Embryos are essentially microscopic human beings. Regardless of what good they may provide to the field of medicine, the ethical controversies surrounding embryonic stem cell research are profound. Stem cells, the cells used by the human body to replenish damaged tissue, are found in both embryonic and adult form. At the adult level, stem cells can be extracted from bone marrow, but the real ethical debate arises when embryonic stem cells are introduced. “Pluripotent” embryonic stem cells are among the only type that can form any of over 200 cell types, making it the most useful and versatile.
These cells are isolated from the inner cell mass of the embryo when extracted, and subsequently terminates the embryo itself, which is technically manslaughter. However, it must also be noted that embryonic stem cell research can provide effective treatments and even cures for those in need of organ transplants and other irremediable predicaments. Therefore, it is safe to say, from a utilitarian perspective, that the essential “death” of one embryo can save the lives of many, and with Jeremy Bentham’s phrase “the greatest good for the greatest number”; I believe that embryonic stem cell research is ethical.
The real controversy in stem cell research lays in the termination (abortion) of the embryo, which is an entirely independent debate altogether. The embryonic stem cells extracted for research are being derived from embryos that are being aborted regardless (Johansen). Therefore, there is a macrocosmic debate more powerful than the one about stem cell research itself. By harvesting these stem cells from babies predestined to abortion, at least a contribution is being made to society – one that can benefit a multitude of people, perhaps suffering from a multitude of conditions.
Even if one wants to debate the ethics of stem cell research, the researchers are being ethically unethical, with regard to the abortions guaranteed to take place. However, those who value human life from the point of conception, particularly those who are religious, oppose embryonic stem cell research, because the extraction of stem cells from this type of an embryo requires its destruction – essentially, a human life killed, which is deemed both morally and religiously indecent (Cowan). But this superficial ideology is flawed in its logical reasoning.
If these “babies” are going to die, whether their stem cells are harvested or not, isn’t making a solid contribution to science and humanity ethical? If the embryo is destroyed, in an equally torturous manner, shouldn’t that sacred human life provide something for mankind as a whole? For example, medical researchers and physician-scientists were able to differentiate stem cells to become heart cells (Mount Sinai School of Medicine). The cells were then analyzed, for the treatment of cardiomyopathy, a condition with heart muscle cell abnormalities.
The benefits of this harvesting are unfathomable; scientists will now be able to analyze the root of the disease, its development, and ways to inhibit the disease’s growth and progression. It is then rather evident, that the life of the embryo originally used in the harvesting of the embryonic stem cells for this discovery, is only more sacred, and contributed more to society and humanity, than most human lives do in a lifetime. The Jewish population seems to have a more insightful, yet still opposing take on the issue.
Many Rabbis do find it unethical, for the mere reason that it “cheapens the value of human life” (Eisenberg). This is, however, contradictory of Torah text, which states that the responsible use of technology for the sole purpose of improving human life is not only permitted, but encouraged. It is claimed by the experts in the field that the research on stem cells has great potential to relieve human disease and suffering. If this is the case, then it is not only allowed but it is obligatory to pursue this research.
Embryonic stem cells are a source of hope, for patients suffering from spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and hundreds of genetic disorders. With research, medical scientists will be able to make discoveries and understand the origin of diseases, based on the origin of true human life – embryonic stem cells. This opens the door for unbelievable breakthroughs in medical science – even a potential cure for cancer.
Stem cell therapy can provide promising treatment for over 100 million patients currently suffering from a disease under research. Some researchers consider this to be “the greatest potential for the alleviation of human suffering since the advent of antibiotics” (White). The Republican Party in the United States – the “party of God”, had significant doubt in the ethical veracity of embryonic stem cell research and therefore President George W. Bush vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 and 2007.
However, after taking office, President Obama lifted the ban on March 9, 2009, saying: “Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research, from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit, and from a government willing to support that work. ” If the President of the United States of America can see the ethical and moral justness in this all… the greater good, the pros outweighing the cons, the glass half-full, along with most of the American people, is this really an ethical debate?
After all, ethics, by definition, is “a system of moral principles. ” Works Cited Cowan, C. A. “Derivation of Human Stem-Cell Lines from Human Blastocysts. ” New England Journal of Medicine (2004): 1355. Eisenberg, Daniel. “Is the destruction of preexisting pre-embryos permitted for stem cell research? ” 10 November 2001. Aish. com. 22 February 2011 <http://www. aish. com/ci/sam/48969936. html>. Johansen, Jay. “What’s wrong with Embryonic Stem Cell Research? ” 26 July 2001. Pregnant Pause. 22 February 2011 <http://www. pregnantpause. rg/ethics/whystem. htm>. Medicine, Mount Sinai School of. “Stem Cells For First Time Used to Create Abnormal Heart Cells For Study of Cardiomyopathy. ” 9 June 2010. HealthNewsDigest. com. 22 February 2011 <http://www. healthnewsdigest. com/news/stem%20cell%20issues0/Stem_Cells_For_First_Time_Used_to_Create_Abnormal_Heart_Cells_For_Study_of_Cardiomyopathy. shtml>. White, Deborah. “Pros ; Cons of Embryonic Stem Cell Research. ” n. d. About. com. 22 February 2011 <http://usliberals. about. com/od/stemcellresearch/i/StemCell1. htm>.
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