The advancement in technology and science has helped man over the years to come up with miraculous cures and inventions; profitable to the mankind in all ways possible.
One of the major reasons of the exponential growth in population is the sharp decrease in mortality rates all over the world; due to the improved medical facilities all over the world. Research and Development in the medical sector has increased so much that new organs are now being grown for people with dysfunctional organs so that they may be given a chance to live a healthy life.
Stem Cell Research, when started, sprung with controversies since the start as it proved to be unethical when seen through the religious perspective.
Bio Ethics- the ethical concern in medical and scientific studies- has been extremely active in this domain and hence a proactive debate has been going on since years. This area of Bio-Ethics is so significant that it has become a service oriented sector with its own journals, organizations and research laboratories.
Stem Cell Research and its Bio-Ethical concern has been a centre of attention for the public and their respective governments for quite some time, with an interesting perspective of the government when it comes to law formulation.
This research papers attempts to shed light on the complications and the issues connected to stem cell research, apart from highlighting the major advantages it holds for the people with disabilities.
All about Stem Cells
Stem Cells in essential are cells found in almost the entire multi-cellular organism. They have the ability to regenerate and multiply through mitotic cell division. They also possess the capability to build up into several kinds of specific cells and hence can be used to treat cell-mutation related illness. This was the basic idea behind the immense research that was put in this topic.
There exists two basic categories of stem cells; one of them has been under immense scrutiny over the years. The embryonic stem cells are taken out of the internal cell mass of the embryos which at that point in time is known as the blastocyst.
These cells are considered to be pluri-potent, that means that they are able to generate into all the different sorts of germ layers. Due to their potential of unlimited multiple development and self renewal, they have been proposed to help in regeneration of tissues and organs after accidents etc. These kinds of cells are considered to be made from the female egg after it is fertilized; the process in itself takes 4 to 5 days.
The other kind of cell is called the adult stem cells; these are the ones which are taken from the adults cells, and are equipped with the ability of indefinite regeneration as well. They help on the development of tissues present in the human body and to replenish the dying cells in the organism.
The differentiating factor present is that adult cells, that more or less is the reason for the ethical concerns regarding the two, is that adult stem cells are taken out from the adult humans tissues etc, whereas, the embryonic cells are taken from the embryos. Stem cells are either essentially have the capability to either build all types of organs in the body, or sometimes they are essentially used to build old cells.
Stem Cell Research
The record of stem cell research goes to the 1800s, when it was found out that there existed some cells that could regenerate themselves. Proper research in the matter started in the 1900s when mice were used as models and after that there has been no looking back, especially after the physicians came to know about the importance of compatibility of genes for the acceptance of the bone marrow of the donor to the patient.
Stem Cell research is basically brought about in laboratories where, the human stem cells are extracted from a female egg between 5th and 9th week, when she is about to have an abortion. This poses moral and ethical issues in people; therefore, intense research is being put in finding out alternative ways for the extraction from stem cells.
The basic two issues about the stem cell research are:
- How will the knowledge be used which will be extracted from the cells.
- The extraction process is unethical religiously and morally.
The basic controversial issue, which is ethical and religious, for many all around the world, is the usage of embryonic stem cells for various procedures as it terminates pregnancy that is considered a sin according to religious views. The basic argument that is presented by the biblical and ethical perspectives is that one should not mess with human life and the natural process.
The controversy stemmed basically because of the extraction process, as the embryo is used that leads to the termination of the fetus. Already the concept of abortion is already controversial religiously; the idea of terminating a fetus and trying to imitate God has been a source of debate for all.
Over the years, laws have been implemented in support and in disagreement to the stem cell research. Governments have either prohibited to even researching on stem cell when they political parties are not in favor or such a notion.
On the other hands, other rival political parties have also extensively helped in the development of the research and development in the stem cell so that precious lives could be saved. This has been a fluctuating factor over the years. 1990s had seen massive development of bone marrow program with a total 16000 transplants to date. (David, 2002)
There are many advantages associated with this kind of research, the basic idea that it could be used to help save precious lives, important organs of the human body which have been amputated due to one reason or the other. Many of the diseases which have now become curable with the help of bone marrow transplants are leukemia; other inherited blood Ailments and deformed body parts.
It is established that as more and more research is being put into the stem cell, they would be able to cure diseases which have found incurable these days.
These notable diseases are Alzheimer’s disease, other Heart Diseases, Birth defects, spinal and other related injuries, repair the damaged organs etc. Although the cure has still not be found, the followers of stem cell research say that more investment needs to be put into the matter so that the cure could be found out. (Experiment-research.com, 2009)
Development in stem cell research would tend to help in economic and social aspects of the society. Economic benefits mean it would help them to cure diseases and socially they would be acceptable in the society.
As more and more people would be able to compete with the regular man towards the development of the society and would become a part of the man power. This would help them economically as well as socially and would make the previously disabled a successful part of the society.
The biggest argument that is present against the development is that embryonic stem cells are extracted keeping a possible new life in danger. What needed to be sure of if there was a nervous system working in the embryo at the time of extraction and if it did it would mean that a child would have been killed.
Some say as soon as the egg is fertilized, it means a baby has been born and it is unethical to give up on a life of a child to help some other individual. Since there have been no results from the stem cell, the arguments say that they are wasting precious lives. A life be it in the form of a fetus, should not be compromised to save other human lives, cause it might itself grow to be a normal individual.
Another basic con that has been anticipated is that the further research in stem cell would effectively produce the concept of cloning of humans. Although that might seem like a lucrative idea to many, it can be highly dangerous and morally unethical.
It would mean that the one who is cloning is trying to imitate God. People, who do not support stem cell research, are of the opinion that even though the research might be started in a positive sense; it might end up devastating human life and nature. This has been seen in the case of nuclear research; where the research had started to help humans, turned against them when the technology was being used as a war machine. (Joseph, 2004)
Ethics in research are very important, as it helps to safeguard the basic rights of individuals involved or under question. The stakes are very high; embryonic stem cells might helps to provide tremendous potential to those who are suffering from nervous system diseases.
Since mature cells present in the nervous system cannot multiply, regenerative stem cells should be used in their place in order to cure the deformation. Similarly, people affected from Parkinson’s disease could be served to produce dopamine and so on and so forth. Therefore, the research offer tremendous potential and scientists in favor of stem cell research produce a positive cost benefit analysis for the project and the important investment.
The other perspective raises the importance of costs associated with these researches and tests, considering the ethical issues involved are more important than the positivity that is associated with it. The morality of extracting an embryo in its early stages is the real question.
Others take a more developmental perspective saying that the embryo only grows to become a fully developed individual, therefore, is not entitled to human rights. This tough ethical question that is asked by two schools of thoughts, correct in their own way, pose a great threat to the scientific and other medical societies of Stem Cell Research authorities, though the debate is still not decided.
The dilemma that is surrounding this controversy has many questions; one of the basic questions that can help dissolve this argument is the significance of the 14 day old embryo without any nerve tissues. It depends on the perception of the individual to consider a 14 day embryo without any development of nerve tissues in it.
In my opinion, an egg which has been fertilized should be considered a living individual as it may live up to become an individual one day, the birth of an individual has taken place the moment fertilization takes places.
Adult stem cells can be the source for the development of the same strategy, same technology of transference of bone marrow of individuals; however, much research has not been put into the matter.
The fact of the matter is that there have been no significant proofs and findings that stem cell research could actually help in the development of organs, the concept still proves to be a hypothesis that needs serious and dedicated research.
Along with this, massive investment and government pro-research initiatives are required. For this entire hypothetical concept, one would question the destruction of human life that can grow to be a sound and constructive individual for the society and mankind itself.
Adult stem cells, over the past years, especially in the Bush era, have proved to show phenomenal results of possessing restorative power in them. Therefore, they can serve the purpose of stem cell research objects more easily.
Many individuals have already testified before the Senate about their miraculous recoveries from adult stem cells, spinal cord injury victims have shown full recovery; even heart attack patients have completely redeveloped hearts. Adult stem cell investigations prove to be amazing in overcoming the problem and ethical dilemma that entails over the embryonic stem cell studies.
Religiously, the topic has been under debate since quite some time. The ethical considerations that take place are to some extent inspired by the biblical perspective that is present in the religious communities inside the country and those pertaining to the rest of the world. the concept of regeneration and cloning itself seems to be the one in which man is trying to become The Creator of all creations, trying to imitate what is essentially God’s right and quality.
The basic question the religious scholars raise is the question of destroying a life to save another life. Embryonic stem cell studies have been accused of killing lives that have come into being, just for experimental purposes.
The religious scholars say that human life should be treated as important even though it is in its initial stages; its origin has taken place at the point of fertilization. In order to just conduct research on an embryo, it involves the obliteration of a living embryo and that is considered a sin in religious beliefs.
Although scientist working tower ads the development of stem cell research and looking for government grant and approval, say that ethicists should understand the importance of cure and development that would occur when the process would prove to be successful.
The argument further extends to the fact that frozen embryos living in fertility clinics also have a chance of more or less dying in some time, so when that is considered acceptable by society, why not the usage of those embryos for research purposes.
The conclusion over the long debate that has taken place over a more than decades, creating a complete deadlock in the development speed of stem cell research. Whereas, embryonic stem cells are required to experiment on for further success in the domain, adult stem cells have been proven to only be successful for regenerative purposes, they have not been able to completely replace embryonic stem cells in massive research that has taken place over the years.
Ethicists that have been against stem cell research have been sharp enough to question the morality of this concept of conducting research, asking the pro-research people if they care about their own neighbors in the first place. If they do not care about their neighbors, as asked by Jesus Almighty, their support of stem cell research proves to be unintelligent.
Over the last couple of years, the concept of cloning and stem cell research has been an amazing and effective political tool that has been used to manipulate and gather the society towards their side by political parties. Laws have been implemented by the former President of the United States, urging the Senate to pass a legislation to give up on one of the biggest abuses of scientific knowledge.
Federal restrictions regarding the development of research has been under question in the House of Representatives as well as in the Senate.
In the meantime, the ethical debate regarding the stem cell research on embryos is heating as the pressure on governments increase by the pro-research activists and the anti-research activists, to reach on a perspective. Time will decide the fate of this dilemma, in the mean while, proper research can now be put into the development of alternative ways for stem cell research so that all domains of societies can achieve advantage.
Monroe, K., Miller, R. Fundamentals of Stem Cell Debate: Scientific, Religious, Ethical and Political Issues. University of California Press (2008)
National Bioethics Advisory Commission, National Bioethics Advisory Commission, United States, United States. Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research. University Press of the Pacific. (2004)
Prentice, D., Palldino, M. Stem Cells and Cloning. Benjamin Cummings (2002)
Panno, J. Stem Cell Research. Facts on File (2004)