One of the most controversial topics in the media today is the question of the morality of research on human embryonic stem cells. According to a Gallup poll taken in May of 2010, 59% of Americans believed medical research using stem cells obtained from humans was morally acceptable, where 32% believed it was morally wrong. (Saad) This will always be a difficult issue for me to take sides on. There are so many arguments for and against and so many ethical theories that support and oppose it. I am going to try to touch on a few of these theories and how they apply to the research done on human embryonic stem cells.
Human embryonic stem cell (HESC) research involves removing tissue from the aborted embryo to get cells to study. This research can potentially help treat Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Stroke, Diabetes (Type 1), Birth Defects and Spinal Cord Injuries. I can also help replace or repair damaged organs, reduce risk from transplantation and play a major role in the treatment and prevention of cancer. (Experiment-Resources.com)
The argument that states that HESC research is unethical is this: It is morally wrong to kill innocent human beings; the human embryo is considered an innocent human being; so it is morally wrong to kill the human embryo. (Siegel) Within this statement lies the question, when does a human life begin to exist? The standard view of those who oppose HESC research is that a human being begins to exist with the emergence of the one-cell zygote at fertilization. (Siegel) So according to this view, all HESC research should be ended because all HESC’s are human beings.
The ruling by the government has changed over the years. President Obama reintroduced a bill to amend the Public Health Source Act in 2009 that would allow HESC research after President Bush restricted it in 2001. The bill has 3 requirements for eligibility for use of HESCs in research. The bill states, 1) “The stem cells were derived from human embryos that have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for the purposes of fertility treatment, and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking such treatment; 2) Prior to the consideration of embryo donation and through consultation with the individuals seeking fertility treatment, it was determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded and 3) The individuals seeking fertility treatment donated the embryos with written informed consent and without receiving any financial or other inducements to make the donation.” (Robinson) These requirements help justify the research by providing eligibility requirements that prevent unethical harm and abuse of the use of HESCs. If the embryos are otherwise going to be destroyed, that can instead be used to help find cures for those suffering from diseases and illnesses through research.
Consequentialists are concerned with consequences. (Thiroux 34) Supporters of...