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Science is a very interesting topic in the world. Humans can't do without science becauce it determines what they get to do on a daily basis. However, the good thing about it is that it evolves with time. The recent discovery of deploying stem cells in development, use and destruction of the human embryo is a major breakthrough in biological sciences. However, this biological invention has been stiring up some controversy. This is mainly because of the ethical issues that affect the research process. In this article, we would look at the details of stem cell research with an aim of identifying the pros and cons of the same. By the end of the discussion, the controversy that rages on concerning the ethics of biological research, in general, will be understood.
Stem cells are cells inside a tissue which have the unique capability of generating a new cell of a new form. They all begin as undifferentiated cells but with the right chemical nature and genetic organization (Bioethical applications: The example of embryo loss and stem cell research). The stem cells can form specialized cells of varying makeup relating to their size or shape. Further, the same stem cells have the capability of giving rise to highly specialized cells like the liver cells that help in the functioning of the liver. With this in mind, the same unspecialised cells given a different chemical signal could go on to become specialised heart muscle cells that help in blood circulation.
Recently, scientists have come up with research specifically to find out the fundamental cells which develop various organisms. The specimens grow in labs which are monitored closely by scientists to discover basic properties of the cells. For instance, embryonic stem cell research which involved taking a tissue from an embryo right after conception for proper study and analysis. Definitely, the scientists mean good because all they do is in good faith to the betterment of human life. However, a lot of questions will arise concerning the efficacy of the embryonic stem cells research.
Ideally, the safest means of getting embryo cells is through abortion. Once an embryo is aborted a few weeks after conception, the cells are harvested for research. However, this practice is not ethical as it deprives an embryo of life. Abortion is a very deep controversy that brings in emotions whenever it is a topic of discussion anywhere. In the United States, research facilities conducting embryonic stem cell research faced turbulent times during President George Bush's administration in that he restricted the use of federal funds for the same effect. When President Obama came into power, he lifted the restrictions and this became one of his official duties. Clearly, this implies that this matter is quite controversial.
Among the pros of stem cells research include the following: First, stem cell research offers numerous medical possibilities that had not been thought of. For instance, the cancer menace can be solved through further research. Cancer comes about due to the multiplication of problematic cells which replicate and cause damage to other cells. With the discovery of this concept, perhaps the scientists can discover how to curb the sudden surge in the growth of cancer cells. Surely the world would be a better place. Scientists have further identified that embryonic cells are similar to cancer cells in terms of how they develop.
Secondly, the stem cell research can be applied in cell therapy. We have identified the possibility of stem cells multiplying itself from a simple cell structure with no specialised feature to a cell that can perform untold application (Dodds 12) Well, scientists are currently going through the study to identify how the stem cells from say the liver cells can be extracted to be used in another organ, say the heart. However, intensive research must be done requiring a huge chunk of an amount from the federal reserve. This, if done will actually cure a lot of illness and provide comfort to the human life. Certainly, stem cell research is very advantageous because, with its acceptance and implementation, untold medical possibilities will become a reality. Imagine the possibility of growing a cell to replace a fractured cell or a burnt cell.
However, despite the fact that we have identified the pros, there exist a lot of cons that have sparked a huge controversy concerning the stem cells research. First, there are many ethical issues concerning how the cells are acquired. For embryonic stem cell research, a cell has to be harvested from an embryo just after conception. Currently, the only method this can be achieved is by abortion. Many activists have come in to advance the infringement of the right to life on the unborn baby.
Secondly, numerous religious bodies and people who hold firm beliefs in God have come in to oppose this development citing the fact that what scientists are doing is not in tandem with the wishes of God. Ideally, scientists ought not to create life but they need to just maintain the status quo. The act of ‘playing God' angers many religious activists who come in to oppose the stem cell research. In addition to this, most religious people do not like the idea of the stem cells being extracted from human embryos. This, they consider to be an act of taking life which is a gross sin before the eyes of God. Morally, this is not right.
Further, there are numerous bioethical issues involved herein that ought to be considered. For instance, there is a high risk of development of complication in bodies that allow the stem cell procedure to be done. This is because fundamentally, human beings are very different and the composition of one's cell is different from another's. For instance, medical risks of the procedure include ovarian hyperstimulation which could actually be catastrophic, bleeding due to incompatibility, infections due to injection of foreign substances into an organ as well as organ dysfunction (Devolder).
In addition to this, there is an ethical issue that arises due to the shortage of human stem cells. Due to the controversy that has been raging on, some scientists have thought of using animal cells to sustain their experiments. They will select an animal whose genetic composition is very close to mans then extract samples of cells for experimental purposes. However, this practice will not be accepted by many of the people. This is because most people will feel that some moral unease due to the hybrid experimentation. Further, others will feel that there is a disruption in the natural order and as such, natural law proponents would be vigorously opposed to this practice.
Apart from embryonic stem cell research, there are other forms of research that employ the same concept. They include Somatic cell nuclear transfer, multipotent stem cells as well as fetal stem cells research. Generally, during clinic trials, numerous complications are bound to happen. For instance, the cells can adapt differently and bring in complications, there is also a chance of tumor development as well as possible life effects which at that moment could be unforeseen. To evade this risk, it is often advised that researchers should present a detailed report of performed preclinical studies with their side effects. Perhaps this can be achieved by doing a research on animals with related genetic composition on human beings. However, most scientists often disregard this and proceed to do a clinical trial. Well, it could be a success and produce life changing results. What if it becomes catastrophic? The answer is very clear, human life would be lost unfortunately.
The controversy as to whether we should accept stem cell research still rages on. Various countries have legislated against this due to the moral issues and possible dangers that could accrue to the parties. However, some countries with advanced technological and scientific maturity have actually accepted the practice and legislated for it. This is because scientists have proved the fact that against the backdrop of the cons, there are numerous pros that if used would tremendously improve the human life as well as expanding the medical possibilities to new levels which have never been thought of.
In conclusion, in analyzing the bioethical issues involved in the experimentation of stem cell research, we have to note the fact that a breakthrough of the research could bring forth unlimited possibilities. Medical solutions would be found. Cancer menace would actually be a thing of the past. Perhaps humans would then appreciate science in a better way. Imagine the possibility of treating a terminal illness due to the advancement of research. However, until this happens, a lot of justified opposition still abounds. We have identified the moral and ethical issues intertwined with this stem cell research and noted that indeed, activists would be against the same. Further, there are possible medical side effects that could come up due to this experimentation. With this in mind, a balance ought to be attained.
Dodds, Susan. "Women, Commodification, and Embryonic Stem Cell Research." Stem Cell Research, pp. 149-174. www.bioethics.com/archives/26780.
Devolder, Katrien. "The Ethics of Embryonic Stem Cell Research, by Katrien Devolder
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