In the growing world of science and technology, ethical problems in these fields are only becoming more apparent as the scope of human capability broadens. A common goal researchers are always striving for is new treatments for incurable diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, that plague thousands of families every day. Currently, there is new research being done on embryonic stem cells, which are cells that can divide indefinitely and into different types of cells, such as tissue or organ-specific cells with unique functions (2). Embryonic stem cells are specifically the stem cells found in the inner cell mass of the blastocyst, which is the three to five-day-old human embryo (6). The ethical problems of this research arise over the fact that it is being done on live human embryos and destroying potential human life. Many argue that this type of research should stop altogether (8). However, researchers conduct these studies in the most humane way possible, utilize embryonic stem cells to achieve a better comprehension of human development, and work towards creating improved treatments and cures to improve the lives of millions of people. Embryonic stem cell research in the United States should continue to be federally funded and should have a public backing due to its potential to spark advancements in human health and understanding of the body as a whole.
To begin with, the current methods of embryonic stem cell research take several steps to ensure the most ethical course of action possible. This research is done on embryos that are left over from in vitro fertilization trials, which are formed outside the womb in a lab. This is all done with the informed consent of the donors (3). A variety of pro-life groups could argue that testing on living embryos is inhumane and that it is destroying the life of a potential human. However, these embryos used from fertilization clinics are ones that would never develop into a child. This is because the companies make several embryos with the hope that one would be successful. When one is successful and the patients decide that they have finished building their families, these embryos are put into frozen storage, where the families can decide either to discard the embryos or donate them to research, including stem cell research (7). Not only that, but the stem cells are also taken for research from aborted fetuses, once again with the consent of the donors (5). There are also a variety of policies that eliminate possible methods that abuse this research. These policies include only being able to use embryos created for reproductive purposes that are no longer needed and/or wanted. With this in action, it eradicates the chance that researchers create embryos solely for the sake of being destroyed (1). These embryos are utilized to further scientific research and to help people in the most ethical manner possible, rather than be destroyed for no purpose.
Additionally, embryonic stem cell research is allowing scientists to gain more knowledge on the inner-workings of human development and on why embryonic stem cells are so unique. Some religious groups who are against the use of embryos for stem cell research argue that non-embryonic stem cell research, derived from adult stem cells or umbilical cord blood stem cells, has resulted in clinical benefit to patients. Therefore, more research should be done on these types of stem cells, rather than killing living embryos to further embryonic stem cell research (3). Although these are other kinds of stem cells that do not warrant the destruction of embryos, they are limited in the number and type of cells they can become and studies have revealed negative side effects. In some cases of animal testing, the introduced non-embryonic stem cells caused cancer (7). Because of this, embryonic stem cell research is an integral part of stem cell research as a whole. Even if adult stem cells or umbilical cord blood stem cells are able to replace embryonic stem cells in the future, embryonic stem cell research can allow scientists to better understand stem cells and apply that knowledge to other stem cell methods that are not as controversial.
Finally, embryonic stem cell research has the potential to ameliorate the lives of millions of people. A substantial amount of scientists believe that the field of embryonic stem cell research could “alleviate as much human suffering as the development of antibiotics was able to do” (4). Stem cells have the possibility to treat diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes (8). Stem cells could also be pertinent in drug testing. This is because new drugs can be tested on the embryonic stem cells, which have developed into the target tissue or organ. This method improves the safety of drugs and allows new, possibly life-saving drugs, to be released to the public sooner (7). Not only that, but the use of stem cells could eliminate the need for organ donors, and can allow organs and tissues to be more accessible to patients who need them (3). The possibilities are endless for embryonic stem cells, and without more thorough research in this field, millions of people could continue to suffer while the cure is waiting in these cells, never to be discovered.
Given these points, embryonic stem cell research is conducted in an ethical and moral manner, conducted specifically on embryonic stem cells to broaden understanding of how growth and development operate, and promised to possibly recuperate millions of suffering people. Several different groups debate that embryonic stem cell research destroys babies and is showing no results. Nevertheless, embryonic stem cell research rests upon the debate issue on when a human life actually begins. This issue has no set solution in sight, so in the meantime, progress can be made towards gaining a better understanding of stem cells. Even if this research produces no results, this is part of the process of trying to better the living of millions of people. As President Obama said in March of 2009 when he lifted the federal funding ban for embryonic stem cell research, “Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research, from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit, and from a government willing to support that work.” Embryonic stem cell research should remain federally funded and should be seen by the public in a new light, because of its unfound potential to change the world forever. A miracle involving a breakthrough in embryonic stem cell research will never happen unless everybody cooperates and works together towards the common goal of saving lives.
(1) Abort73.com. “Stem Cell Research and Abortion.” Stem Cell Research and Abortion, Abort73.Com, Sept. 2009, http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/stem_cell_research_ and_abortion/.
(2) Bethesda. “Stem Cell Basics I.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016, stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/1.htm.
(3) Bevington, Linda K. “An Overview of Stem Cell Research.” An Overview of Stem Cell Research, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, Apr. 2005, cbhd.org/stem-cell-research/overview.
(4) HRF. “Embryonic Stem Cell Research Pros and Cons.” HRFnd, HealthResearchFunding, 3 Apr. 2015, healthresearchfunding.org/embryonic-stem-cell-research-pros-cons/.
(5) “Human Aborted Embryos.” Human Aborted Embryos | Researchomatic, Researchomatic, 2011, http://www.researchomatic.com/Human-Aborted-Embryos-74921.html.
(6) Korenman, Stanley G. “Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research.” Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research, University of California Regents, 2006, ori.hhs.gov/education/products/ucla/chapter7/page01.htm.
(7) Setje-Eilers, Peggy. “Funding the Future: Embryonic Stem Cell Research.” Almost Human, Vanderbilt University, 2013, my.vanderbilt.edu/almosthuman/2013/funding-the-future-embryonic-stem-cell-research/.
(8) White, Deborah. “Arguments for and Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 2017, http://www.thoughtco.com/pros-cons-of-embryonic-stem-cell-research-3325609.