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The Great Debate Over Stem Cells Research

2199 words - 9 pages

AbstractEmbryonic stem cells are controversial. They come from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst, the term for a fertilized egg four days after conception. But while many pro-life advocates stand firm in their opposition to using embryonic cells for research, others, have cast their lot with the scientific community in favor of continuing research funding (Varmus, 1998).Embryonic Stem Cells HistoryStem cell research is a complicated subject, not only scientifically but ethically as well. Many of has seen the emotional pleas made on television for stem cell research support, made by politicians and actors such as Michael J. Fox, who suffers from the degenerative disease called Parkinson's. ...view middle of the document...

So why is there so much controversy over stem cells?Currently, over 100 million Americans suffer from diseases that eventually may be treated more effectively or even cured with embryonic stem cell therapy (Varmus, 1998). Some researchers regard this as the greatest potential for the alleviation of human suffering since the advent of antibiotics; even many pro-lifers believe that the proper moral and religious course of action is to save existing life through embryonic stem cell therapy. Research polls report that the American public overwhelmingly supports federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.The future holds many new decisions and possibilities for stem cell research. It seems that researchers and scientists gain more support from politicians and the public everyday. Broader stem cell research is still generally supported by most of the liberals in Congress and there continues to be some more conservative support. In the meanwhile, scientists continue to refute the question of whether destroying human embryos is morally defensible; but the moral obligation they have to treat diseases and relieve suffering outweighs any obligations to the embryo.Many of those that argue that using embryonic stem cells research is the same as destroying life; even if the embryo is receive voluntarily, with consent from abortion clinics. Is it also ethical to not pursue this type of research when someone's life could potentially be saved by the technology that it represents? Embryonic stem cells in particular by their nature have a wider potential for becoming any one of 220 different cells. (Johnson & Williams, 2004)Those who argue against embryonic stem cell research argue that once an egg is fertilized a life is conceived. What does this say to the millions of people that are currently living with debilitating diseases that could potentially be cured with this research? What is our responsibility to them as a society? The Government has made it illegal to provide Federal funding but has not banned the research at a state level or private funding to colleges. By these actions, the government is playing both sides of the argument with really making no determination on their opinion.According to many stem cell researchers, embryonic stem cells are the preferred stem cells for cell-based therapies. Although they tend be more versatile than adult stem cells, other sources (including umbilical cord stem cells) have proven to be just as versatile (Kögler, G. et al. 2004). The same properties that make embryonic stem cells so versatile are also the properties that make them unusable for therapy. Unless completely differentiated prior to use in patients, these cells will migrate throughout the body to produce tumors. Experiments performed in mice and rats have shown that spontaneous tumor formation is a persistent problem (Bjorklund, Sanchez-Pernaute, et al. 2002). Maintaining and growing embryonic stem cell lines have also been problematic; some of...

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