Stem Cell Research has been one of the most controversial breakthroughs of science since the late 1990’s. The extraction of the human embryonic cell on that decade has made various responses in the medical field. This has opened many doors for many scientists that are highly interested in regenerative medicine. Additionally, this has also opened new debates about the ethics of the process of harvesting stem cells. There are two types of stem cell research. The first one is known as the embryonic stem cell research. The second one is named as the adult stem cell research (Shapiro, pp. 203-208).
Nevertheless, before discussing about the issues involved in the field of Stem Cell Research let us first define the said field. Stem cells are harvested from the embryos. These stem cells were programmed to develop as different organs of the body. However, the harvesting of these stem cells necessitates the destruction of the embryonic cell or the zygote. These stem cells were mostly harvested from fertility clinics. These clinics assist in vitro fertilization and the leftover egg and sperm cells are used as the source of the stem cells. A long quote from a respected doctor states the potential of embryonic stem cell research.
“It is clear today that American science will be better served and the nation would be better served if we let our scientists have access to more cell lines. It is in the best interest of our scientists, our science, our country that we find ways that the nation finds a way to allow the science to go full speed on both adult and embryonic stem cell research. It is very clear from my point of view that the current cell lines will not be sufficient to do the research we want to do. It’s not possible for me to see how we can continue the momentum of science and in stem cell research with the lines we currently have. I think it is important for us not to fight with one hand behind our back on this. To sideline NIH is shortsighted. We need to find a way to move forward. I hope we can do that soon.”
– Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Director, National Institutes of Health
The Adult Stem cell research is the also the part of regenerative medicine and is more effective based on scientific journals than the embryonic cell research. The problem is that many people are focusing on the potential of the embryonic stem cell research and not on the adult stem cell.
Embryonic Stem cell research is highly debated ever since it was studied. The Bioethical issue of gaining the cells is highly discussed by many social activists and religion-affiliated groups. It is true that there are also some clinical trials in regenerative medicine using the embryonic stem cell. It is believed that the stem cell from the embryos is highly effective in treating auto-immune diseases. Diseases such Diabetes and Alzheimer’s are one of the most highly studied. But the problem is that, the facilitation of the embryonic cell to the part of the patient can have side effects. Tumors are common to embryonic cell implants. The wrong gene expression or the difficulty of organ growth is also an issue for embryonic stem cell treatment. On the other hand, adult stem cell research holds medical journals as proof of effectiveness in regenerative medicine (Tarne, 2008).
Statement of the Case:
Embryonic stem cell research is highly sensationalized. It holds a great potential in regenerative medicine and human cloning. However, it is not yet proven by clinical trials that have used human patients. The Bioethical issue of the embryonic stem cell research is the destruction of the 4 day old zygote/embryo while harvesting the stem cells.
The bioethical issue of the harvesting of embryonic stem cells must be transparently presented by scientists. Embryonic cells can be harvested in the umbilical cord of an unborn child. If the doctor will cut the cord just to harvest the stem cells then it would be very fatal to the unborn baby. Social groups are concerned for the sanctity of the unborn life. It would be unethical to continue the practice.
“It (the embryo) is a human being biologically there is something special about the embryo and most people tie that specialness to the potentiality of it becoming a person, because it already is a human being and that in recognition of that, we are going to hold ourselves accountable in terms of how we interact with, engage or destroy the embryo.”
- Francoise Baylis, ethicist, Dalhousie University
It was believed that the embryonic stem cell research holds the future of medicine. However, it is not true. Adult stem cell research is evidently showing clinical trials of human being treated. Adult stem cells are harvested from the owner’s body. It only means that it does not affect any unborn life.
The demands of the public of not continuing the embryonic stem cell research is not yet possible. However, scientists can still do embryonic stem cell research given that the cells are harvested from aborted embryos. Embryonic stem cell research is not only a promising field, but also a difficult venture.
The Development of the Argument:
People should be more aware of the fullness of stem cell research. Stem cell research is divided into two factions. The embryonic stem cell research has the clear bioethical issue. The adult stem cell research has proven its effectiveness in regenerative medicine. The potential of embryonic stem cell research should be explored more in a way that it could not affect bioethics. Most importantly, the media should not also magnify the potential of embryonic stem cell research because it would create a wrong notion towards many people.
Stem cell research is one of the most promising fields of medicine. However, focusing only in achieving the goal of perfect regeneration without thinking the sanctity of life would be foolish. Life starts when the egg and the sperm cell met. If the scientist would harvest embryonic stem cells at that stage, then it would be very unethical. Moreover, the harvesting of these cells from aborted babies can also mean that the rate of abortion is still high. Though abortion is legalized in some states, it is still an issue of Bioethics. Human Life should be given importance even it is still a fertilized cell.
Shapiro, Robyn S. "Bioethics and The Stem Cell Research Debate." Social Education 70.4 (2006): 203-208. Print.
Tarne, Gene. "New Research Validates the Do No Harm List of Adult Stem Cell Treatments." Journal of American Medical Association (2008): n. pag. Print.
Baylis, Francoylis. "Article Analysis." The Embryonic Stem Cell Controversy. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2015.
Zerhouni, Elias. "Wisconsin Stem Cell Now » Testimonials." Wisconsin Stem Cell Now. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2015.