the stem cells by the patient’s immune system because they are recognized as foreign cells. The body’s defense mechanism is then triggered and proceeds to defend against the foreign cells and destroy them (Swaminathan 2). These are just a few issues that will need a solution if stem cells are to ever be considered for medical use in the future.
Many other lies can also circulate about both sides regarding their stance to attempt to invalidate their opinions. A huge one is that “stem cell technologies would very expensive and available only to rich countries and rich people (Lachmann 3).” That is one of the furthest things from the truth. There is a process to it though. Stem cell research could potentially lead to many cures; for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases especially! If these types of promises are
believable and truthful, stem cell therapy could actually end up lowering the overall cost of healthcare (Lachmann 4).
Currently, obtaining stem cells that are embryonic requires the death of an embryo. Many people around the world have the belief that an embryo has significant status as a living being, and should not be included in experiments and research. They believe that the embryo has the exact same rights, claims, or interests as a human (Mirabile 15). The embryo is considered human when it has been fertilized. So the belief is that the destruction of an embryo should never happen because it is considered a human being (Mirabile 1).
The majority of Christian churches are staunch supporters of this type of view, stating that they disapprove of stem cell research for the reason that it is just another way to abort a baby that is alive (Copland 1-3). Many other groups, including right wing politicians and even traditional christian-conservative households, believe stem cells to have the same rights as any other human being and therefore they oppose stem cell research (Hodges 3). These types of beliefs that are based upon the status of an embryo’s rights are subjective, and also can be considered their own issue, which makes the already difficult task of creating a far-reaching law regarding how stem cells are used for research very complicated.
These opinions so far have just been coming from two different sides. If we delve a little deeper there is a lot more information and impact that stem cell research has on the world than a lot of the population knows. Having this kind of research around is the fine line which could lead to neo-eugenics, specialized children, discrimination, and overpopulation (Lachmann 19-24).
Many scholars argue that more people would seek out genetically perfect human beings, discriminating against the flawed ones and leaving them behind to become poor and die in an
attempt for the more powerful people in the world to create a perfect society. Eventually, they will reach the status of ‘immortal,’ where they have the ability to live forever and overpopulate the Earth (Lachmann 23). They only way to create more space is to either living in smaller conditions or eliminate the poor. The genetically programmed generation would rule the world and tear down all that we have worked for in society.
As displayed by the two different arguments in this essay, the debate over stem cell research remains huge issue. Stem cells, with their vast potential and self-renewing abilities, will still be for useful for scientific research. The question still remains, “What’s the right choice?” We understand the destruction of a life is considered unethical and just morally wrong, but the rights of an embryo are unclear which means nothing can fully be done about it. It is just stuck in between being considered a human and lab experiment. There are ethical ways to source stem cells that do not involve taking the life of an embryo, so the research can continue on in another direction (Mirabile 25). With this in mind, there will always be two sides to this story and they will both have very thought provoking positives and negatives, but it will always be up to the individual to decide.