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The stem cell use has been an ethical debate that concerns the incident of creating, treating, and destroying human embryos to research on embryonic stem cells. Therefore, the bioethical issues have a close association with the derivation of stem cells from a human embryo. Even though there are many ethical issues that surround the derivation and use of adult stem cells from the umbilical cord blood and aborted fetuses, the most significant controversy focuses on where scientists will obtain human embryonic stem cells (Steenblock, & Payne, 2006). Currently, ethical issues have started to emerge concerning the collection and medical application of other cells that resemble human embryonic stem in undergoing differentiation into human tissues. However, some research on stem cells does not involve derivation of cells from human embryos. For instance, amniotic stem cells and adult stem cells involve different sources other than human embryos. Stem cells can be able to undergo differentiation into a variety of cells, which is a property that is significant in developing medical treatments for various complications (Cohen, 2007). Scientists have proposed a number of treatments, which include treatments for degenerative conditions, genetic diseases, and physical trauma. The United States plays a significant role in research on stem cells and the possible therapeutic applications. This discussion will consider the history of human embryonic stem cells, political, economic, and technological implications of embryonic stem cell use, the pros and cons of embryonic stem cell research, and personal view on the stem cell bioethical issues.
History of Human Stem Cells
Isolation and culturing of human embryonic stem cells started in 1998 when couples donated their embryos, as they no longer intended to use the embryos for their infertility intervention. The research on human embryonic stem cells has been controversial from that time until today. Much of the controversy occurs because of the public unease concerning the possible negative effects of science on human society. Therefore, from the time human embryonic stem cell research started, some people have experienced dystopian fears regarding human cloning, commercialization of human tissues and organs, and the blending of animal and human species (Cohen, 2007). While the public issues about biotechnology and its effects are common, human embryonic stem cell research provided the opportunity for the incipient worries to merge around a new scientific arena.
Apart from the scientific viewpoints against human embryonic stem cell research, pro-life ideologies have rapidly emerged as the main driving forces behind the ethical policy and debate of the research. In spite of other concerns regarding where science and technology have been leading human beings, the ethical discussion on stem cell research has entirely relied on the debate on the destruction of human embryos. Many people are against the embryonic stem cell research, as they believe that human embryos are full human beings regardless of whether the embryo is in the womb or in a test tube. In this viewpoint, destroying embryos for stem cell research is not different from murdering another human being (Cohen, 2007). Even those embryos that have not undergone implantation in the uterus have a high likelihood of becoming full human beings. Therefore, it is morally wrong to derive stem cells from embryos by destroying the embryos. Destruction of embryos terminates the likelihood of developing into a full-fledged person, which is immoral.
Conversely, the proponents of human embryonic stem cell research point out that some religious traditions do not consider human embryos as full human beings because they have not undergone further development into a human body that can continue to sustain itself outside the womb. According to Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions, and the viewpoints of some Western Christian, human embryos become full human beings when they get out of the womb alive. According to developmental biologists, most embryos resulting from conception in the fallopian tube fail to undergo implantation due to genetic abnormalities. Moreover, some proponents of human embryonic stem cell research consider embryos before implantation as having a reduced potential to attain full human development (Cohen, 2007).
Political Implications of Stem Cell Use
Politicians have taken part in the debate on embryonic stem cell collection and use. The politicians can decide whether it is appropriate for a country to fund research on embryonic stem cells or not (Petersen, 2008). They have also argued on if the stem cell research has moral and ethical implications. Research has shown that the research on embryonic stem cell can lead to finding a cure for various diseases even if some people do not support the research (Petersen, 2008). Polls have shown that many people in America support research on embryonic stem cells because they understand the benefits. What is noteworthy and novel is that the struggle to obtain public funding for research on embryonic stem cell, has brought about special interest groups that might affect American politics negatively for many a number of years to come. Some governments have laid federal restrictions against supporting research on embryonic stem cells (Petersen, 2008).
Some state officials consider federal restrictions as limiting the growth of their states or countries in economic and educational aspects (Petersen, 2008). Some state governors have disregarded the federal policy against stem cell research by deciding on creating funding techniques for research on stem cells. The decision is extremely significant for those states that have well developed biotechnology industries since the governors desire to continue leading in this area both at international and national levels. Another benefit of state bioscience initiatives includes preventing scientists and companies that have a close association with biotechnology- from moving to other countries or states overseas (Petersen, 2008).
Economic implications of stem cell use
In the contemporary, many diseases require the use of stem cells for a patient to recover fully. For instance, doctors can employ embryonic stem cells to treat blood cancer, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, and mental degenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, which are prevalent and whose medical interventions are costly in the United States. Because of the inexhaustible proliferation ability of stem cells, researchers strongly believe that embryonic stem cells are significant in treating a number of diseases that are untreatable in the present day, which can be a burden to the economic progress of countries across the world (Soiffer, 2008). However, in the present day, scientists have not released any marketable product of embryonic stem cell, and so most of the companies that deal with stem cells are still researching on how the stem cells will be useful without any negative outcome. Therefore, individuals are spending a lot of money on stem cell research, which has not yet started to generate income. Countries should decide whether it is useful to invest into the researching companies or take an indirect perspective and give a support to other aspects of life sciences. A country can ameliorate its economy by either investing the available resources in projects that can bring about returns through creating new employment opportunities, obtaining substantial tax returns, or making profits from such investment.
Technological implications of stem cell use
It has not been clear if the stem cell technology can be practicable in overcoming some potential negative effects of treatments. For instance, stem cells can lead to the development of cancerous cells in the human body if the cells grow in the patient’s body without undergoing regulation (Stewart, 2007). Another issue that can result from stem cells is the possibility of tissue rejection, which it is the case with organ transplants, if doctors obtain the stem cells from a different person and not from the patient. However, doctors can overcome these issues by obtaining adult stem cells from the body of the patient, but they have not been able to do so. This problem involves harmful recombinant technologies, which scientists employ and develop during embryonic stem cell research. Such technologies will bring about a health threat to the public if left uncontrolled (Cohen, 2007).
With the current molecular genetics knowledge combined with recombinant DNA technologies, scientists can be able to create different human infectious microorganisms that can cause various human diseases in embryonic stem cells due to genetic engineering. Scientists use human genetically engineered microorganisms that are infectious to create embryonic stem cells in various private and academic research centers all over the United States for drug discovery, biological defense, and biomedical research purposes. Even if it is slightly troubling to know that scientists engage the dangerous technologies concerning embryonic stem cell for defense purposes, many scientists employing the technologies to better the understanding for drug discovery and medical cures (Cohen, 2007). For instance, for scientists to discover a cure for a disease, it will force them to create an embryonic stem cell diseased or sick. Because of this purpose, scientists create and develop genetically engineered viruses to aim at destroying of metabolic or genetic cellular processes and, therefore, create disease-state embryonic stem cells. In spite of the idea that scientists use these agents for the biomedical advance to help human beings, these harmful genetically engineered microorganisms can be infectious (Cohen, 2007). This will bring about a serious health threat to the public by contributing into creating new diseases when the genetically engineered microorganisms get their way into the environment.
Arguments for and against the bioethical issue
Most researchers and scientists have proposed that embryonic stem cells can lead to the development of appropriate cures for a number of diseases that are incurable in the present time. Some of the diseases and complications include spinal cord injuries, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, hundreds of genetic and immune system disorders, just to mention a few. Scientists consider the use of embryonic stem cell research as extremely significant in understanding human development as well as the growth of diseases and intervention (Stewart, 2007). However, scientists have not started to create actual cures because research on embryonic stem cells has not yet advanced to the point of generating cures. Over many years, Americans have continued to suffer from various terminal illnesses that finally may undergo treatment in an effective manner by embryonic stem cells. Some researchers consider this as the most significant potential for alleviating human suffering from the time scientists discovered and produced antibiotics. Most pro-lifers consider that proper religious and moral courses of action are to save human life with the use of embryonic stem cell therapy (Stewart, 2007).
Some pro-lifers and pro-life organizations consider the destruction of human embryos even during their early stages of development in the womb or test tube, same as murdering a full-grown human being. Pro-lifers have a strong belief that life starts at conception in the womb, and that it is morally unacceptable to destroy pre-born life. They strongly believe that destroying a human embryo is immoral even if the intention of scientists is to save or relieve suffering than human beings experience. Many people believe that scientists have not given sufficient attention to the exploration of the usefulness of adult stem cells in medical intervention, which doctors have already employed in curing many diseases successfully (Stewart, 2007). Likewise, scientists have paid extremely little attention to the usefulness of umbilical cord blood as the significant source of stem cells for research. Pro-lifers have pointed out that scientists have not produced any cure by the use of embryonic stem cell therapy. In the process of embryonic stem cell therapy, researchers, scientists, women who provide ovules and medical professionals make decisions, which contain serious moral and ethical implications. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research insist that countries should enhance adult stem research through funding to circumvent numerous moral issues that involve the employment of human embryos in stem cell research (Cohen, 2007).
Personal Opinion on the Bioethical Issue
Personally, I strongly believe that the stem cell research can be extremely useful in a number of fields including medicine and human anatomy. Research on embryonic stem cells is significant because it can enable scientists make organ transplants to be available any time there is a need. In addition, this research enables scientists to understand how human cells undergo cell division through observing stem cells, which grow into various complicated cells (Stewart, 2007). I do not believe that conception is the beginning of life, but life should start after the fetus gets out of the womb alive. Therefore, it is my belief that embryos are not human beings because they cannot exist outside the womb. Thus, research on embryonic does not have any ethical or moral implication because embryos have not developed into full-fledged human beings (Cohen, 2007). Women have a right of donating their ovules as the source of embryonic stem cells after fertilization takes place in the laboratory.
The research on embryonic stem cells has remained to be a bioethical controversial issue because people have different perspectives on the where scientists obtain embryonic stem cells. Derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells bring about political, economic, and technological implications to the human society (Stewart, 2007). Some people consider researches on embryonic stem cells as extremely significant because it will be possible to treat some disease or complications such as spinal cord injuries, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, hundreds of genetic and immune system disorders, just to mention a few. Pro-lifers do not support human embryonic stem cell research because they believe that life starts at conception and should not undergo termination during the extraction of stem cells (Stewart, 2007).