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Debate On The Impact And Implications Of Stem Cell Research

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Debate on the Impact and Implications of Stem Cell Research

A stem cell is a cell that can replicate indefinitely and which can differentiate into other cells; specifically, stem cells refer to the self-regenerating cells in bone marrow, testes, embryos and umbilical cords (Biotech dictionary, 2004). By far the most controversial type of stem cell work is that done with embryonic stem cells and the debate is complicated and politically charged.

The conflict and controversy with regard to stem cell research is more complicated than just the fundamental ethical battle between the "subjectivity of personal religious belief and the objectivity of science" (Hurlburt, 2006, p 5). Although the use of stem cells could possibly help to improve the quality of life for people that suffer with many health ailments, this does not take precedence over the right to life, nor vice versa. If we assume then that stem cells do offer potential for medical treatments then the question becomes: should medical researchers be allowed to use stem cells to answer research questions and experiment with treatments involving manipulation of human stem cells? Does such research have a positive or negative impact on medical care?

The points to be argued will focus on the use of embryonic stem cells for medical research with the purpose of the development of treatments and potential cures of devastating and life threatening illnesses.

Each side will be allowed to present their argument after which the other side will be afforded an opportunity to respond. The affirmative side will begin with their first argument and at the conclusion of the debate the team will question, comment and evaluate on the points which have been made.

Affirmative, you may begin

Currently, federal law prohibits the use of federal funds for research in which embryos are harmed. Funding for research efforts that focus on pluripotent embryonic stem cells should not remain limited to the private sector. Publicly funded American laboratories conducting research with multipotent adult stem cells should also focus on pluripotent embryonic stem cells because they hold a greater potential for therapeutic treatment than do adult stem cells. The donated embryos that will be used for research would be those that were originally created for in vitro fertilization and that would otherwise be discarded.

Against, do you have a response?

There are many people that argue that an embryo is not a human life, but who can argue about the fact that all humans began as an embryo (Pollack, 2005)? Each and every person began as an embryo. There was an angel that appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her that she would conceive new life in her womb and that he would grow up to be Jesus (Murray, 2004). What would have happened if the embryo that Mary was carrying would have been used for stem cell research and not allowed to grow and develop into a baby? What would have happened to mankind? We would have been doomed and would have not been blessed with all of the miracles that he performed, not to mention that he suffered and died for the sins of mankind.

Against, what questions do you think this issue raises?

It is recognized in the scientific community that stem cell research has the potential for the development of new treatments in health care, but should researchers be allowed to use embryonic stem cells to answer research questions? Does this research justify the use and manipulation of human embryonic stem cells?

We currently are aware that the embryonic stem cell can replicate indefinitely and can differentiate into other types of cells such as the self-generating cells of the bone marrow, testes, embryos and umbilical cords (Biotech, 2004). Would not the manipulation and use of these cells be construed as doing them harm, or the destruction of life for the sake of research?

Currently there is little tangible evidence that embryonic stem cell research is little more than overblown claims made by zealous researchers (Hook, 2004). Does the hope for a cure that may be decades away warrant the destruction and manipulation of thousands of embryos for what may turn out to be an ethical nightmare?

Proponents of embryonic stem cell research use the argument that the research is being done primarily on left over or unused embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics that would have been discarded anyway. Because the majority of the donors at these clinics are members of the upper middle class Caucasian population, will there be similar efforts made to support stem cell research with minorities and other ethnicities?

There is a wide variety of research being conducted in the name of embryonic stem cell research. Will the researchers allow the donors of unused embryonic stem cells from in vitro fertilization clinics information regarding the a the type of manipulation and experimentation that they intend to conduct on the donated stem cells?

Currently billions of dollars are being spent on stem cell research that could be used to fund other areas of research such as dementias, diabetes, malaria, and tuberculosis (Dresser, 2005). Would not this funding be of benefit to researchers in these areas also? What criteria are being proposed to determine which research process receives the largest allocation of scarce research funds?

According to pro-life advocates, life begins at conception (Kinsley, 2004). Based on this belief, an embryo would be considered an offspring from implantation to the end of the second month of gestation (Brooks, 2002). Do scientists have the right to use a powerless human being for research purposes? If science has the right to use the embryonic stem cell for research could this right be transferred to other helpless human beings such as the mentally ill or the feeble elderly?

Research programs will continue to need a steady supply of embryonic stem cells to continue the research process. How will these embryos be obtained? Will women be paid for their services? Will they be compensated financially for their ovum for in vitro fertilization?

Currently there is no legislation governing the actual ownership of the patents and profits that will be obtained from stem cell research. Who will be allowed to own the patents and obtain the profits? Will the federal or state government have the right of ownership, or will the company that has incurred the cost of research and development?

Finally, there is a great deal of media attention being paid to the various aspects of embryonic stem cell research including the potential benefits with little attention paid to other forms of cellular research. Is it true that embryonic stem cells offer the most promise

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