Individual Rights vs. Common Good of Stem Cell Research

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society Topics: Stem Cell Research Channel: Opinion Views: 10368

The ethics of human embryonic stem cell research has been a raging controversial debate for years now. Stem cells of this nature have been collected since 1998. Some scientists collected them through elective abortions while others obtained embryos from leftover IVF procedures. Now, unfortunately, the ethics involved are questioned, leading people to believe human embryonic stem cell research is unethical. Whatever people presume it to be, it is a critical dilemma. Of the two options, which is more ethical: destroying undesired human embryos while forbidding the use of tissue cells with the capabilities of bettering the quality of a person's life, or donating said embryos to determine the potential benefits? In spite of the answer seeming obvious, many people question not only the ethics of stem cell research, but the morals as well, considering people say life is a "gift from God". On the contrary, embryos continue to be destroyed through abortions whether people accept stem cell research, so why not save a life?

There are, after all, two sides to every argument. As previously stated, morals and ethics act as a barricade between people and acceptance. People assume that supporting the research of embryonic stem cells is the equivalent to supporting abortions. This is slightly logical considering embryos which have been aborted are required for this type of research. As one writer said: "The difficulty with embryonic stem cell research is that a potential human being must be sacrificed in order to obtain stem cells". Most leaders of today's major religions cannot approve of sacrificing one human for the benefit of all humanity". Religious leaders hold the impression that those who accept human embryonic stem cell research will cut themselves off from God. To a certain extent, this is understandable. Contrarily, not all religions are opposed to the study of human embryonic stem cell. While Christians along with Catholic and conservative Protestant churches are convinced this research involves killing a human, people of Jewish and Islamic faiths feel a human life is not being taken. Moreover, people opposed to stem cell research are apprehensive over having too much dangerous power that can be abused; they point to Nazis as a reference. Nazis used to carry out diabolic experiments on people deemed inferior who were imprisoned in concentration camps.

Consumed in the fact that this research requires the destruction of embryos, the origin of these embryos gets lost in oblivion. Human embryonic stem cell research, itself, does not kill the embryo. Rather, it picks apart embryos that have been killed through the process of abortion. Those opposed, because it requires "a life being taken" are actually opposed to abortions, which is the origin of the embryos needed for this research. To be considered a human or alive, you must possess a heartbeat. At the time cells are harvested from embryos within the blastocyst stage, they do not have a heartbeat. In fact, they don't have any vital organs. If it's just a clump of cells that can't think or feel, then why is it wrong to use the cells to cure diseases and illnesses? As one writer questioned, "Is that not similar to taking the organs of a corpse for medical use?". 

Unbeknownst to a number of people, you can attain stem cells from umbilical cords of babies who were born healthy. This way, no human embryos are harmed in any sort of way. Those against human embryonic stem cell research feel that this research is unnecessary due to the availability of other non-embryonic resources: umbilical cord blood, bone marrow and skin, to name a few. On the contrary, resuming the study of embryonic stem cells can unveil new capabilities and benefits. Because stem cells obtained from human embryos have the ability to mature into any type of cell or tissue, scientists are confident that they possess the potential of treating numerous illnesses as varied as diabetes, Parkinson's and heart disease. 

In-vitro fertilization, or IVF for short, is a term used to describe the process by which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the body. The procedure of IVF is utilized when an infertile couple wants to conceive a child. In many cases, there are leftover embryos from IVF procedures if the woman has successfully carried her pregnancy to term. The surplus of embryos can also be donated to other couples as a means of third party reproduction. If this is not the case, then the embryos can be donated to stem cell research. With IVF, only the embryos that are going to be discarded go towards the research, unless the couple gives their consent from the start. This is an excellent way to attain these types of stem cells because one, the parents have a right to donate the embryos if there are some leftover, and two, only embryos that are going to be discarded are the ones chosen for stem cells. 

In 2001, former President George Bush banned the funds directed to human embryonic stem cell research, arguing that "destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical". That statement is inaccurate by reason that embryos are terminated everyday for multiple reasons. Whether use of the fetus is prohibited, abortions will continue to happen. The only difference would be that women would no longer have the option to donate to medical science and the embryo would be discarded. How many women would get pregnant just so they can terminate the pregnancy and donate to medical science? Women turn to abortion as a last resort due to lack of money to care for a child or because they're too young. Enforcing a ban on this type of stem cell research does not mean you're enforcing a ban on abortions. Nevertheless, President Barack Obama lifted the ban in 2009 pledging that his administration will "make scientific decisions based on facts". He also said lifting the ban brought an era of possibility. Scientists were relieved when the eight year ban was removed. 

In my final analysis, I remain convinced that any type of research involving stem cells is ethical because the end justifies the means. There is no conscientious dilemma because if you don't support stem cell research that requires an embryo, then those who can use it to their advantage will die. Therefore, it's apparent that those opposed to stem cell research are considerate towards an embryo dying, which has no internal organs or feelings, but not towards a person with a serious illness. In either case, whether you support stem cell research, an embryo will be "killed" but if you are against it, then those in need of it will die. In a sense, it is hypocritical to care for the death an embryo but not for an actual human. One embryo can make a substantial difference in humanity. The rights women have to donate embryos or eggs to aid in medical research are protected by the constitution. Also protected by the constitution are the rights a sick person has to life, especially if there is a way to save them. Stem cell research can potentially save that person if given the chance. 13 out 15 patients with type 1 diabetes were no longer insulin-dependent because of this process. Most of people's arguments towards stem cell research are that a potential human life has to be killed for this research. People are ignoring the fact that abortions are the cause of death and scientists just pick up what's leftover. Their true concerns are with abortions, not stem cell research. Stem cell research takes something as abominable as abortions and turns it into something beneficial for humanity. I find it difficult to comprehend why something designed to assist sick people can ever be deemed as inhumane. The only understandable thing is that having this ability may cause the power to be abused. Suffice to say, I am a strong advocate of stem cell research of any kind because of its astonishing capabilities. 


Saira Jaffry is 17 years old student of 11th Grade. She resides in Seattle, Washington.

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society
  Topics: Stem Cell Research  Channel: Opinion
Views: 10368

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