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Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Good Ends Do Not Justify Immoral Means

2566 words - 10 pages

Few advances in modern science have generated as much excitement and public debate as the discovery of human embryonic stem cells (hESC). The debate over the use of embryonic stem cells in research has polarized the global community along the lines of those who argue that such research holds the promise of medical breakthroughs for many currently incurable diseases and ailments, while opponents condemn such research as it involves the destruction of a potential human life and is seen as humanity “playing God”. There are no clear cut answers to the moral debate concerning this particular area of stem cell research. At the core of the debate lies the ethical question of which is the more valuable; the life of a human being suffering from a fatal illness or life threatening injury, or the life of a potential human being? These are the difficult questions faced by both the scientists engaged in the research, the legislators who define the laws governing such research and the public as a whole. While many agree that embryonic stem cell research has the potential of developing treatments for a number of afflictions that affect humankind, if such research cannot be performed without the the cost of destroying a life it should therefore not be pursued.
Experimentation with embryonic stem cells has become an important breakthrough in current medical research. Why is this? According to Medical News Today, these embryonic stem cells are considered the most useful for research due to their pluripotent nature (MNT, July 2013). What this means according the National Institutes of Health Stem Cell Information Center, is that embryonic stem cells are considered to be unspecialized or master cells. Being unspecialized or “undifferentiated” in scientific terms, means is that embryonic stem cells can give rise to specialized or “differentiated” cells, for example blood, muscle, or nerve cells, via a process called “direct differentiation” (NIH, 2009). In direct differentiation, scientists directly manipulate the cultures in which the embryonic stem cells are grown or directly alter the genetic content of the cells themselves which leads to the blastocysts (i.e. pre-embryo) destruction (Monroe, et al, I). Thus embryonic stem cells have the potential to cure a vast number of diseases, physical and neurological ailments including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes for example. This is the opposite of human adult stem cells (hASC) that can be found in fat cells, bone marrow, skin cells and some nerve tissues for example. Before adult stem cells can be used however, they must go through a process of “de-differentiation” which adds additional complications for research use. Regrettably, as Manuel Ruiz-Canela in his paper “Embryonic Stem Cell Research: The Relevance of Ethics in the Progress of Science” states, it is because the destruction of the human embryos is required to derive the stem cells necessary for research or treatment that creates the controversy over...

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