Science has continuously provided the pathway towards innovative solutions to solve the issues of the 21st century; however, in order to attain such solutions the question of what is morally acceptable or wrong comes into play. Embryonic stem cell research has faced the negative spotlight for many years. The false misconceptions surrounding stem cells is clouded by the idea that they are acquired through intentionally killing a life of a potential human being. These false statements facilitated by anti-abortion organizations has slowed down the progress that could have been achieved through science on a logical and ethnically driven basis.
Embryonic stem cells should be used for medical research because they harness the potential to improve the quality of life and medically treat millions of sick individuals. Consequently, misconceptions are often bred from not fully understanding the issue at hand and in the case of embryonic stem cell research the scientific jargon can further the publics confusion. In simpler terms within the field of stem cell research, the main two cells used for used for medical experiments and treatments are adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells.
The formation of embryonic stem cells is produced during the intricate process of fertilization of a zygote by a sperm. Once reached fertilization results in millions of cells dividing and replicating in order to form a blastocyst. Beau Watts an emergency room physician further explains in his essay “Embryonic Stem Cell Research; A Moral Evil or Obligation? ” that “the blastocyst consists of an outer layer of cells which surround another cluster of cells known as the inner cell mass. It is this inner cell mass that contains stem cells considered to be pluripotent . . .” (459).
To attain the preferred pluripotent cells, which can potentially give rise to different cell types, they need to be extracted from the embryo. The extraction process is often portrayed by anti-abortion groups as intentionally destroying a human life when in reality the embryo does not contain any individual characteristics until it has implanted in a female uterus. Picture a world where dozens of degenerative illnesses and diseases are effectively treated: cancer, type I diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
Additionally, not only will the treatments of these diseases save lives but will also improve the quality of life for millions of sick individuals. Such accomplishments can be achieved with embryonic stem cells, unfortunately; the use of these cells has garnered opposition from numerous sides. The opposition for the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research originates from the idea that using embryonic cells is in turn destroying potential life.
J. C. Willke a former obstetrician and now an anti-abortion activists states in the article “I’m Pro-Life and Oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research” that “. . to terminate [a] life at any stage . . . can be called nothing other than a killing” (464-65). However, at what developmental stage is a fertilized zygote considered a life? Each is entitled to their opinion regarding the conception of life although there is also a point where personal and religious beliefs interfere with reaching a consensus on the issue. In such cases, where the morality of research is put into question the professional conduct of scientific researchers is subjected to a code of ethics.
Misconceptions are often formed when a certain subject is not fully understood especially in the case of how embryonic stem cells are acquired. Embryonic stem cells are not acquired through the intentional killing of a fetus but through legal fertility clinics that have left over embryos soon to be discarded. When a couple or individual undergoes in vitro fertilization, several embryos are created in the lab to increase the chance of the embryo successfully implanting in the womb of the female. There are various scenarios in which several embryos are left over from the process and are either discarded or donated to scientific research.
It seems logical to harness each embryo’s potential contribution to scientific research instead of discarding them in the trash. Regardless of this fact, much of the opposition continues to argue that embryos should be respected as a human life. Beau Watts counters this argument by stating that the embryos used for research do not “. . . contain any individualized components until after implantation into the uterus” (460). Ultimately, an embryo has the potential to become a life but scientifically is not an individual since it cannot grow into a fetus with individual characteristics until it has fully attached to a female uterus.
Additionally, the embryonic stem cells used for research never reach that particular stage of fetal development. Through the process, a human life is not destroyed but instead an embryo is being used to create potentially effective cures and treatments to improve the quality of life for millions of individuals across the world. In reality, any type of medical procedure carries a risk which is why thorough understanding of the field by scientists is required to ensure success. For instance, the use of embryonic stem cells in therapeutic treatments runs the risk of tumor formation and the rejection of the cells after implantation (Mehta 107).
After implantation there is a risk that the cells will not differentiate into the affected cell and cause unregulated cell growth resulting in tumors. Furthermore, in their research of human embryonic stem cell cultivation scientists Nina Desai, Pooja Rambhia, and Arsela Gishto noted that “[t]o reach the full therapeutic potential of [embryonic stem cells], defined and reproducible culture systems must be integrated in order to generate quantities of [embryonic stem cells] . . . that are able to sustain therapeutic applications” (1).
Harnessing the true potential of embryonic stem cells requires numerous samples and thorough understanding by scientists of how to attain such success. Since the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells requires extensive research the subject should be further looked into to increase understanding of how the cells can be used to treat illnesses. Embryonic stem cell research should be legal under the circumstances that the individual providing the embryos has issued consent and that the embryos are obtained from donations from fertility clinics.
In this case, the slippery slope of the acquirement of the stem cells is diminished and thoroughly regulated. In the event that, the embryos are acquired through an intentional abortion the morality of the research is put into question and should not be allowed to proceed. Intentionally growing a fetus only to be used for embryonic stem cells is wrong and is why there needs to be strict rules and regulations as to where research facilities will acquire their samples. Reservations regarding stem cells research is primarily based on religious beliefs and the lack of understanding of the matter.
Under certain religious doctrines Among scientific research it is true that adult stem cells have successfully treated certain diseases and illness in clinical trials; nevertheless, scientific innovations in the medical field is crucial to the ever-growing understanding of the human body. Adult stem cells do not pose such a grand ethical dilemma as much as embryonic stem cells do and is part of the reason why researchers choose not to look into the matter any further. The fear of uncertainty has limited the progression of science by the growing debate of what is morally wrong and right.