The stem cell research has been debated ever since the birth of it. However, the categorization of the stem cell research has been defined in a wrong manner. Moreover, the media is sensationalizing the topic. This has resulted in a wrong notion that all stem cell research is unethical. This is a wrong notion of the research because there are two types of stem cell research. The adult stem cell research is ethical than the embryonic stem cell research.
Adult stem cell research refers to the usage of matured cells from mature adult human being without killing the host. On the other hand, embryonic stem cell research referred to the usage of a 14 day old zygote. The zygote is destroyed during the process of extraction. This is considered as unethical for many social activists (Mozo, 2011).
The thesis statement of this research is “The embryonic stem cell research is unethical”. Additionally, the paper will discuss evidence that will prove the unethical aspect of the embryonic stem cell research.
The main goal of this paper is to present arguments coming from reliable sources that prove the unethical aspect of embryonic stem cell research. Moreover, the scope of this research paper is only the embryonic stem cell research. Other issues regarding the adult stem cell research will be out of the focus. Textbooks about the stem cell research are the primary resources of this paper. Lastly, the paper will only tackle the proposition of the government, social activist and Ethicist about the issue.
Reviews on Bioethics and Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Embryonic stem cell research has been founded in the year 1998. There are so many claims that the extraction of the stem cells from an embryo could lead to medical breakthroughs. It has been commonly referred to as the saving grace of the regenerative medicine. Doctors and scientists argued that harvesting embryonic stem cells could lead to organ cloning. Stem cells are considered as preparatory cells that could grow into any organ of the human body. There are about 200+ types of human tissues that can be grown with the use of embryonic stem cell research. This could mean that every person that have cancer can directly have any organ transplant.
On the other hand, during the discovery of embryonic stem cell research another stem cell research has been also discovered. Adult stem cell research is the type of research that does not destroy any zygote. The process can be taken from umbilical cords, adult tissues and even infants without harming them (Trinity International University, n.d).
Bioethics is the application of morality to the medical field and biological researches. This is the discipline that considers the ethical implications of a certain biological research that involves the human life. The decision of many scientists lies upon the discipline. This is to respect people or groups that are in line with the ethical aspect. In totality, scientists also wanted to do research that has no moral issues (Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2015).
Underlying the passages of the holy Bible as well as the Qur’an, life should be valued with utmost sacredness. This has resulted in many bioethical issues about embryonic stem cell research. Moreover, social activists would also want to specify the importance of human life in an embryo. This has made the embryonic stem cell research an ethical dilemma in the medical field.
““Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of human embryos. It is understandably tempting to pursue this avenue given the stated goal of such research to produce treatments that could relieve the pain of, and perhaps even provide cures for, diseases plaguing countless people. Those burdened by disease or injuries deserve our unequivocal support, and scientific research should undoubtedly be commissioned on their behalf. That same science, however, also irrefutably demonstrates that a human embryo is a distinct human being. Its appearance and abilities differ from ours, but its nature is the same. To end one human life for the sake of another, even when the former is microscopically small and the latter is someone we know and love, is to play a dangerous game of utilitarianism. We shouldn't end lives to save lives. This practice violates one of the most basic ethical principles: The ends do not justify the means.””
-- Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien
Unethical Aspect of Embryonic Stem Cell Research and the Contradicting Principle
The embryonic stem cell research has been dubbed as an ethical dilemma for it has two contradicting moral principles.
The responsibility to stop any pain or suffering of a human being or alleviate it.
The moral responsibility of respecting the sanctity of an unborn human life.
The first duty of a scientist regarding the embryonic stem cell research is to prevent any suffering or diseases. It is given that the medical field is aiming to prevent any human disease to cause death. However, the embryonic stem cell research has not yet proven its effectiveness in regenerative medicine. In fact, there are reports that stem cells from embryos can cause tumor generation. Additionally, embryonic stem cell research is still under investigation and does not have the responsibility to immediately prevent any human disease. This argument is contradictory to the unethical aspect of the research but it is also a weak proposition.
The second duty of scientists to respect the sanctity of life is the clear unethical aspect of the research. Embryonic stem cell research has been very promising to many scientists. It is known that the level of mitosis in the embryo is very helpful in understanding the growth of new organs. The stem cells from the embryos are pluripotent. This actually means that they can be differentiated in the laboratory and programmed to grow into different kinds of cell. Blood cells and even nerve cells are included in that scope. However, the harvesting process of the cells has been contested. The process will destroy the blastocyst or the zygote itself (Pacholczyk, 2006).
The moral value of the embryos has been debated over time. Ever since the legalization of abortion in some other countries, the moral value of the embryos has been still a hot topic. There are proofs on what is the real moral status of the embryo with respect to religions. The following section will discuss the position of the moral status of the embryo.
Moral Status of the Embryo:
There are many views regarding the true moral value of an embryo. This varies from religion to religion. According to a report by Euro Stem Cell official website (2011), there are 5 viewpoints about the embryonic stem cell research with respect to bioethics.
Beginning from fertilization, the embryo has full moral status.
The human body produces reproductive cells. These cells eventually met during intimate sexual intercourse between a male and a female. The process of the development of a baby from the embryo is clear evidence that human life is emerging from it. It is also evident that any attempt of destroying the embryo would stop the emergence of human life. Thus, the embryo starting from day 1 should be given respect the same with that of a person.
The 14-day period of the fertilized egg needs special protection.
This is a counter argument against the embryo having full moral status right after fertilization. The 14 day period is the time by which the embryo could still divide and form two identical embryonic cells. Additionally, the cell could also die within that 14 day period. Scientists also argue that the formation of the nervous system is still after 14 days. This implicates that the embryo is not yet a person. However, the argument still has a loophole. The embryo could not skip the 14 day period. Thus, the process of human development is continuous and disrupting any part of the process is unethical. Harvesting the embryonic stem cell before the 14 day period is not moral because of the fact that the life is there even if there is a slim chance that it could die. Killing it first is evidently stopping the process of human development.
The moral status of the embryo increases as it develops on a daily basis.
The fertilization process happens right after the sperm reaches the internal membrane of the egg cell. The case of in vitro fertilization is different. The embryonic cell is implanted into the uterus of the female acceptor. This means that the cell could not be destroyed within that period of time. Conducting a research to excess embryos formed by in vitro fertilization is good given that those cells were not killed in the process. Secondly, the embryo forms its nervous system after 14 days. The embryo begins to form its human body. This would increase the moral status of the embryo. Thus, it is more unethical to harvest it or to use it for embryonic stem cell research. As days pass by, more tissues will be developed. This would implicate that the fertilized egg is now a fetus inside the mother’s womb. The programmed cell development of the fetus would likely support the personhood of the cell. It is very clear that disrupting the process at any point would be very unethical, most especially if the baby is aborted just to harvest the stem cells (Hug, 107-14).
The embryo is just a cell.
This argument is a counterargument against the unethical aspect of the embryonic stem cell research. However, this is still not sufficient to pursue the research. The embryo is a cell that is programmed to develop as a human being after 9 months. The embryo is a special cell. It is a combination of two different cells from two different reproductive systems. It is also clear that after fertilization the embryo is a human being in its primitive form. The decision is not from us whether to take the life of the cell of the embryo during its development or not. Natural processes can let the embryo live or die. Thus, it the human life starts at the fertilization and the embryo ahs full moral status even if it is just a cell.
Stem cell research offers so much to the world of medicine. Doctors can cure diabetes, genetic disorder, Parkinson’s disease and even various types of cancer. However, considering bioethics is also a must for them. Stem cell research has two branches. Adult stem cells have been proven to be effective, but it is not as promising as that of the embryonic stem cell research. In any case, adult stem cell research is ethical. On the other hand, embryonic stem cell research involves the disruption of a process. This process involves the development of human life. Thus supporting it or performing it is very unethical. In conclusion, the embryo has full moral status at fertilization and should be respected the same with a fully developed human being. Moreover, humankind is tasked to protect life and that includes our own kind.
Mozo, Vicki (2011, March 10). Why Embryonic Stem Cell Use is Unethical. Biology-Online.org.
"Bioethics | Definition of Bioethics by Merriam-Webster." Dictionary and Thesaurus | Merriam-Webster. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2015.
EuroStemCell. "Embryonic Stem Cell Research: an Ethical Dilemma | Europe's Stem Cell Hub." EuroStemCell. N.p., 23 Mar. 2011. Web. 28 June 2015.
Hug, K. "Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Ethics." Europe's Stem Cell Hub | EuroStemCell | Stem Cell Research, Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Ethics. Resources, Fact Sheets, FAQ. N.p., n.d. Print. 28 June 2015.
Pacholczyk, Tadeusz. "The Ethics of Stem Cell Research." United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. N.p., 2006. Print. 28 June 2015.
Trinity International University. "Position Statement | The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity." Home | The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2015.
O'Brien, Edwin F. "In Good Faith: Embryonic Stem Cell Research 'a Dangerous Game' In Good Faith: Christianity, Judaism, Islam and World Religions Baltimoresun.com." The Baltimore Sun. N.p., 23 Sept. 2009. Web. 29 June 2015.