One of the recent significant breakthroughs in the field of biomedicine is the discovery, isolation and the ultimate culturing of stem cells from human embryos. The stem cells which are isolated form embryos are unique in that they are able to self renew and still retain capacity to differentiate too many forms of tissue cells. Cultured embryonic stem cells also have the potential of being developed to make regenerative medicine which can be used to treat fatal or debilitating conditions which while treated with normal prescriptions they are not curable.
The embryonic stem cells are also capable of prolonging lives of individuals. Despite their potential to cure otherwise incurable diseases and to prolong lives, this discovery has led to questions regarding the value of life. While harvesting or extracting the embryonic stem cells, there are high possibilities of destroying the embryos thus bringing to an end possible human life. The question which arises is whether the lives of these possible human lives should be sacrificed for the improvement of the already existing human beings (Mcgee & Caplan, para 2-3).
Ethical issues regarding stem cell research One of the major ethical dilemmas facing the embryonic research is the tension created between two moral principles which are highly esteemed. One of the moral principles entails prevention and also alleviation of pain and suffering while the other principle highly regards the value of life. Moral ethics requires people to respect and value human life and also to eliminate pain or possibilities of suffering in individuals. During extraction of embryonic stem cells, there are high possibilities of destroying the embryo thus destroying a possible life.
However, such activities have the potential of alleviating pain and curing some of the diseases which are terminal. As such, embryonic stem cells fulfill the moral principle of alleviating and improving the medical conditions of individuals (Rickard, Para 5). However, despite the above possible advantages, destruction of embryos during stem cells harvesting is a violation of the second moral principle which deals with the value of human life. As noted earlier, embryos harvesting results in their destruction thus destruction of life.
Life is said to begin when fertilization takes place thus embryos are living things and thus destroying them would amount to destruction of life or devaluation of the value of life. The two moral principles cannot be respected simultaneously as fulfilling one would amount to violation of the other. This raises a conflict as to which principle should be given more weight. Should improvement of and alleviation of suffering be considered first thus permit stem cell research which is destructive or should this research be prohibited due to its destructive nature and violation of the value of human life?
This is a major ethical issue which faces this research and which has led to sharp differences in the biomedical field (Shapiro, para 7). Another ethical issue surrounding the stem cell research is based on the intention behind the creation of embryos. Ethics is mainly based or evaluated in terms of the motive and intention behind an action. People opposed to stem cell research argue that it should only be permissible to create embryos if they are meant for reproductive purposes. Creating embryos only to be destroyed for research purposes is impermissible as this would lead to intentional destruction of human life.
However, researchers argue that while they create embryos for reproductive functions, they create them in excess and most of them are just discarded. As such, instead of discarding them, such embryos can be used for research and also to help in the formation of medicine for the terminal illnesses. Ethical issues arise between the significance of creation of embryos for reproduction versus for research purposes (Gruen, Grabel & Singer, pp 134). Viability of embryos debates also raises some ethical issues concerning the stem cell research.
The viability of embryos is based on the notion that some embryos though they develop, they do not develop to certain stages and thus are only discarded. As such, they should be used to alleviate, alleviate and improve the lives of already existing human beings. Embryos after they are created awaiting reproduction, they develop to certain stages after which they can only be discarded if taken up for reproduction functions. Instead of discarding them, some researchers argue that they should be used for research purposes which would yield more benefits.
Ethical questions however arise as to whether researchers would not deliberately create more embryos than required to use them for their research in the name of their non viability (Williams, & Johnson, para 9). Conclusion Stem cell research has led to controversial debates which are based on the ethical and moral issues regarding life and its value. While some people feel that this research should be used to help in developing medicine for alleviating suffering to terminally ill individuals, others feel that allowing this research would only lead to destruction of possible human life.
However, the question of the embryos which are discarded after they become non viable for production purposes also arises. Moral judgment on whether non viable embryos should be discarded instead of being used for research which could be of greater impact forms a major debate. While deciding on whether stem cell research should be allowed or prohibited, all possible impacts on the social status should be considered. The benefits of the research should be weighed against the negative impacts before reaching and agreement. The surrounding circumstances should also be considered while debating on the stem cell research.
Gruen Lori, Grabel Laura & Singer Peter: Stem Cell Research: The Ethical Issues. (2007). Published by Blackwell. ISBN 1405160624 Mcgee, Glenn & Caplan, Arthur L. : Stem Cell Research. (2001). Journal article of The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 31 Rickard, Maurice: Key Ethical Issues in Embryonic Stem Cell Research. (2002). Retrieved on 10th March 2009 from, http://www. aph. gov. au/library/pubs/CIB/2002-03/03cib05. pdf. Shapiro, Robyn S. : Bioethics and the Stem Cell Research Debate. (2006). Journal article of Social Education, Vol. 70 Sherlock, Richard & Morrey, John D. : Ethical Issues in Biotechnology. (
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