Stem Cells Are a Hot Topic for Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Stem cells are a hot topic for the media today because our understanding of them has potential for incredible scientific advances in the field of biotechnology, yet we struggle because there are questions of morality raised by the methods by which they might be used. While in centuries past, it was commonly accepted within the scientific community to vivisect the mentally insane or criminally convicted for the purpose of scientific knowledge, today religious groups are concerned about the fate of single stem cells being used in experiments. Stem cells have paved the way to cloning and bioengineering of humans, allowing scientists to "bring... A sperm and ovum together to create an embryo, harvesting the cells, and then discarding the embryo." (Celia) The concern for many people is that working with embryonic stem cells especially may somehow he breaching the rights of people and taking science to a point where it is playing god in a dangerous way.

Some advocates of stem cell research will argue that any potential rights violation is worth it. "Stem cells can be used in regenerative medicine to replace diseased or damaged tissue..." (Fraer) Most medical problems are related to damage to the body, which means that stem cells may be the key to ending all illness and disease. Perhaps stem cells will actually allow humans to regenerate organs and limbs lost, as well as ending the threat of cancer and other diseases. The concern, however, is that stem cells have the potential to develop into human embryos, and therefore the work that scientists do on these cells may be considered to be human testing. "Are they morally protectable entities, or are they more like other disposable tissues gleaned from the human body?" (Green) However, the choice is clear for many medical professionals that work with patients that are suffering every day, and it seems immoral to prevent this research from being done. The stem cells are not embryos and would never survive to become human children if left alone; stem cells do not have nerves or brains and do not feel pain, yet they have the potential to stop the pain felt by people. The blastocysts used in research would almost always be thrown away if not used in experiments, as the fertility clinics from which they are obtained simply discard the unneeded cells, and it is better to utilize them instead of wasting them. Does it really make sense to give a clump of eight cells that has no brain more consideration than full grown humans? "Stem cells can be stimulated to develop into a wide range of cell types. This has raised expectations that in the long-term they may prove to be an effective regenerative therapy for a wide range of disorders including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction, severe burns, and osteoporosis." (Tessa)

However, those who oppose stem cell research may also have valid points. Humanity should not be defined by the number of cells, because this would put the argument onto a slippery slope where people who are more fat or taller would be "more human" than midgets, which is simply ridiculous. It is also unfair perhaps to deny these cells human rights because they are only at a few days gestation, because this would give older people more rights than younger people. "An embryo should be accorded full human status at the moment of its creation." (Tessa) Additionally, the arguments that many researchers make only make sense if they are positive that stem cell research will in fact save lives, and one study where Parkinson's patients were treated with stem cells, "15% of the patients, the cells generated so much of a chemical that controls movement that the patients jerked uncontrollably. These findings may create more controversy about cell implantation." (Celia)

One important fact that is often completely overlooked during the moral and philosophical debates regarding stem cell research is that not all stem cells are the same. There are some facts that are the same for…

Sources Used in Document:

Bibliography

Bell, H. (2000) "Case Study: The Uninsured" American Medical Student Association. < http://www.amsa.org/tnp/uninsured.cfm>

Calafut, T. (2000) "Emerging Applications in Human Stem Cell Therapy." Chemical Market Reporter, March 20.
Celia, F. (2001) "Stem Cell Controversy Heats Up Amid Advances in the Field." Medical Laboratory Observer, April. http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m3230/4_33/74268498/p1/article.jhtml

Fraser, R. (2003) "AMA says use of stem cells for biomedical research is consistent with medical ethics" AMA Media Relations.

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