Millions of people die each year from degenerative and untreatable diseases. While millions more await the possibility of an organ transplant. As the supply verses demand does not meet clinical demand increases each decade. Stem cell research has been deemed the key to bridge that gap. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells. This means they’re capable of developing into cells that serve numerous functions various systems in the body. But the ethical, political and financial implications of such a research has divided the medical community and nations across the world. As the process to harvest stem cells are derived from human embryos, which essentially destroy the embryos in the process of extraction. Leaving us to determine is this a threat or solution to mankind. Are we playing god or is this god’s gift to us?
Stem cell therapy research since its conception over 30 years as always been an ethical dilemma. Initial research only used cells from animals (mouse) and somatic or adult stem cells to regenerate or mimic organ system or tissues. But adult cell came with limitations and further research performed led to the discovery of a method to derive stem cells from human embryos and grow them in a laboratory. These cells are called human embryonic stem cells.
Unfortunately, the embryos used in these studies were initially created for reproductive purposes through in vitro fertilization procedures. According to the research they were donated for research with informed consent by donors. Which lead to questions of the ethical implication of whether embryos are considered already form human being or just viable cells undetermined.
As embryotic cells are blank slates. They have not been specified has an organ or tissues system. They are capable of dividing and renewing themselves continuously. Unlike muscle cells, blood cells, or nerve cells; which do not normally replicate themselves—stem cells may replicate many times, or proliferate. At this stage cells have not become any identifiable organ or cannot be considered fetus. But few researchers and pro-life groups begs to differ, Prentice, D., No Fountain of Youth stated (1997):
“It is also important to mention that an embryo is no less valuable if she is frozen than if she is in her mother’s womb. The stage of development, temperature and size of a human being doesn’t determine whether human beings are valuable or not. The fact that an embryo is a living human being is what makes her priceless.”
“Based on biology, life begin at fertilization not at implantation (about 5-7 days), 14-days, or 3 weeks. Thus, the embryonic period also begins at fertilization, and ends by the end of the eighth week, when the fetal period begins,” (Clifford, Grobstein 1988). One would argue they are destroying or murdering innocent life. But on the other hand, these embryos were either not consider viable during IVF process or no longer needed by parent.
One could along argue that the advancement will save millions which out weight any moral issues.
In conclusion the views on stem cell research disagreement stands solely on whether these cells are human life or just undefined organs. If that’s the case, why not allow millions to live longer each year. We cannot predict how and if fertilized embryo will become fetus or full-term child. In the end your body choices the end process, even with advancement in modern medicine. We might be able to delay the inevitable but long term our bodies weren’t might to last forever.
- Stem Cell Therapy: A Look at Current Research, Regulations, and Remaining Hurdles
- University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. With three first-in-human trials, therapeutic stem cell science takes a bold step. ScienceDaily. Oct 20, 2014. Available at:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141020141535.htm. Accessed October 28, 2014.
- Stem cell research—why is it regarded as a threat?
- Colman A. and Burley, J.C. (2001) A legal and ethical tightrope. EMBO Reports, 2, 2–5. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
- Cornford F.M. (1908) Microcosmographica Academica. Bowes & Bowes, Cambridge, UK.
- Dunstan G.R. (1990) The Human Embryo: Aristotle and the Arabic and European Traditions. University of Exeter Press, Exeter, UK.
- Dunstan G.R. and Seller, M.J. (1988) The Status of the Human Embryo: Perspectives from Moral Tradition. King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London & Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
- Clifford Grobstein, ‘External human fertilization,’ Scientific American 240:57-67.