A lot of controversy from its critics surrounds stem cell research.
The controversy in stem cell research concerns the embryonic source of stem cells, which is considered unethical. However, nobody denies the usefulness of stem cell methodology. Those who oppose stem cell research say it devalues human life because the embryos are alive and need protection. J.C. Willke, M.D.
, in the article I’m Pro-Life and Oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research, opposes stem cell research in particular embryonic stem cell research. He urges that it is unethical to do embryonic stem cell research since it requires killing a living human embryo to obtain the stem cell. It is ethical to conduct experiments on human tissue, however doing so in human beings is unethical. Human life begins on day one when an egg has been fertilized. Thus by sourcing stem cells from embryonic cells is tantamount to killing one human being to save another yet in normal life this would be unaccepted. Embryonic cells have a potential of causing cancer and this is a concern that has been raised by researchers. Stem cells that come from embryos have the ability to cause cancer because they may become malignant. This means that more research needs to be done to understand the threat that embryonic stem cells pose to patients who may use them.
Therefore, using these cells is not safe as it may lead to diseases that patients did not have initially. The article goes on to criticize embryonic stem cell research because it is not supported by many people. In poll conducted by” International Communication Research showed that 70% of those polled opposed the use of embryo stem cells, 24% supported and 6% refused”(Willke, 2001). Therefore, stem cell research should be done using other stem cells as research shows they are viable to avoid killing a human being in the initial stages of development because given time the embryo will develop into a human being just like every other human beings on earth who were once fertilized eggs.
However, I support stem cell research because it has many pros that are offering hope to patients in the medical field such as those in need of organ transplants or those with diseases.
However, in spite of the cons of stem cell research it has many pros, which outweigh the cons as shown in the article Pros and cons of embryonic stem cell research: arguments in favour vs. arguments against by Messinger. Adult stem cells can be used as well. This are cells from the placenta and thus no need to ‘kill’ embryos to harvest cells. Stem cells harvested from adults have more advantages than embryonic stem cells.
They cannot be rejected by the body when harvested from a patient unlike embryonic cells that are used on a different human being. They eliminate the problem of rejection (Willke, 2001). In spite of the criticism that stem cell research faces as shown above, it continues to generate a lot of interest in the medical science. Many a times the critics of stem cell research have termed it as killing. They say so because life starts at conception and hence using embryonic stems is tantamount to killing because the blastocyst differentiates into many cells that later develop into features of a human being. On the contrary, the blastocyst in stem cell research is used even before it begins to differentiate (Pros and Cons of Stem Cell Research, 2010, Para. 3). Some stem cells are taken from embryos that remain after Vitro fertilization.
The unused embryos would eventually be destroyed. Instead of destroying embryos why not, use them in stem cell research to cure patients who have diseases that stem cell therapy can cure. in addition, the bone marrow is also a source of stem cells. If successful, are the best types to use as compared to stem cells harvested from embryos and umbilical cord. They always match the recipient because they are an exact DNA match. Stem cells can also be sourced from the umbilical cord. They can be harvested from it and preserved for future use by a family.
These stem cells offer hope to patients with diseases such as cancer of the blood or leukemia as they are given bone marrow transplants and hence a new lease of life (Gahrton & Bjorkstrand, 2000). This is made possible by technological advancement and it may help to stop the controversy surrounding stem research. Those who oppose the practice equate stem cell research to killing. This is because the blastocyst is not given a chance to develop. Conversely, many people’s lives have been saved through stem research. For example, in the United States alone about 100 to 150 million people suffer from diseases that are treatable using stem research methodology. Thus by adopting stem cell research the lives of these Americans will be saved instead of them suffering until they succumb to treatable diseases.
“Diseases that could become manageable with stem cell research are Parkinson’s disease, birth defects, heart diseases, Alzheimer’s, stroke and spinal injuries”(Stem Cell Research, 2008). This is because stem cells can be transplanted into the body to heal the above diseases if stem cell research is allowed to go in finding a cure for such diseases. This will also make transplantation less risky as the doctors would use a copy of a patient’s cells to create organs to be transplanted thus eliminate the risk of organ rejection completely (Stem Cell Research, 2008). This is because if stem cells are harvested from a patient and grown into organs such as a heart, limb and so forth the body cannot reject such an organ as it cannot reject it own cells.
This would also reduce the cost of transplanting, as extra medication is needed to combat the chances of organ rejection. It may also be possible to develop organs that can be universal donor and this would be very good as such, organs would be like the universal donor and this would make it possible for any patient to receive an organ whenever they need without having to wait to find a compatible donor. On the other hand, the money used in drugs to prevent organ rejection can be used to further the knowledge in stem cell research to cover wider number of diseases that plague man everyday. Those who are opposed to stem cell research can be said to be practicing double speak. This is because they do not oppose vitro fertilization. “During vitro fertilization a number of eggs are fertilized and about two or three embryos are implanted into the womb with the hope that at least one will survive and successfully be implanted” (Messinger, 2006). The other embryos clearly die and yet they do not help anyone.
The question that begs is why not use such embryos in stem cell research and save lives instead, because letting them die in labs is also killing them yet this is not the stand of those who oppose stem cell research. This is because many embryos are created during this kind of fertilization and left to die through defrosting in labs. Therefore allowing such embryos to be used in stem cell research would go a long way in helping to improve the research in stem cell treatment for the betterment of humankind (Messinger, 2006). The stem cell research is currently in the hands of the private sector. Some feel that the private sector may put all ethical considerations aside to ensure they make a profit in stem cell research. However, this is not always the case because the private sector is always willing to take risks and lead in invention. Through this sector, we have many products that the government would have been reluctant to venture into because it would not have competition from anyone in looking for better ways of managing diseases.
Therefore, it would be unfounded to demonize stem cell research just because it is in the private sector. This is because the claim that the private sector is money minded does not hold water as the private sector also cares about human beings and strives to come up with the best products to improve or change the lives of their consumers. In fact, the stem cell research will reach great heights if the government offers it support to the sector through funding to ensure that the best methods are applied in developing stem cell research. Stem cell research does not offer a solution to all the diseases that human beings suffer from. This tenet is true but stem cell research offers hope in the medical field because through this research man will be able to study the human body in detail without the fear of the risks involved.
This will increase safety in drug testing. This will make it easier to develop drugs that will be effective in treating the populations because scientists and doctors will use stem cells from human beings thus come up with accurate drugs with fewer side effects. This is because they will study the effects of those drugs on “human pluripotent stem cells that have been developed to mimic the disease processes” (Stem Cell Research, 2009, Potential Benefits, Para. 3). This will help to eliminate the side effects of drugs by testing for toxicity in the stem cells before carrying tests on human beings and animals.
Furthermore, stem cell research will help to study the development process of the fetus and help to eliminate or treat developmental diseases (Pillai, 2010). This is because stem cell research will lead to a greater understanding of the process of human development and this will give insights into the causes of genetic abnormalities as well as birth defects.
Stem cell research debate will continue to rage on for decades to come between people in the opposite camps. However, the main point that cannot be ignored is the importance of stem cell research in helping to fight diseases as well as help to improve human life altogether. The contentious issue in stem cell research is not on using it but on how stem cells are obtained.
Due to technological advancement, doctors and scientist have discovered a way of harvesting stem cells without necessarily destroying the embryonic cells. Such methods will help to advance the research in stem cell for the benefit of humankind because the pros outweigh the cons by far. The governments of various countries ought to support stem research fully because it has many benefits. The other stakeholders need to support stem cell research because it seems to be the answer to many incurable diseases.
This will prolong life and add quality into the lives of human beings, as they will not have to suffer and die in pain from terminal diseases.
Gahrton, G. & Bjorkstrand B., (2000). Progress in haematopoietic stem cell transplantation for multiple myeloma. Journal of Internal Medicine, 248 (3): 185–201. Messinger, R.
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