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Embryonic Stem Cell Research: How Does It Affect You?

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Embryonic Stem Cell Research: How does it affect you?

Embryonic stem cell research is widely controversial in the scientific world. Issues on the ethics of Embryonic Stem (ES) cell research have created pandemonium in our society. The different views on this subject are well researched and supportive. The facts presented have the capability to support or possibly change the public's perspective. This case study is based on facts and concerns that much of the research done on embryonic stem cells is derived from human embryos. This case study will provide others with a more in depth view of both sides of this great debate.

In biological terms, embryonic stem cells posses a virtually unlimited future. "Adult stem cell research has produced results that could help many patients with various diseases, but proponents of embryonic stem cell research argue that the progress in adult stem cell research should not preclude embryonic stem cell research" (Kukla, 2002). As of November 2004, California residents voted "yes" to approve $3 billion dollars for stem cell research. Michelle Lane, who is the state coordinator for the Parkinson's Action Network in Louisiana, was not only relieved to see this go through but because she has early on-set signs of Parkinson's disease she says "It proves we can win this battle." Kalb, C. (2004)

Scientists believe that using embryonic stem cells offers the most possibilities in scientific research; these cells have the capability to develop into any of the 210 cells found in the human body including heart cells, nerve cells, muscle cells, and skin cells. The budding capacity of the embryonic stem cell may prove useful for treatment of some medical conditions including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, heart disease and cancer. The prospective advantage of using embryonic stem cells is fascinating. Embryonic stem cells are capable of becoming any cell type in the body making them more versatile than adult stem cells. There is a possibility that the patient's body can reject the adult cells because their derivative is from cells that are not a patient's own.

Supporters of research state that stem cells from embryos are acceptable for research since the embryos are not considered to be human and is vital to the possible future cure of some debilitating diseases including Alzheimer's and paraplegia. Researchers justify their work by stating the benefits out weigh the arguments against doing the research and do not consider the embryos to be human beings. Researchers have stated that while the embryos have cells like living human beings, they themselves are not human. A belief as such, justifies embryonic stem cell research for those who perform or support it.

The use of private funding has uncovered the existent of more than sixty genetically diverse stem cell lines. The use of federal funds for research on these existing sixty stem cell lines, where the life and death decision has already been made would allow us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life. Based on preliminary work that has been mainly funded privately, scientists believe further research using stem cells offers great promise that could improve the lives of those who suffer from many terrible diseases -- from juvenile diabetes to Alzheimer's, from Parkinson's to spinal cord injuries. Adequate funding for embryonic stem cell research will allow scientist to discover more possibilities of what stem cells are capable of doing. These possibilities include drug testing and cell-based therapies that cover a wide range of applications; differentiating into desired cell-types, generating sufficient quantities of tissue, and survival of the cells and recipient after the transplant.

"No benefits from embryo stem can possibly outweigh the moral cost of destroying human life", (Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, 2002) the definition of when a life begins is unclear. This creates the ethical issue of destroying a life for research that possibly can save lives. To destroy a life is ethically wrong no matter what the gain from it may be. "The duty to heal the sick cannot override the moral imperative to treat human beings as subjects and not objects." (Landry, D. & Zucker, H. 2004).

"The ethical question forms the real root of the stem cell debate, specifically the question of the moral status of the human embryo. Scientifically and genetically, the embryo is a human being, its species is Homo sapiens, and the organism already has a gender." Prentice, D. (2003)

With the seemingly infinite uses for embryonic stem cell, the fact remains whether the morality of using ES cells for research is ethical. "Embryonic stem cells are harvested either by abandoned fertilized eggs left over from fertility clinics or the abortion of a five to nine-week old fetus." (Saltzman, 2001) In the process of harvesting these ES cells, the blastocysts are destroyed. "However, federal law and the laws of many states specifically protect vulnerable human embryos from harmful experimentation." (Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, 2002) "There are ways to avoid abortions and embryos as a stem cell source by regressing adult cells." (Saltzman, 2001) While this method may take a little longer, it does not harm human life in the process. Who has the right to decide whether one life is more valuable than the other is? These embryos will develop into a human being given the chance, and they deserve the same right to respect as anyone else.

As members of society, opponents should request that scientists answer the questions about the embryos species being human beings. Supporters of the stem cell research state stem



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