The Positive Aspects of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Various controversial and moral stricken subjects have been put into question in today’s modern society. Some of which include gay marriage, and abortion etc. Yet one of the most controversial has to be stem cell research. Basically Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have two defining properties: the ability to differentiate into other cells and the ability to self-regenerate.
The stem cells are very important to the development of various organisms. The embryonic cells are derived from the embryos. These embryos are usually developed from fertilized eggs in the vitro fertilization clinics after which they are donated for research purposes. These embryos are not fertilized from woman’s body. These embryos from which human embryonic stem cells are derived from are usually four to five days old and they are hollow microscopic cell balls that are referred to as blastocyst. The blastocyst has three main structures which include trophoblast which is cell layer that surround blastocoels; the blastocoels is a hollow cavity inside the blastocyst as well as the inner cell mass that is usually a group of cells that develop into embryo. This process of growing cells in the laboratory is called cell culture.
The human embryonic stem cells are usually isolated by transferring their inner cell mass into a nutrient broth or culture medium in a plastic laboratory culture dish where they develop and further research is done. There is a procedure that is usually followed towards this research. The first step involves obtaining an egg from the human donor where the nucleus is removed from egg. Then the cells of the skin are taken from the patient where its nucleus or DNA is removed, the skin cell nucleus is then implanted into the egg which reconstructs it to the so called blastocyst that is stimulated by chemical or electric current. After 3 to 5 days, the embryonic stem cells are removed and the blastocyst destroyed. The stem cells can then be used in the generation of tissue or organ that usually matches genetically to the cell donor’s skin. In what appears to be controversial, there are several questions that arise from the research done on these stem cells. Are this research morally justified? Are these researches of great importance to the society? Due to great achievements that these research provide in the medical field like providing cure for some ailments, then it is very important to carry on these researches and even explore for more important use of the research outcomes (Popular Mechanics 85). The embryonic stem cells are usually blank cells that are yet programmed by the body, these cells are usually flexible and thus can be changed into any form or researched on well.
They are a lot of controversy that is surrounding this stem cell research although the pros outweigh cons to a great extent. The benefits of this research outweigh all other arguments because this is a matter of saving human life. Stem cell research is beneficial to many people because of the fact there are many people suffering from diseases that stem cells play an important role in. Organ transplants are something we have advanced in, but the problem is we don’t have supply of organs to take care of the large demand for them. Stem cell research allows us to help more people in need of organ transplants. Once stem cells reach cell therapy, the final stage, they can replace specialized cells. The specialized cells could be the one causing the disease, and if we replace them with stem cells it could fix the problem.
Stem cell research takes a role in enhancing life. Stem cell research gives hope to people who think there is no possibility of life. We need to take risks because some of the greatest accomplishments for medical researchers is taking risks. Stem cell research can save millions of hopeless lives.
Many people think that stem research is wasting embryos, but it’s not. When mothers, who can’t produce, get embryos implanted in them they only use so many embryos. The embryos that are not used are flushed down the sink, burned, or released so that air that hits them causes them to die. Why not use these embryos for something that can help save people?
Stem cell research is a medical advancement that can save people who thought they didn’t have a chance. It also plays important role in preventing and curing diseases that we thought of as incurable.
The various diseases that have proved to be cured as a result of stem cell research include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart, stroke and Diabetes disease along side with birth defects, spinal cord injuries, replace or repair damaged organs, reduce the transplantation risk and also playing a great role in cancer. All these are of great importance to the society in terms of economic and even social benefits. It would be hard to get the solution of these diseases using other means hence the stem research methods remains to be an effective alternative towards some of these diseases (Holland, Lebacqs & Zoloth 51).
If the cost-benefit analysis is done on this research, the benefit to a great extent outweighs the ethical issues that are usually seen as the hindrances to this research. It is better to heal a disease completely if they are ways to it than to rather than use other complicated ways and methods when they is a simple alternative just because of ethical issues of the society. I would vote for the ways that help the society greatly than sit down and argue of it being unethical. I think it is very vital for one to be treated than look at him struggle with pain when there is a cure that can be exploited and used. Looking at a different perspective, it would even be much better for someone doing an abortion to use it for something useful in this field of stem research. This research also gives a lot of great insight on the basics of the body.
There are several critics against the research; it is argued that the ethical issues behind this research do not justify the benefits that are there. It has also been argued that the life should not be compromised and that the fertilized egg should be valued as human even if it is in first weeks. Those against the research continue to argue that more ethical methods should be developed like using the adult stem cells so as to enable the research be ethical, but this may not be appropriate or effective because the adult stem cells are not as effective as the embryonic cells. All these cannot overcome the benefits that are there and therefore it is important for the research to go on (Experiment Resources).
It is such a great thing for one to heal the disease and eliminate the great problems that affect the society if there is an alternative. The stem cell research is one of such alternatives that are available and which need to be utilized at all cost. If Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart, stroke and Diabetes disease along side with birth defects, spinal cord injuries, replace or repair damaged organs and other can be treated as a result of this research, then why don’t we just do it and embrace it for the benefit of people. I think human life is of great importance than the arguments that are ever there from time immemorial and which are not only important but useless compared to the life of human beings. As Patrick Henry said, it is either being given liberty or given death. I would rather get the freedom and liberty to do research and come out with more important things than die and leave them. Someone dying from a curable disease is more painful than an abortion. It is of great value than abortion.
Stem Cell Research in the United States
The policy on Stem Cell Research in the United States is connected with the politics on abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court held in Roe vs. Wade that the decision regarding abortion is private between the woman and her doctor. This Supreme Court decision ignited anti-abortion movements that oppose researches on embryos. The US government thus banned federal funding of search on embryos, and embryonic or fetal tissues. This ban has driven most infertility research, including the in vitro fertilization, into the private sector. On August 9, 2001, for the first time, President Bush allowed the federal funding of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research on already existing stem cell lines (Wertz, 2002). The religious groups expressed their dissatisfaction, and the scientists questioned the adequacy of existing stem cell lines.
On June 20, 2007, the President, through Executive Order 13435, ordered the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct and support the “isolation, derivation, production, and testing” of stem cells that are capable of producing cell types of the developing body and may result in development of treatment of various diseases. The order, however, prohibits the derivation of stem cells through creating a human embryo or “destroying, discarding, or subjecting to harm” a human embryo. Executive Order 13435 declares as one of its policies the need to establish moral and ethical boundaries as this would allegedly allow the nation to move forward while maintain the utmost respect for human life and human dignity. The order likewise declares that the destruction of human embryo is a violation of the principle that a life should not be used as a means to an end, i.e. the medical benefit of another person (Federal Register, 2007).
Arguably, Executive Order 13435 assumes that a human embryo is a human being, a view that is not shared by everyone. In fact, the order declared that human embryos are living members of human species, and are thus not raw materials that should be exploited or be considered as commodities. The policies that are declared in the order are reflective of the religious and moral views and convictions of President Bush. However, the order is also reflective of the desire to further the stem cell research, with the aim of understanding the normal stem cell development, which will pave the way for understanding and correction of various medical problems.
On March 9, 2009, President Obama removed some restrictions on stem cell research. Recognizing the benefits the stem cell research may bring, the Executive Order 13505 expanded the support from National Institutes of Health for the stem cell research. Previously, the funding of stem cell research by the Department of Health and Human Services is limited by the actions of the President. Executive Order 13505 seeks to remove this restriction. The order declares the need to increase the contribution of scientists to new discoveries for the common good (Federal Register, 2009). Until now, however, there are still ethical issues concerning stem cell research. While some favor adult stem cell research, which is unrestricted as it does not involve the issue of destroying an embryo, others are against embryonic stem cell research as it is essentially linked to ethical issues.
In other countries, the policies on stem cell research are also dependent on the existing dominant philosophical and ethical standpoints of the legislators. Belgium, for example, shares the same legal stand with the United States. It does allow the procurement of embryonic stem cells but only from surplus of embryos used in in vitro fertilization. Germany and Italy, on the other hand, prohibit the procurement of embryonic stem cells from human embryos, but states like Austria, Bulgaria, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania have no specific legislation regarding the matter (EuroStemCell, 2007).
According to Christopher Thomas Scott (2006), the transplants using embryonic stem cells are possible cure to autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases happen when the body is attacked by its own white blood cells. Our own immune system can distinguish between the cells that are “self” and those that are “not-self” or the foreign invaders. Autoimmune disease can cause rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, lupus, and Crohn’s disease. The treatments that we are currently employing only tend to ameliorate the problems. The transplants from one person to another usually lead to the rejection of host’s tissue as it is recognized by the body as a foreign invader.
Scott further noted that stem cell research could lead to the development of drugs that could possible prevent certain diseases from occurring. Through what is called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), an embryo sampling technique, certain disorders like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and Huntington’s could be detected.
The benefits that the society would get from stem cell research cannot be disputed. There is an overwhelming number of people in the United States supporting the stem cell research, despite the fact that there are those who oppose. This is because over a hundred million Americans suffer from diseases, and this research has a big possibility of bringing treatments to various medical problems. The taxpayers are expecting the government to do whatever it can to provide the best health care system. Health care system does not only mean providing the drugs that the patients need. It also requires the positive act of the government towards the development of cures to illnesses. Stem cell research is a big leap towards the discovery of treatments. It is just right for the government to support the research, in keeping with the welfare of the society.
In California, voters passed the Proposition 71. Proposition 71 seeks to provide funds amounting to $ 3 billion to stem cell research. The voters were persuaded to vote for the proposition as this would arguably give the state a large return on its investment in direct revenue, lower health care costs, and jobs.
Despite disagreements as to whether embryonic stem cell research is ethical and whether it should be publicly funded, millions have acted as advocates of the same, arguing that federal funding will lead to a speedier research. The government, as the protector of its citizens, has to listen, and address this public clamor to support the stem cell research even though it may seem to offend others’ religious beliefs.
Executive Order 1505 is already a big step towards the furtherance of the stem cell research. The principle that it upholds, i.e. that there should only be minimal restriction to scientific research involving human stem cells, may serve as a precedent to future legislations regarding the matter. If the present research would be able to come up with great discoveries, it is very likely that there would be more states which would follow the path of the state of California.
Embryonic Stem Cell Research
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.
An Inquiry on Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
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.
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.
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.