Stem Cells: Murder or Savior?

Stem Cells: Murder or Savior?

Stem cell research. Straightforward words that mean a lot more than a newfound field in the scientific field. Stem cells have the chance to change everything that we know in the medical field as well as the potential to heal wounds and damaged organs. Yet using stem cells for research causes much debate and anger from those opposed to stem cell research but they are only focusing on the process and not the results of it. Many oppose embryonic stem cell research because it kills a living human embryo in the process, which Pro Life advocates see as murder. There is an unending conflict between those who see as the potential to save lives, and those who see it as murder.

Human embryonic stem cells (hESC) are cells that are created when a blastocyst is created after sperm enter the female egg. These stem cells are cells that haven’t been given a specific task yet, allowing scientists to extract them and use them for therapy. The cells, which are derived from several-day-old embryos, can theoretically differentiate into virtually any type of human cell, from blood cells to skin cells. Scientists hope to find ways of using them to repair damaged tissue. The potential use for these stem cells includes curing/treating a myriad of diseases, conditions, and disabilities including Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal cord injury, HIV, burns, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis (AAAS). There are multiple types of stem cells, which include adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells have the widest range of treatment because they can be differentiated into any type of cell, while adult stem cells can only be made into a few types of specific cells (Stem Cell Science).

There are two main positions on embryonic stem cell research. The main reason the topic is controversial is because Pro life advocates, Christians, and many republicans see the destruction of the human embryo as murder or the ending of a potential human life. Critics argue that this destruction of human life is not worth the benefits because life is destroyed to potentially save another. The argument comes down to the same one as abortion, but at an even smaller scale. Blastocysts, which are destroyed in embryonic stem cell research are only made of 200 cells (there are 50 trillion in a human body) (Stem Cell Science). Pro life advocates argue that any destruction of potential human life is wrong, which creates tension between the scientific community and critics (Religious Tolerance).

The Pro life argument targets those with strong religious backgrounds, and actively advertises that embryonic stem cell research is unethical. Opponents of hESC research believe that human life begins as soon as an egg is fertilized; and they consider a human embryo to be a human being. They therefore consider any research that necessitates the destruction of a human embryo to be morally abhorrent. Many critics of embryonic stem cell research, or ESCr, suggest that adult stem cell research is a better alternative because it does not destroy human embryos. Adult stem cells cannot be made into as many different types of cells that hESC can, which leads to disagreements. The pro life argument takes a strong ethical standpoint on science and medicine, which is a powerful and effective technique for making sure research is halted (NIH) (AAAS).

The other side of the argument is the scientific viewpoint. Medical professionals and scientists hold that of stem cells have the potential to cure everything from Parkinson’s to HIV. (NIH) The scientific community sees ESCr and its potential as a major breakthrough in medicine and science. The reason for outrage in the scientific community is that there is a large potential for life saving through ESCr, and that funding and public support is being threatened or ended because of the opposing side. Many scientists agree that ESCr has huge possibilities to cure Parkinson’s and other infamous and deadly diseases. The main reason that scientists talk about the “probability and potential" of hESC is because due to opposition, much research hasn’t been allowed to occur (Popular Issues) (PBS).

Taking sides over embryonic stem cell research has its drawbacks. Scientists and politicians who take the pro-research side get attacked by people that are against it. Politicians especially come under fire due to the large support of anti-research that comes from many ethical foundations like the church. These foundations then lobby other politicians to fight funding for this research. This creates a conflict between the two opposing sides. Embryonic stem cell research is a topic that is contested by many, and would not be considered “work safe" due to the deep positions people take on the topic.

The embryonic stem cell debate is a national argument, being more accepted in other countries than in America. There has been infamous legislation banning the funding for it by George W. Bush, and then the restoration of funding by President Barack Obama. Each party has their own view on the topic, with Republicans being generally more against ESCr, and democrats more for it. The Republican Party uses religious ethics to justify their standpoint on the topic, which is a very effective technique in America. Many people are very religious and so they immediately decide to be against ESCr (PBS) (Religious Tolerance) (Pros and Cons).

A part of the controversy is over the use of adult stem cells. Many religious figures and politicians give adult stem cells as an all around better alternative to ESCr. This is contested by the scientific community due to the fact that adult stem cells can only be differentiated into less than half the cells that embryonic ones can. (NIH) Some opponents of ESCr also argue that research on stem cells obtained from adults is just as promising and makes research unnecessary. Most scientists, however, contest this claim citing great potential in the field of adult stem cells but several downsides with embryonic stem cells. Proponents of ESCr research advocate funding for both fields.

Embryonic stem cells can be made into any type of cell in the human body. This allows hESC to be used to help with diseases like AIDS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, brain cancer, and injuries such as spinal cord damage. Adult stem cells are a very popular alternative, but many scientists believe that cures lie in the study and research of all types of stem cells, not just adult ones. Lately, a new way to harvest stem cells has been proven effective; to take human skin cells and trick them into becoming stem cells (NIH). However, this is not an end to the moral issue, but instead may prove to make acquiring new types of stem cells harder, because Pro Lifers will say this is a way to avoid killing an embryo, even if it is already given up for science. A few major problems with the cells, is that they are simply not tough enough to undergo reproduction to create the new organ or cell type necessary. Also, the cells simply are physically older, and therefore cannot produce as well as embryonic stem cells, and are unsuitable for many operations. (Popular Issues) Though it is important to study this new kind of stem cell group, the use of embryonic stem cells cannot be discounted; as they are the most studied and have been established to be the most useful.

Politicians and Lobbyists have put a stop to the growth of stem cell research, which can mean millions to those who are rightful to the treatments, while the research gained by the government is open to the public, which allows scientists to search for more cures. Former president Bill Clinton, under demands from the general population and elected officials, permitted stem cell research to be slowed down with the Dickey Amendment. This put a stop on all federal funding for stem cell research. While Clinton was still in office in, an ambiguity was found in the law that allowed for the embryo to be destroyed with non-governmental funds, and then experimented on with funding from the government. During this time, there was an increase in stem cell research, and numerous types of stem cells were discovered (AAAS) (PBS).

President Obama passed legislation that allows funding for ESCr, which is a major step forward for research. Each political party opposes one another on this topic, so it is important for politicians to tell their followers which side they’ve taken. The national community in the United States is divided on the topic of ESCr. Many are concerned about the ethical concerns of destroying embryos, but they also see the unbelievable benefits it could reap. Many are also faithful followers of the church, which mandates that no human life be destroyed. Pro Life advocates tell their followers that this is murder, which leads to opposition to ESCr. These attitudes reflect the Christian principles that America was founded upon. It also shows that a large amount of American politics and policies are affected enormously by religion (Religious Tolerance) (Popular Issues).

I believe that the government should fund embryonic stem cell research and allow scientists to investigate the unbelievable potential in this field. Scientists have decided that they won’t create embryos to destroy to get the stem cells for research, but use the many left over ones from in vitro fertilization, a technique of creating many human embryos to fertilize a woman, which often ends in many extra embryos being created. In-vitro leftovers allow embryos that would already be frozen and later destroyed to be put forward for a higher cause. People against ESCr argue that the use of leftover in-vitro embryos will lead to more abortions and embryos being destroyed (Religious Tolerance) (Science Daily).

Much has been proven for the abilities of stem cells; one of the most recent is the creation of a hESC entirely from stem cells (PBS).This creates tension because people have always been against human cloning, as it poses the ethical difficulty of whether or not we can play God. Another problem with the stem cells is that if they are studied by mixing them with another organism, the new organism could become more humanlike and that is another moral problem that afflicts many people. These are very important ethical questions, but they should not be quarreled over by Congress, by politicians serving their “citizens," who ironically consist of lobbyists; they should instead be debated and rules set by the scientific community, to protect the veracity of science, and prevent chaos through misunderstanding. Although there are many issues with the system, there is a large necessity to discover more types of stem cells. Without new stem cell lines we could otherwise see this type of scientific examination become purely theoretical in nature, which is like counting the number of how many angels you can fit on a pin.

Stem cells are gifts to mankind, and are able to save untold amounts of people. We cannot allow an issue of religion and political partiality to discourage us from saving the people who need these stem cells the most. Stem cell research may be an ethical problem for some, but the prospects of growth and of treatment for the ill, far overshadows any hypothetical moral debate, as the lives of those who hurt, certainly should have treatments examined to provide a happy, and healthy life for them. The government should fund stem cell research, to provide the next person who needs help the treatment they ought to have.