Stem Cell Research Debates and Controversies

The science of stem cell treatments is beginning a new stage of exploration and growth that could be the forerunner of unprecedented cures and therapies. The present enthusiasm over prospective stem cell-produced remedies radiates from the innovations of genetic biology. Though one cannot forecast the results from basic research, there is enough information available to suggest that a good deal of this enthusiasm is justified. This enthusiasm is not shared by those of religious rights. This faction is opposed to embryonic stem cell research which they claim as immoral and characterize as devaluing human life, much the same as does abortion, drawing a link between the two.

The three main objectives given for pursuing stem cell research are obtaining vital scientific information about embryonic development; curing incapacitating ailments such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and testing new drugs instead of having to use animals (Irving, 1999). Stem cell research is also expected to aid victims of stroke, spinal cord injuries, bone diseases, and diabetes. The scientific techniques for obtaining stem cells could lead to unparalleled advances and even cures for these and other ailments. It has been substantiated from animal research that stem cells can be differentiated into cells that will behave appropriately in their transplanted location. For example, the transplantation of stem cells following cancer treatments has found much success for many years. Embryonic stem cells possess the ability to restore defective or damaged tissues which would heal or regenerate organs that have been adversely affected by a degenerative disease. (“Future of Cell Therapy”, 2006).

The moral dilemma that surrounds the prohibition of aborted fetuses is the idea of abortion itself. The concept of the scientific study of the next stage of development, the fetus, which resulted from abortion, is unthinkable. (Elam-Evans et al, 2002). Those who believe they are taking the moral ground when it comes to the ‘unborn’ are perfectly willing to allow those who are breathing to suffer needlessly without hope of the possibility for a quicker cure through the efforts of stem cell research. True morality is on the side of stem cell research proponents rather than those of the ‘moral majority’ who oppose it.

More than half of European countries and others around the world such as Japan allow for embryonic stem cell research in various degrees. Australia followed the UK in allowing the use of tissue from aborted fetuses, with the parent’s consent, for scientific experimentation. “Here in Australia, we would be allowed to use it [aborted fetus for embryonic research]. There would be no impedimnot impedeham & Smith, 2002). According to Health-Day, a daily news service reporting on consumer health, Swiss physicians at the University of Lausanne discovered that a two-and-a-half-inch piece of skin from a fetus, which was aborted at 14 weeks, provided several million grafts that were used to treat burn victims. The study also found that skin cells from an aborted fetus healed burns faster than standard grafts. Patrick Hohlfeld, the prime author of the study said “the use of fetal skin has tremendous potential because taking just one skin graft gives you the potential to treat thousands of people” (Strode, 2005).

Political, not prudent considerations are the cause of the stifling of embryonic stem cell research. To assuage their base constituency, Republicans have opposed this ground-breaking medical science which would have benefited all of society the past eight years. Thankfully President Obama has recently relaxed restricted laws enacted by the previous administration. Inevitably, stem cell research will be commonplace and hopefully sooner than later.

Works Cited

Elam-Evans, Laurie D.; Strauss, Lilo T.; Herndon, Joy; Parker, Wilda Y.; Whitehead, Sara; & Berg, Cynthia J. “Abortion Surveillance – United States, 1999.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Atlanta, GA: Center for Disease Control. (2002). Web.

Irving, Dianne N. “Stem Cell Research: Some Pros and Cons.” Written on request of Fr. Thomas King, S.J., Ph.D., Department of Theology, Georgetown University; President, University Faculty For Life, for their newsletter, UFL Pro-Vita. (1999).

Robotham, Julie & Smith, Deborah. “Abortions Set to Fuel Stem Cell Research.” The Sydney Morning Herald. (2002).

Strode, Tom. “Life Digest: New Stem Cell Research Encouraging but Problematic; Researchers Find New Use for Aborted Babies.” Baptist Press News. (2005).

“What is the Future of Cell Therapy?” Stem Cell Research Foundation. Clarksburg, Maryland. (2006). Web.

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