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Moral and Ethical Objections of Stem Cell Research

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Today stem cells are the only cells in the world that can keep dividing and dividing indefinitely. The only cells that are immortal in the world. So what exactly is a stem cell? The simplest way to explain is to think of stem cells as a pretty much a blank cell. It is a cell that has the potential to do anything that any cell in the body does, but it hasn’t received instruction yet as to which particular program to follow.

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The beauty of stem cells are in the potential they offer for medicine, for example, if we can understand the signals that will tell the cells which programs to follow we could then develop cells to replace cells that are injured in Heart Attacks, or we could make neural cells that could replace deficits that people suffer in Parkinson’s disease. Now there are other ways to obtain embryos for the purpose of deriving stem cells. One is in-vitro fertilization lab to simply make an embryo specifically to retrieve its stem cells.

The second is to use cloning technology to make embryos from which stem cells can be derived.

The last experiment has been touted as essential to something called therapeutic cloning. Most people understand this as the prospect of cloning one of your own cells, in order to derive which in turn would produce tissue that is genetically identical to you. In 2005 they created nearly a dozen new embryonic cells lines using therapeutic cloning techniques. They started by taking skin cells of diseased or injured patients. Using a technique similar to the one that created Dolly, they took the nuclear DNA from the patients skin cell, inserted it into a human oocyte (egg cell) that had its original nucleus removed.

They then chemically stimulated the oocyte with its new DNA until it began to divide. After approximately six days, just long enough to derive stem cells, but long before the oocyte would develop into an actual human embryo. They harvested the stem cells produced and let divide indefinitely. Since these cells have the exact genetic information of the original diseased or injured donors their hope is that they will prove to be therapeutically useful in curing the diseases or repairing the injuries of the donors.

One great advantage is once you learn to form cultures of specialized cells derived from stem cells, new drugs can be tested on these cell cultures instead of on live animals or people. This will not only save large amounts of time and money, it will also save large amounts of animal and human pain and suffering Most of the Ethical objections to stem cell research come from people who feel strongly that the human embryo, even at its earliest stages, is a human person and entitled to the same protections that all human beings have whatever their age, abilities, or disabilities.

I believe that what constitutes a morally significant form of life, is one not likely to be resolved anytime soon. At face it touches on things that cannot be proved or things that cannot be explored through experimentation. For example, whether you think that the essence of moral significance lies in potentiality or you think the essence of moral significance lies in a kind of experiential view of life, that is, if you believe that the real potential to develop under the right circumstances into a baby means that this form of life must be protected.

Should the acorn be protected as if it were already an oak that could transcend time in which we see life as part of a continuum across time. On the other hand there are people for whom that is not a relevant factor and they ask only do we have an entity that can experience itself, feel disappointment, pain, or can be harmed.. They look at an embryo and say no it doesn’t even have the biological substrates to be self aware and to have formed a desire to continue to exist, and so it is in no way wrong to harm it.

These are very different views about moral significance and they can’t be brought together. How can we as a society then decide such irreconcilable differences? Should we simply put them to a vote and let the majority rule? There is a lot of guidance within the philosophy of our constitution. The United States is not governed by pure popular majority. Instead we have a mix on topics of rather ordinary concern we allow the popular will to prevail.

There are areas of life that we have said are so central to a personal identity that even the popular sentiment would suggest that things should be restricted, we will permit them until the most compelling arguments have been made for restriction or until we have been shown that there is no other way to handle the concern other than restricting the activity. Those are things listed in the Bill of Rights, the Freedom of Association, of speech, of practicing your own religion, and it is also a set of things that have been identified by the Supreme Court as implicit within the constitution and Bill of Rights such as the freedom to Marry.

One of the areas that we need to examine is the freedom of scientific inquiry. There have been suggestions over the years that this is something akin to free speech. That just as free speech insures the long term stability of a civic society by providing an outlet to dissent, so we don’t have violent revolution, so scientific inquiry insures the continued development of new knowledge which helps to stabilize society.

In my mind that is a very important question because if we see it as fundamental to the long term stability of civic society than it is something that needs to be protected even if it is against popular will. In April of 2005 the National Academy of Sciences proposed new ethical guidelines for research on embryonic stem cell lines that attempt to bridge some of the difference between religious and scientific points of view.

The new guidelines oppose reproductive cloning but support therapeutic cloning, pave the way for research projects that inject human stem cells into some animals, but oppose injecting them into non human primates like monkeys or apes; advise that human embryos should not be grown in culture for more than 14 days, the time when the first hints of a human nervous system begin to appear, and recommend that human egg donors not be paid.

Cite this Moral and Ethical Objections of Stem Cell Research

Moral and Ethical Objections of Stem Cell Research. (2017, Mar 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/moral-and-ethical-objections-of-stem-cell-research/

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