An Inquiry on Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
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Several studies show that embryonic stem cell research is beneficial to the general public. The study of stem cells will help us analyze and understand the normal cell development, which will allow for the understanding and even correction of the errors causing medical conditions. Arguing that this embryonic stem cell research is necessary, beneficial and practical, however, is different from arguing that the federal funding of the same is also necessary, beneficial and practical. Though it may be true that arguing in favor of federal funding implies arguing in favor of the furtherance of the research, upholding the latter does not necessarily imply upholding the former. For this matter, without having refuted the acceptability of the research, this paper will argue that a federal funding of the same is unnecessary, unbeneficial, and impractical.
Thesis: Unacceptability of Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
In deciding whether the state should support embryonic stem cell research through federal funding, the focal point of investigation should be the funding itself and not the research. This is because there are those who consider the research as acceptable but consider the funding of the same as something that should not be a concern of the state. In this light, we can veer away from concerning ourselves with whether or not the research is ethical. Of course, arguing that the research is unethical would make one conclude that there should be no federal funding of the same. Dwelling merely on the ethical issue would, however, be a vicious circularity. We would be expressing opinions, which are not empirically verifiable; and in the end, we would just realize that we just have to accept the fact that we have different and irreconcilable opinions. As a result, the issue on whether there should be federal funding is left unresolved. This does not mean that there should no longer be discussions on ethical issues, but as much as possible, we have to deal with matters that are verifiable so that we could test whether federal funding of embryonic stem cell research could be and must be done.
In dealing with policy issues, there are three questions that we must consider. First, we have to ask, is the policy necessary? If it is, then it must be something that needs immediate action, and that there should be no other option but to materialize it. Second, is it beneficial? By being beneficial, we must be able to prove that the policy has more advantages than disadvantages. Third, is it practical? In knowing the practicality, we have to consider the effects of implementing the policy.
The federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is unnecessary, unbeneficial and impractical. As such, there should be no policy allowing for federal funding of this research. The policy providing for the same is a superfluity.
There are other researches and methods of regenerating and repairing human tissues that assume less amount of risk. With the present technology, embryonic stem cell research assumes a lot of risks including the destruction of human embryo and the fact the said research has a lack of practical treatments. I am not arguing that a human embryo is a human being, which makes the destruction of the same unethical. However, the fact that human embryos are being destructed when it could be perceived that with an advanced technology, it is possible not to destroy an embryo proves the idea that the present embryonic stem cell research is not yet that advanced. Since this research is not yet advanced, it is not yet worthy of federal funding. Even the embryonic stem cell research which makes use of frozen embryos in “in vitro fertilization” should not be federally funded. This also assumes the risk that some of the embryos are the weakest ones, having been created by infertile couple, which may not yield high-quality stem cells.
This does not mean, however, that the research should not be funded. The benefit that it can bring to the advancement of our knowledge regarding the human body and the possible cure that it may bring cannot be refuted. The research has to be funded in order to yield results that are good for the society. However, it should not be the state that should provide for the funding, especially when the research is not yet that advanced. It would be too risky for the government to release funds to support a research which is also risky. Likewise, if there are indeed a lot of people who are persuaded by the idea that the research would do more good than harm, then there will be donations and research grants from private individuals and institutions.
Federal funding is likewise unbeneficial. Though the benefits from the research cannot be disputed, the benefit from federal funding is questionable. There are more risks than certainty of success. The research is not entirely successful yet, which makes the funding of the same a mere superfluity. Moreover, the question on ethicality of destruction of human embryos will never end. The state will, therefore, only be burdened with problems if it would provide funding for this kind of research. Federal funding would in turn make the state responsible in case of problems in research. The state will be held accountable for liabilities of scientists in cases wherein the research would lead to some scientific problems (which would then yield new ethical questions) because funding a research amounts to authorizing the same. This is a problem because usually, the aim of scientists is merely to obtain good results from the research, but they are not the first ones who would be questioned by the people in case some problem arises from scientific processes conducted. It is the state which will be questioned when these problems arise. People will ask why the state ever supported the project.
As to its impracticality, it could be said that the research can move forward even without federal funding. Likewise, private funding allows for the continuance of the research even when there are groups questioning the research’s ethicality. If the government provides funds for the research and there would be sectors who would file before a court a restraining order because they question the funding, then the dependence of the research to federal funding has done more to delay the progress than to advance the research.
Anti-Thesis: Unacceptability of Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
The state should protect its citizens, and one way of protecting the citizens is to provide for the best health care system. Best health care includes not only funding for drugs, but also funding for other ways by which a patient will be helped in his medical problems. The embryonic stem cell research will possibly help in curing some patients. Stem cells can be applied to the making of cells and tissues for medical therapies. There will be no more need to wait for organ donors in order for an organ transplant to proceed. The embryonic stem cell research will provide us with a potential renewable source of replacement cells, which would help in treating diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and arthritis (National Institutes of Health, 2009).
Christopher Thomas Scott (2006) states in Chapter 7 of his “Stem Cell Now” that the transplants using embryonic stem cells could cure “autoimmune diseases.” What is autoimmune disease? It is a disease where the body is attacked by its own white blood cells. Our immune system knows how to distinguish between cells that are “self” and cells that are “not-self” or foreign invaders. Autoimmune diseases destroy cartilage and cause rheumatoid arthritis; nerves and cause multiple sclerosis; and organs and cause juvenile diabetes, lupus, and Crohn’s disease. Treatments that we have now only tend to ameliorate the symptoms. Usually, transplants from a person to the other lead to the rejection of the host’s tissue because it is not recognized by the body as “self” but as a “not-self.” Scott argues that the use of embryonic stem cells in transplants could possibly cure this autoimmune disease.
The National Institutes of Health (2009) likewise provides for a reason why the use of embryonic stem cells would be more beneficial than the use of adult stems cells. The human embryonic stem cells are seen as having greater developmental potential. The embryonic stem cells may be pluripotent, i.e. able to produce cells that are found in all tissues of the embryo. They are not restricted to being merely multipotent or restricted to specific subpopulations of cell types like the adult stem cells.
Studying stem cell research is very important. Embryonic stem cell lines have to be developed from those who have muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. This could lead to the development of drugs that would prevent the disease from occurring. Through an embryo sampling technique called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), a number of disorders including Huntington’s, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia are being detected (Scott, 2006).
Although there are disagreements as to whether embryonic stem cell research should be federally funded, millions of patients have acted as advocates of the same, arguing that public funding will lead to a speedier research. The government has to listen, respect, and address this public clamor to support the embryonic stem cell research even though it may offend others’ religious beliefs or sense of morality.
The Patients’ Coalition for Urgent Research (CURe), a coalition of three dozen national patient non-profit organization, support the idea of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research under the guidelines set by the National Institutes of Health. This is despite the fact that there are several groups of people opposing the public funding of the research. Over 100 million Americans suffer from diseases and illnesses, which might be helped by the research. Patients and their families, as taxpayers, are expecting the government to do its best to provide the best solution there is in alleviating their medical problems. They deserve financial support, and as a corollary, the research that seeks to solve their medical problems deserves some financial support too.
The federal funding is said to achieve two important goals. First, it will be able to achieve the best or most promising research because it would allow for the participation of a broad number of scientists. Second, the research will bring forth public accountability, which may be developed through allowing the public to comment on issues raising ethical concerns (Perry, 2000). The achievement of these goals is seen as important in the advancement of the embryonic stem cell research, advancement of our understanding of the human cell development, and advancement in the treating of medical problems.
If indeed the research is beneficial and there is a public clamor for it to be financially supported, then it could be argued that the state has to listen to the clamor and provide public funding.
Synthesis: Affirmation of Unacceptability of Federal Funding
Nothing in the Anti-Thesis section of this paper indeed refute the argument that federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is untenable. It may be argued that the research is beneficial not only to patients but to the entire community of humans as well, but this argument does not lead us to the conclusion that it is the state that should provide funds for the furtherance of the research.
The important issue that has to be addressed is the capability of the funding to attain two goals, i.e. achievement of the most promising research, and public accountability. We may ask, however, whether the achievement of the most promising research is possible only through federal funding. If the answer is in the negative, then we will be lead to the idea that there are other possible sources of funds. Then, we also have to ask whether it is the state which is the best institution that should provide funds for the research. If the answer is in the negative, then federal funding is not necessary, but rather a mere superfluity.
The alleged attainment of public accountability might be a good idea, but the federal funding would not only open the research to public scrutiny, it would also open the research to scrutiny by uninformed individuals. The scrutiny by individuals who are uninformed of the true nature of the research and ignorant of the scientific aspects of the same is not healthy as it might eventually lead to stoppage of the research. If the research is privately funded, the only time it would be stopped is when a law is passed prohibiting the same. But if it is publicly funded, the research will be assuming the risk of being stopped once the unhappy taxpayers force the government to stop the funding. It would be, therefore, more beneficial for the research to be privately funded.
Likewise, the research is not yet (and it may also be doubted whether it will ever be) ripe for federal funding. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (200) admitted that the research, though thought to offer potential cures to various devastating diseases, is still in its early stages. The experiments with human embryonic stem cells started only in 1998. Clearly then, federal funding of the research is not necessary. It does not accomplish the criterion that there should be no other way but to realize or perform such action.
There are also other methods of repairing human tissue which would not require the destruction of human embryos. There’s the adult stem cell research, which, even though argued as less beneficial than the embryonic stem cell research, has been subjected to a lot more clinical trials. At present, the adult stem cell research has yielded more treatments (UK Stem Cell Foundation). Funding the more established research, and leaving the funding of a less established research to private institutions, is more practical measure for the government.
In further examining the practicality of federal funding, let us consider the state of California, which passed Proposition 71 in 2005 providing $3 billion to fund stem cell research. Not a single cent of that budget has been spent because of lawsuits filed by those opposing the research. Meanwhile, in the state of Missouri where the furtherance of the research but not the federal funding of the same is allowed, the private laboratory Stowers Institutes for Medical Research has been doing very great research on adult stem cells, and it is predicted that it will do good in embryonic stem cell research. Because the laboratory is privately funded, there will be no bond issues, debts and interest to pay. There will likewise be no taxpayer liability (Fry-Revere, 2007).
Based on the foregoing, it is very clear that even though the embryonic stem cell research is seen as a very important scientific breakthrough, the federal funding of the same is unnecessary, unbeneficial, and impractical. The research is better left to private institutions for funding.
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