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Stem Cells and Related Ethical Controversy


Stem cell research has received a lot of public attention evoking mixed feelings and opinions. Some religious groups and politicians have strongly opposed the idea while scientists and a significant percentage of the public, are in support of the use of stem cells. Both parties have been leading campaigns to try to convince the public and the government to support or reject the research. Stem cells are like spare parts that can be used to preserve and repair tissues and organs in an animal’s body. These stem cells are either removed from the umbilical cord or the bone marrow. From the early 60s, stem cells have been researched, to cure cancer.

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Until 1998, scientists were not able to isolate the stem cells from human embryos, these stem cells are called embryonic stem cells. Unlike nonembryonic stem cells, embryonic stem cells can be programmed to suit certain parts of the body. With that technology, the research has extended to curb other diseases like spinal cord injuries, diabetes, and heart diseases. Despite the advantages that come with this technology, there is a lot of opposition. This paper supports the thesis; research on embryonic stem cells should be funded, and its technology adopted.

The controversy

The controversy of the stem cell arises from the fact that a human embryo has to be destroyed to extract the stem cell, like in the case of non-therapeutic cloning. Therapeutic cloning is done when the stem cells from the embryo are rejected by the patient’s body. Due to this predicament, an embryonic clone belonging to the patient has to be formed and later damaged while extracting the stem cell.

In the summer of 2001, the issue of stem cells got a lot of attention especially from the media, such that it became one of the top agendas in US politics. In the following year, George Bush addressed the congress regarding cloning, maintaining that he was completely against stem cell use. He said that any type of human cloning is a mistake, and the public should never condone it. He added that the whole idea of cloning goes against the primary code of medical morals, which is; human lives should never be subjugated or destroyed for the sake of another life. There will be a conflict of interest if research on cloning would be allowed and at the same time restricting cloning of humans. This is because the research will involve the demolition of human life.

Bush continues to say that allowing research to some extent will be impractical to control since the embryos would be accessible. Once the researchers get their hands on the embryos, they are likely to extract the stem cells. The former president continues to say that if the research were to be successful, a colossal amount of eggs would be required, thereby leading to the misuse of women’s bodies. Bush supported medical treatments that were ethical; thus he announced that some funding will go to the research of stem cells that were not extracted from a human embryo.

Christopher Reeves, an actor, and a movie director ended up in a wheelchair after he fell from a horse and paralyzed almost all his body. He had the hope of walking again since there was a great promise on the research being carried out on embryonic stem cells. His chances of recovering were made slimmer because the Bush administration, had restricted funding in the research of embryonic stem cells. During the last month of 1999, Reeves gave a speech regarding research on cloning at the National Press Club Luncheon. He said that he did not comprehend why some individuals were opposing the use of embryos in research, yet for 40 years, unused fertilized embryos in fertility clinics are usually thrown away. Instead of throwing them away, Reeves says that they should be used in cloning research. If the public found throwing away fertilized eggs ethical then they should not find the use of these embryos unethical. He once again reminded the public that a breakthrough in the research would give a lot of humans suffering from some disorders hope.

Looking critically at both sides of the argument, there is no doubt that both of them have a strong basis. Both Bush and Reeves had some external forces driving them to choose their stand. Former president, Bush had to pick a side in which he will make himself popular. Before making his stand, he had to be sure of the public’s opinion. Going against the majority would mean that he would be unpopular. On the other hand, Mr. Reeves was already suffering from a disorder that could be cured by embryonic stem cell research. It is normal for humans to want to live longer and healthier, so it is understandable why Reeves, was advocating for funding in the research. As an actor and a director, he was able to influence the public in whichever way suits him.

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Most of those who are against cloning especially religious people are doing so based on ethics, but their ethics are questionable. For example, some have never opposed the disposal of fertilized eggs in fertility clinics, and that is pure murder. They support the preservation of human life and yet, at present people are living in inhumane conditions. Some children are living in the streets, and yet little has been done to improve their conditions, others are buried in modern slavery. Even if some are for the preservation of human life, they are not for the upkeep of life itself, which is very ironic. Politicians who are against the research are doing so to gain popularity among their followers, this means they are not genuinely concerned about the public and all they want is power. If people cared, they should see the research on cloning as an opportunity to improve the lives of those who are living with some disorders. The effort made by Reeves lead to some patients receiving better care. Before his death at 52, he had already regained the ability to feel hot or cold. All that progress had come from the research conducted, and it gave hope to millions of people.

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