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The Moral Issue of Human Embryonic Stem Cells

By:   •  March 25, 2018  •  Essay  •  1,282 Words (6 Pages)  •  110 Views

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Recent discoveries and isolated cultivation of human embryonic stem cells have been considered one of the greatest and most profound milestones in the development of biomedicine. The rewarding statement comes from the differentness of embryonic stem cells themselves that they are capable of producing differentiated human specialised cells of any types and with extreme proficiency. The achievement of this breakthrough may create tremendous benefits for the medical situations worldwide by providing new solutions and cures for incurable diseases and organ transplantation. However, when the gigantic scientific finding has gained extensive attention among the medical academia, some philosophers consider the harvesting of embryonic stem cells causes the fails of embryos, which represents a violation to moral respects on the expiration of human beings. Therefore, ethical conflicts raised in the development of this epoch-making event. This essay aims to present and discuss the fundamental information of embryonic stem cells research and analyses the existing ethical issues.

The primary ethical controversies lie in the broad recognition of oocytes and embryos. Human stem cell researches theoretically provide undetected findings and understandings of human functions and differentiated mechanisms, to better demonstrate and experiment the formation of a disease, and further to improve the chances of figuring out new solutions and treatments for diseases that are contemporarily incurable or difficult to treat, such as “diabetes, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and myocardial infarction” (Lo & Parham, 2009). The benefits of stem cell researches seem to be promising; however, the acquirement of pluripotent stem cells comes from embryos and oocytes as well as indicating the process involves the destruction of embryos and oocytes, which violates two essential moral principles of humanity. One principle is the prohibition of applying contrived anguish on lives of any forms; the other principle is to hold up respects towards the value of life and especially humanity. According to Rickard (2002), the benefits of stem cell research has a remarkable potential to fulfil the first principle by alleviating and eliminating suffering and pains of patients or human life; meanwhile, the destruction of embryos violates the second principle, but the use of them are positively helpful to sustain humanity. Therefore, there is no win-win solution to keeping both principles ascertained.

There exist various ethical issues during different phases of stem cell research. First, to conduct a stem cell research, it needs a medical donation of biological materials from licensed constitutions, excluding individuals, and voluntarily. Therefore, it is the research group’s duty to guarantee the entire process of donation is thoroughly informed of the donor, and every step and consequence has acquired the donor’s consent. Afterwards, in the process of human embryonic stem cell research, researchers have to restrict the use of embryos within the purpose of specific researches, instead of female reproductive treatment. Meanwhile, the research group need to grant the oocyte donor reasonable payment and settle down the risk of further retrieval of the oocyte out of the donor’s will. Then, the last ethical issue needs noticing is the process of clinical trial. In this phase, donor’s consent is still required, and in the meantime, research group needs to be entirely aware of both the risks and benefits that exist in the experimental intervention.

Even though destructive embryonic research breaches some moral standards of humanity, the medical and technical benefits are non-deniable. Therefore, to logically and legitimately respond this moral controversy, it needs precise calculation in ethical standards and then makes comparison. The process contains two major parts, determining the benefits and harms, then compare the weight of both to calculate the comprehensive consequences of human embryonic stem cell research quantitatively.

As noted before, the benefits of stem cell research lie in the medical potentiality of stem cells to develop into various types of specialised human cells. With proper cultivation, stem cell research is capable of dealing with significant medical problems; for instance, genetic disorders, human tissues replacement and organs transplantation. Even though these benefits are temporarily out of reach due to the limitation of current medical technology and experiments, it does not indicate that possible potential benefits are not representing the functional outcomes of embryonic stem cell research. As for developing science and technology, the significance of vision can always be neglected because people cannot foresee the benefits the new finding, or invention is going to create for the society.

On the other hand, scientists have brought up the idea of using alternatives to embryonic stem cells to avoid the ethical conflicts, by using adult stem cells. Adult stem cells are one type of derivatives of embryonic stem cells, which can differentiate into specialised human cells that contribute to forming bone marrow, human tissues and innards. However, adult stem cells do not obtain the same ability of differentiation as embryonic stem cells, as embryonic stem cells are highly pluripotent, while the direction of adult stem cell’s differentiation is restricted. For examples, every human cell originally comes from one embryonic stem cell, the oocyte, including all adult stem cells; and specialised human complex like organs and tissues directly and separately come from certain adult stem cells, which is because they are encoded so; therefore, certain adult stem cells only partially translate its gene into one specific organ or tissue, unlike embryonic stem cell, which has full access to any part of human gene that can potentially produce any part of human body (Dresser, 2010). It also refers to the fact that adult stem cells are not as useful as embryonic stem cells to the medical research due to the lack of diversity in differentiation, and meanwhile, the use of that will potentially add further financial investment to medical preparation. Therefore, even though the utilisation of adult stem cells can reasonably prevent the rise of ethical conflicts, the medical outcomes will become less effective and productive.

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