The Moral Debate over Stem Cell Research
President George W. Bush looked stern and confident as he addressed the American people on August 9th, 2001. It was an historic day for the 43rd president, as he explained the debate surrounding embryonic stem cell research, including its possible benefits for science but also its problems surrounding morals and ethics.
“The issue is debated within the church, with people of different faiths, even many of the same faith coming to different conclusions,” Bush said. “Many people are finding that the more they know about stem cell research, the less certain they are about the right ethical and moral conclusions.”
The president made it clear the specific benefits of using embryonic stem cells, and how they offer hope for those with incurable diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and spinal cord injuries. But it was also clear that the U.S. government was at a moral quandary. Bush concluded by saying that federal money – or taxpayers’ dollars – would be invested into research involving cells that were not embryonic, including umbilical cord placenta, and adult and animal stem cells.
“Research on embryonic stem cells raises profound ethical questions, because extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo, and thus destroys its potential for life,” the president said. “Like a snowflake, each of these embryos is unique, with the unique genetic potential of an individual human being.”
As the president heads into his second term, the issue has reached a new level within the United States. Many question Bush’s conservative stance and wonder how the issue can be pursued throughout the current decade. The state of California passed a measure on November 2nd allowing for full stem cell research, including the cells in question (embryonic) to be used and funded. Many Americans are very clear as to where they stand, but the heated discussion on both sides poses an undeniable challenge for Bush and the rest of the country in finding an essential answer for the issue.
Embryonic Stem Cells – Life or not?
The crucial question in this debate is whether the embryonic stem cells that will be killed to further research are alive or not – and even if they are, what exactly is the scientist killing?
James A. O’Donohoe, PhD (Church Law and Moral Theology) of Lexington, Mass., and a retired priest of 57 years after graduating from the University of Louvain (Belgium), the oldest Catholic University in the world, has a belief that co-exists with Roman Catholic teachings.
“A person will die [if you don’t perform embryonic stem cell research], that’s the appealing argument,” he said. “But you can’t disregard a human being.”
Embryonic stem cells are master cells formed soon after fertilization that can develop into all the cell types in the body, including brain, blood, muscle, and skin. In a November 6th, 1998 Washington Post article by health & science writer Rick Weiss, the discovery of isolating...