Stem Cell Research L. Jones Ethical Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1303 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Ethics

Stem Cell Research

L. Jones

Ethical and Moral Issues

Today one of the most hotly debated issues is unquestionably stem cell research. Specifically, it involves harvesting and using a specific type of cell known as a "stem cell" and using it to attempt to develop or reproduce virtually any cell in the body. Of course this has tremendous potential for therapeutic benefit -- some speculate from curing cancer, paralysis, Parkinson's disease, and a host of other maladies yet to be imagined. In lay terms, stem cells can serve as kind of "repair system for the body," which can divide infinitely -- replenishing other cells. What is so powerful about the stem cell, however, is its ability to become another kind of specialized cell, say a brain, blood, bone marrow or muscle cell (NIH, 2004).

Although this all sounds wonderful in theory. The true "rub" of the issue becomes apparent when one considers that the most powerful "type" of stem cell comes from embryonic tissue. Because one must necessarily destroy the embryo in order to collect these cells, and the embryo constitutes in some opinions a form of a living being, many cite moral, ethical and religious objections to the practice -- even if the embryo were going to be destroyed at some point anyway.

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There is little question that the main source of stem cells is and is very likely to continue to be primarily from human embryonic tissue. Because of this, the vast majority of tissue used in stem cell research either comes from the tissue of aborted pregnancies, or from the "left over" or surplus embryos from fertility clinics (Berger, 2001). Of course, although the potential benefits of stem cell research are immense, many ethical and religious traditions draw the line at any "ends justifying the means" thinking; and that is precisely what they assert stem cell research is.

Term Paper on Stem Cell Research L. Jones Ethical and Assignment

For many ethical and religious traditions, life begins at conception, or when the human egg is fertilized and becomes an embryo. One of the best (and most widely heard) objections in this vein comes from the Catholic faith, which asks the questions, "...is the destruction of the very early embryo immoral? Second, if a vaccine or tissue is generated from these human embryonic stem cells, would someone act unethically in using it (Shannon, 2004)?"

For many, like the Catholics, the resounding answer to this question is that it is not moral to "use" human embryos, and that they are to be "...valued and, in effect, treated as a person from the time of fertilization forward. It is not to be destroyed or seen as disposable tissue that can be used in research as any other tissue might be (Shannon)." Thus, the Catholics (and many others) assert that there is something inviolate in the human embryo that cannot be used for gain, no matter how noble the intention, or how desperately it is needed. They cite that by deliberately destroying an embryo, or even worse, "farming" embryos specifically for this purpose, one is violating the sanctity of life itself.

Of course, as many have unfortunately experienced, once one is personally touched by the tragedy of paralysis through injury, stricken with cancer or Parkinson's disease, or suffer from any other serous malady, one begins to see the ethical lines dim in favor of laxity. What then? Assuming the technology does progress to allow for everything from a cure for paralysis to the end of wrinkles? Are all applications equally moral?

Interestingly, there are a myriad of privately funded groups in support and against the practice, closely followed by individuals and even governments seeking to get their proverbial "two cents" in, and perhaps throw in a bit of regulation on the side. But just who is the best party to decide if the research should continue, under what parameters, and who should be eligible to receive which kinds of applications?

Francis Fukuyama, Francis… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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