Moral Issues Relating to the Therapeutic Use of Embryonic Stem Cells in Humans Term Paper

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  • Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy
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Therapeutic Use of Embryonic Stem Cells in Humans

Moral issues relating to the therapeutic use of embrionic stem cells in humans

Moral issues relating to the therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells in humans

The inception of the idea of research of stem cells became plausible in several decades, in the past. Additionally, the research caused an ensuing countless debates to accompany the issue. In considering the research on the stem cell, several issues accompany the debate. These issues are either ethical, which are about the potential moral effects the stem cells may bring. The second issue is of the legal aspect, which consider the regulation of the stem cell technologies by the government and the policy makers in the helping the public (Ostnor, 2008). The last issues are social in nature, influencing and involving the society as a whole.

Human embryonic stem cells are the current subject of heavy and intensive discussion; not only by the biologists who discovered the practice, but also the medical professions, media, ethicists, governments and politicians. The stem cells are relatively 'super cells' that have a significantly remarkable clinical potential to heal and repair the affected body tissue (Sullivan, Cowan & Eggan, 2007). The proponents of the stem cell technology believe that, it is a representation of a possible relief and cure to most of the widespread range of common disabilities. The replacement of the defective cells in a patient through the transplantation of human embryonic stem cells, equivalent to the defective cells restores the normal function of that tissue.

Despite the possible positive impacts, the technology of stem cells represents, the use of the human embryonic stem cells continues to elicit highly controversial debates because of their origin. The debate is because; they come from the human pre-plantation embryos. This means that, most of the embryos, in the establishment of human embryonic stem cells are spare embryos from IVF (Ostnor, 2008). Additionally, there is a discussion of the model used to create and derive the stem cells. The biggest of the reasons for the controversy surrounding the technology of stem cells is the transfer of the nucleus of the somatic cells from a patient to an oocyte that is enucleated (unfertilized egg) so that they can produce the human embryonic stem cells. The cells produced therein are genetically identical to that of the patient for 'autologous' transplantation, famously called "therapeutic cloning." This prevents tissue rejection in time of transplant. Therefore, the issue of therapeutic cloning is eliciting strong debates, especially as the fertilization of the oocyte with the somatic cell-nucleus brings the subject of cloning into the subject (Sullivan, Cowan & Eggan, 2007). Therefore, embryonic stem cells use in humans for therapeutic reasons is not as bad, but the issue comes in with of the same for eugenistic purposes.

The question as to the morality of the issue is if the cells are isolatable and independently usable. Therefore, if they are independently isolatable, then what are the conditions and restrictions bordering the high political and ethical agenda? Several countries across the world continue to formulate policies and legislations to facilitate and regulate the extent of the derivation. For instance, the United Kingdom is the first country to pass the law that governs the use of the human embryo from the stem cells research. Additionally, the European Science Foundation established a committee that makes the inventory of the positions of different countries in Europe on the subject of human embryo stem cell research and usage. This contributes to the extended debate on the subject across the world.

To address the ethical and moral aspects associated with the isolation and use of the human embryo stem cells, it is significant to fathom the holistic approach in deriving the cells. This is what brings the controversy observed across the world, especially in the so-called 'liberal or democratically advanced countries' (Sullivan, Cowan & Eggan, 2007). The stem cells are primarily primitive cells that have a capacity to mutate and divide; giving rise to identical stem cells that specialize on as a form of somatic tissue. There are two broad categories of the stem cells, which are the embryonic stem cells, derived from a pre-implantation of an embryo. This form of stem cells has the ability to form cells and tissues of equal potential as the adult organism cells; hence the name, pluripotent. The other form of stem cells is the stem cells found in a variety of tissues in the fetus and the after birth. Under normal conditions, the specialized cells, also called 'multipotent' have the capacity to function as tissue replacement and repair (Ostnor, 2008). The human embryonic stem cells can form all somatic cells in the body; but cannot form the extra embryonic tissue necessary for the complete development of the individual tissue. For instance, the cells cannot form the placenta and the membranes that give rise to new complete individual. The embryonic stem cells are immortal and express remarkably high levels of a gene called tolemerase (Kiessling & Anderson, 2007). The protein product that facilitates the chromosomes that retain and maintain cell division and thus the cell does not undergo senescence. The other cells that have the same potential derive from primordial germ cells, which can form the gametes if there is no abortion of the fetus.

Additionally, in the human body, a variety of tissues found to have the stem cell population is present. The example of such tissues includes the brain cells, skeletal muscle, bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. However, the adult stem cells only have the capacity to form only cells similar to the organ from which they originate. There are several tests in animals on the cells implantation and they work as expected, proving the isolation and usage of the cells. Similarly, the tests continue to engage the humans, with several tests and trials being successful (Kiessling & Anderson, 2003). This shows the extent of the embryonic stem cell technology advancement in the world. The scientists and medical practitioners proved that it is useful in therapeutic application, in the medical care systems across the world. However, the issue of concern, despite all these benefits is the question of how immortal these trans-differentiated cells can acquire the appropriate function in the host tissue. Rapid research and advancements towards the establishment of the immortality of the stem cells is picking relative velocity towards the stem cells research subject. This is the issue of contention towards the subject of therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells, as the side effects and impacts of the issue in moral, ethical and political aspects.

The ontological status of the embryonic cells in view of the ethical aspect compares to the equivalent embryos. The research into the development of cell-replacement therapy requires the application of instrumental use of pre-implantation embryos. These current technologies for deriving the cells require the lyses trophectoderm. The embryo disintegrates; thus, destroyed when the cell replacement takes place. The considerable different opinions exist and culminate with regard to the ontological and moral status of the pre-implantation embryo. On one side, the conventionalist view is that 'the embryo is a person' and this bases their strong version of the argument that, due to its ability and potential to develop into a person, it is referable as a person (Ostnor, 2008). On the other side of the opponents, we find the argument that the embryo, and even the fetus, is non-person. Therefore, they ought not to have any attribution of moral status. These two views present a gap that has various extremes and intermediaries. The overlapping consensus of the subject and the ensuing debate is that, the embryo has a real but relatively low moral value. The arguments presented therein are those of the moderate version of the potentiality argument. The potentiality argument has the provocation that, the embryo deserves some form of protection due to the potentiality to become a 'person'. The argument further proceeds that the embryo is a representation of a beginning of life. The differences on these opinions venture around the weight of how much protection the embryo deserves. Additionally, the same applies to the pre-implantation embryo, and protection to award the embryo.

From the ethical view, the pre-implantation embryos represent a single class of embryos that are aneuploid and mostly non-viable (Monroe, Miller, & Tobis, 2007). For the non-viable embryos, the potentiality of the argument does not apply. This is because, the moral status only basis on their symbolic value, which is low in the pre-individualized pre-implantation embryos. The precise implications of the moral difference for the regulation of the instrumental application of the embryo are beyond the scope of the present research scientists. There are calls on the research about the subject of pre-implantation embryos to be forbidden. However, this call to forbid the research remains on a shaky basis, and it is difficult to reconcile the social acceptance of contraceptive intrauterine devices and implantations. The dominant view and argument in ethics is the relative moral value and the…

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