Embryonic Stem Cells Research

by Jason Shaw
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Introduction

Stem cells are known as mother cells that are capable of becoming any kind of cell in the body.

Stem cells have many features, but their ability to multiply and renew while developing into various kinds of cells is the main one. The types of cells that can be acquired through the stem cells are cells of the heart, blood, muscles, bones, brain, skin, etc. The stem cells have different sources, but all kinds of stem cells consist of the same potential to produce several types of stem cells.

The issues of stem cell research have been a topic for the case for many years. The problem has created a division throughout the world between scientific, political, and religious groups. The problem revolves around one question: When does life start exactly? The researchers have to kill it in order to get reliable stem cells and extract the embryo’s cells. The embryo may contain only a few cells as small as four or five, but it has sparked a debate where religious groups claim that destroying these cells is equal to killing a human being. Eventually, the discussion reached the political field as well (Moore 7).

These stem cells immediately appeared to be everywhere and still are. Each tick of the clock has increased the complexity of these tiny stem cells. For years, stem cell research has been funded by the state. Religious values, conventional alliances, and understanding of life have been challenged by the controversy about stem cells.

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The civil battle over research into embryonic stem​​ cells

There is a civil fight over embryonic stem cell research, and with some twists, the conflict is over abortion. These cells come from embryos, and the embryo is viewed as life by many religious communities. It is undeniable, however, that these stem​​ cells are promising and can benefit many ailing patients; hence, the debate began about whether or not stem cell research should be sponsored and legally permitted (Moore 7).

The state has long been active in the political controversy over the use of federal funds to finance research into stem cells. Until 1996, the federal monies were used to fund stem cell research as the primary source for funding, but later in the same year, Congress had passed the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which banned the budget of any​​ study which involved the creation or destruction of the human embryo through federal monies. Congress claimed that it was immoral, morally controversial, and illegal for stem cell study. President George W. Bush also endorsed this claim, even though many​​ of the administration's representatives had contrary opinions that an embryo is not human life, and further study should be allowed to take advantage of the possible benefits it offers (Pressberg 65).

When President Barack Obama came into power, the political controversy reshaped and argued that stem cell research should be extended due to its benefits for the community's future. A new policy was introduced by the​​ President, which many of the religious scholars disliked but cooled many at the same time.​​ 

In​​ three cases, as the President approved funding for stem cell research:​​ 

  • First, the stem cell line was from the 22 that existed or was formed from the embryos that were discarded at Bush's time;​​ 

  • Secondly that the donors were not paying for it;​​ 

  • And​​ thirdly that the donors were clearly aware of what their embryos were being used for before they gave consent.

Many religious scholars, who argued against stem cell research and the fact that it is killing human life (embryo) to save many others it​​ unethical and unjustified, favored this policy as it did not give consent to create or destroy human embryos but instead use those who were already discarded. This proposal, however, pushed the researchers, and by filing a lawsuit in 2009, they protested against it. The scientists argued in the case that the new system would increase the competition for funding affecting their chances of obtaining funds. Thus, the judge ruled that the new policy should be stopped as it violated the rules of the Dickey-Wicker amendment as the embryos must have been destroyed during the process of their creation (Pressberg 65).

Up till now, the political roller coaster is swinging the religious, traditional, scientific, and ethical communities. However, in my opinion, federal​​ monies should be used to fund stem cell research as they have many potential benefits scientifically and socially. Currently, the court gives specific rules under which stem cell research is allowed, and under that, the scientists carry out their investigations. I believe policies should be created which support the research under certain conditions, which would still not resolve the controversy but convince many. ​​ 

The Scientific debate over embryonic stem cell research

The scientific debate over embryonic​​ stem cell research is focused on the several benefits that stem cells give to humans.​​ The most prominent feature of a stem cell is that it is undifferentiated, which means that it can turn into any type of cell.​​ Hence the scientists debate that stem cells​​ can be turned into any kind of cell which is needed. Scientists say that these stem cells can also be used to replace the damaged and sick cells from a patient who has a disease or injury (McBride 34).

The question of debate much lies in where the scientists are getting these stem cells, not why they are getting them. The scientists argue that they merely use the discarded embryos for the research which they got from the storage of fertilization clinics. Some people do not want to have more children; thus,​​ their stem cells are donated and used for research. Others found many stem cells for​​ analysis from aborted fetuses. Even this required a consent form signed by the patient to abort the baby.​​ 

This has been a controversial condition as abortion is opposed​​ by many pro-life activists. These pro-life activists argue against the scientists’ methods of collecting stem cells for research. They say that abortion is not allowed and is equal to killing a human child in the womb. Using the embryos from that is unethical and considered to be a murder.​​ 

Inattention to this controversy and issue, the scientists argued that they have many other methods for collecting stem cells too; however, these do not yield the stem cells in the same way as embryos. They argue that in​​ order to use stem cells to cure diseases and infections, the embryos must be collected and used (Panino 8).​​ 

The opponents of this suggest that using human embryo would simply destroy human life just to fulfill the scientific curiosity of scientists. They​​ argue that a human embryo is a human child as it starts developing very early and has legal rights as well. Killing it would be equal to taking a human life, which is illegal, unjustified, punishable, and at the same time, unethical. Religious scholars argue that no one except God knows when life will be given and when taken. There may be many ways to save humans, but none of them requires killing someone. Socialists argue that once the scientists initiate this research openly, it will destroy the society traditionally, culturally, and religiously (Harris 10). ​​ 

Answering these arguments, the scientists counter-argue that there is a lot of scientific skepticism involved as these stem cells can help us to understand the development of cells and their differentiation. The stem cells could also be used for transplants and to eliminate the requirement of human subjects in tests for drugs. For those who oppose stem cell research, the moral and ethical cost of the study is much important than any of the benefits associated with this research. But for the scientists, the benefits are undeniable. Even though they agree that there is a great deal of ethical and moral issues involved in the debate, they also believe that turning backs to the research today will cost a bright future for many.​​ 

In my opinion, scientists should not leave behind their efforts at this point, knowing the benefits that stem cell research can bring to several humans in the future.

How antiabortionist come into play

Those people or groups who oppose stem cell research suggest that the destruction of an embryo is equivalent to abortion. These groups believe that an embryo is a life as it is the simplest form of a human being and eventually grows to become a living being. Thus, these people suggest​​ that it is culturally, legally, and ethically incorrect to end one life just to save others. The antiabortionists legally and socially oppose the devaluation of human life at any stage, whether it is in the shape of the embryo in the womb. They suggest that abortion should be illegal and should not be common illegally as well (McBride 34).

When the stem cells are used for the research and the embryo is discarded, it is considered as a devaluation and criticism of human life. Furthermore, when scientific procedures are conducted using these embryonic stem cells, it is similarly known to be the devaluation of life, which the antiabortionists oppose. Many religious groups are also pro-life, and they condemn the embryonic stem cell research with all its possible​​ applications. These groups suggest that the adult stem cells are being used, and thus there is no need to get into the embryonic stem cell research.​​ 

Antiabortionists much oppose the stem cell research of an embryo, and the debate is going on for years. There are many antiabortionist movements in the USA and other significant parts of the world. On the other hand, there is a group of supporters who continue to suggest that the benefits of stem cell research outweigh the ethical and moral dilemmas (George 304).​​ 

Other people and groups who support embryonic stem cell research often argue that an embryo is not life as it’s in the womb. They believe that there are many diseases that can be healed from this research, and thus in regards to monetary and suffering aspects, embryonic stem cell research should be considered as a promising therapy for many diseases and problems (Harris 10).  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

When exactly does life begin?​​ 

As mentioned earlier, the debate over abortion has been a hot issue for many years in regard to stem cell research. The antiabortionists say that human life​​ starts as soon as the first cell is produced in the female womb. This has also been a traditional truth that marks the start of human life the moment it was a tiny cell. The only difference​​ between the different stages of human life is development. However, there is still a debate over the question that when life actually begins (Evans 87).

It is simple and straight forward that any biologist can conclude that human life begins as soon as the father’s sperm united with the mother’s egg. The process is called fertilization.

The DNA of the father combines with that of the mother in the egg, which is known as the fertile egg. When this egg splits into two cells, it’s known as a two-celled embryo. Biologically the definition of the embryo is the “youngest form of a human being.” Many of the groups fail to recognize the embryo as a human being, a person who has legal protections and rights. Just because of this misrepresentation, abortion still exists in society. Many people don’t realize that the embryo is a human being, a person who has the right to live just like other humans (Forman 78).

There is an argument that opposes the view that fertilization is the process where life actually​​ starts.​​ Many the people suggest that scientists cannot know precisely when life begins. Even though there are many theories, but the exact time of a human’s birth or death may not be known. Even though we know the process of fertilization exists, no one can tell that human life exists​​ inside the womb without actually seeing it. These views are somewhat religious and talk about faith in believing that the cell inside the body is a human being without seeing it. These groups of people suggest that life can be​​ predicted just a few months before the baby is actually born (Panino 8).

The fundamental definition of living things is that,

They are organized, they have the ability to acquire energy and materials, they respond to the environment they live in, they can​​ reproduce, and they have the ability to adapt.

In accordance with this definition, it is clear that life begins at the stage of fertilization. It is this moment when the being starts to be organized, acquires energy and materials around, responds to the environment, adapts, and reproduces (when cells divide) (Weldemichael 37). ​​ 

Is a human embryo equivalent to a human child?  ​​​​ 

There is much debate about whether a human embryo is equivalent to a human child or not. The pro-life activists argue that it is a​​ human being who has legal rights just like other people. However, the opposing group claims that it is merely only a tissue that is not a human being. These groups argue that the human embryo is just potential human life, it is a mass of blood or tissue,​​ it is not developed fully, it is not conscious, it is inside the woman’s womb as a part of the​​ woman’s body, is it just a group of cells, and it doesn’t look like a human (Weldemichael 37).

The pro-life activists answer these questions by saying that a human embryo belongs to the human species and no other. These tissues start developing in two to four weeks. The heart begins to beat, and a tiny brain is also set at this time. Most abortions take place in the second month, and by this time, the embryo starts developing the legs, arms, toes, fingers, ears, mouth, nose, muscles, bones, and organs. They say that the embryo is not fully developed, but arguments disclose that a born baby is also not developed. The human being develops fully at the age of twenty.​​ Even if it’s inside the womb, it has all the characteristics of a living human being. Thus, an embryo is equivalent to a human child (George 304).  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

Is killing one and saving many justified?​​ 

Killing a human embryo would help scientists to save​​ many lives through transplants and curing diseases or infections.​​ According to scientists, using a human embryo for stem cell research would greatly benefit the community and society by saving the lives of many others.​​ This is the major debate over stem cell research. The pro-life groups who oppose this research argue that a human embryo is a human being, a living thing, and killing it would mean taking a human life. Hence, taking one human life in order to save others would never be justified religiously,​​ legally, or ethically (Anderson 183).

Debaters argue that a human embryo is not a human with legal rights as it has no identity or soul; thus, it is justified to kill it and use it for stem cell research (Forman 78). Others argue that the moral and ethical​​ dilemmas related to the killing of human embryos outweigh the potential benefits. It is true, however, that killing one life to save others can never be justified culturally or religiously.  ​​​​ 

Conclusion

Conclusively, many groups of people support stem cell research, while others oppose the investigation. The issue has received much debate over the years and yet remains unsolved. There has been much political debate over the legislative controls that should be imposed, and currently, the situation says that the research funding should be allowed under specific rules set by the court. There is still room for the Congress or the government to pass legislation on the issue. Scientifically, the debate revolves around the fact that a human embryo used in stem cell research can give many benefits to the other patients with diseases and infections. Scientists are content with the fact that killing a human embryo to save the lives of others is justified. The debate revolves around a central question: is a human embryo equivalent to human life? The day the people find a standard, the agreeable answer to this question, the stem cell research controversy can find a conclusion.

​​ Work Cited,

  • Anderson Scott. Human Embryonic Stem Cells. USA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2003.​​ Print. ​​ 

  • Evans Donald. Conceiving the Embryo: Ethics, Law, and Practice in Human Embryology. Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996. Print. ​​ 

  • Forman Lillian. Stem Cell Research. USA: ABDO, 2010. Print.  ​​​​ 

  • George Robert. Embryonic Human Persons: Talking point on morality and human embryo research. USA: EMBO Reports, 2009. Print.

  • Harris John. The Value of Life: An Introduction to Medical Ethics. NY: Routledge, 2002. Print.  ​​​​ 

  • McBride Dorothy. Abortion in the United States: A Reference Handbook. USA:​​ ABC-CLIO, 2008. Print.  ​​​​ 

  • Moore Pete. Stem Cell Research. NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2012. Print.  ​​​​ 

  • Panno Joseph. Stem Cell Research: Medical Applications and Ethical Controversy. NY: Infobase Publishing, 2005. Print. ​​ 

  • Pressberg Gail. The​​ Promise and Politics of Stem Cell Research. USA: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. Print.  ​​ ​​​​ 

  • Weldemichael Noah. Value Life. USA: iUniverse, 2012. Print.

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