Three types of stem cell research classified according to the source of the stem cells: adult stem cells, fetal stem cells and embryonic stem cells
Does the end justify the means? This is the question that reigns at the mention of stem cell research. With human beings being faced with diseases that are increasingly hard to treat, scientists have unearthed the potential of stem cells in treating most of these conditions. There has, however, been continued controversy of whether this is a justifiable means of reaching this end. Ethical, moral, and legal questions have been raised by opponents of stem cell research.
On the other hand, proponents of stem cell research are guided by the potential the technology holds in relieving human suffering (Oxford University Press, 2010). Should stem cell research, therefore, be allowed, or should it be discouraged by all means. This paper takes the position that stem cell research can provide humans with a better quality of life and should be explored more to yield the best outcome for every human alive. The position is based on the utilitarianism theory, where people should do things that bring happiness to the majority.
Stem cell research should be utilitarian and be guided by a desire to bring happiness to as many people as possible
The mention of embryonic stem cell research is bound to evoke controversies. Stem cell research per se may not be controversial when embryonic stem cells are not brought into the picture. This research is driven by the desire to eliminate human suffering by unearthing the causes of diseases and providing a cure for the same. There are three types of stem cell research classified according to the source of the stem cells.
Adult stem cell research uses adult stem cells, which are derived from cells of adult tissue. Some of the sources of adult stem cells include blood from the umbilical cord, bone marrow, breast tissue, and skin tissue, among other body organs (Oxford University Press, 2010). These cells have been in use for many years and have treated many diseases and conditions. Fetal stem cells are the other types of stem cells, and these are derived from aborted fetuses at their seventh to the eighth week of development. These cells are not commonly researched as they are not pluripotent. The last type of stem cell is the embryonic stem cells, and it is more controversial.
Utilitarianism theory- people should do things that bring happiness to majority
Consequentialism “claims that moral value is determined solely by consequences, i.e., whether an action is right, wrong, obligatory, etc., is traced directly or indirectly to its consequences” (Holland, 2007, p. 18). It is notable that utilitarianism is one of the consequentialist theories, and therefore, it stems from its moral value from the consequences of anything human being does. A utilitarian will argue that people ought to do things that lead to the greatest happiness for the majority (Holland, 2007).
Arguing from this perspective, it would be unfair to bar scientists from continuing with stem cell research, yet there is a lot of promise in unearthing cure to very agonizing sicknesses. Relieving people from the agony experienced when one suffers from diabetes, or spinal injury is undoubtedly a thing that would bring happiness in people’s lives. If researchers in stem cell therapy are guided by utilitarianism, then there is no doubt that stem cell research and use will remain a preference for many. The fears that exist about the likely malicious use of the technology do not have a place among scientists who are guided by a desire to bring happiness to as many people as possible.
Ethical egoism should be discouraged in stem cell research
In the debate of stem cell research and use, it would be blinding and unwise to follow ethical egoist principles, and indeed, the essence of the research would cease. Ethical egoism posits that people ought to act to their own interest and always endeavor to do what is good for oneself. If the ultimate goal of living is to fulfill one’s interest only, then there lacks the essence of having the other person (Hinman, 2007).
Common sense tells that no single person is self-sufficient, and therefore, people must interact and depend on each other for them to co-exist successfully. Advancements in technology and medicine are achieved by both individuals and society at large for the benefit of others. If stem cell researchers well to confine knowledge to themselves and not share with the community, then that would not be termed as successful technological advancement. It is, therefore, important to maintain that stem cell research and use should continue for the benefit of all and avoid selfishness as propagated by ethical egoists.
Illnesses that can be cured through stem cell research
The ability to differentiate into any type of cell as may be required makes embryonic stem cells much desirable in researching a possible cure to diseases. The field of embryonic stem cell research is, therefore, hailed by many scientists and researchers with the promise of finding a cure to a wide range of conditions. In fact, the technology has the potential to cure some of the conditions that have plagued human beings more so in the modern days and are hard to cure. Such conditions include cancer, diabetes, vision loss, spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Parkinson’s disease, among others (Vaughan, 2009).
Through the process of cell therapy, the embryonic stem cells can be made to differentiate into cells that would be used to replace damaged tissue, thus restoring the function of the particular organ. The reality of restoring heart function by programming embryonic stem cells to differentiate into myocardium cells is feasible. By being able to handle these diseases and conditions, huge amounts of money that go towards managing the diseases would be saved and invested in other fields. All this is a move towards achieving happiness to even a greater population, i.e., those who benefit from stem cell research and those who receive monies that would have been used to handle the incurable diseases.
Also geared towards cracking the code behind diseases that lead to human suffering, embryonic stem cells are very appropriate in studying human development. The study of early human development has been generally difficult, and this has led to a similarly complicated situation in identifying the origin of many diseases. Embryonic stem cell research comes to revolutionize this field of human biology since the understanding of the course of a problem goes a long way in solving the same.
Thus, congenital malformations would be dealt with. The superior potential of embryonic stem cells to differentiate into any type of cell as may be desired comes in handy in researching drugs. The cells may be made to differentiate into the desired cells and then use the cells to study drug response. This would lead not only to the testing of the efficacy of various drugs but also to the development of novel ones.
Embryos that would ultimately have been destroyed should be used for stem cell research
The technology is appropriate and should be accepted since it does not transcend moral and ethical values if used for the benefit of the majority. It should be noted that for several years, embryonic stem research has not received funding from the federal government, and this has led to slow progress in this area (Popular Issues, 2010). It has been argued by opponents that it amounts to killing a human being by destroying the embryo, but this argument lacks a scientific basis. The cells are isolated before the embryo implants or specialize in specific organs, and therefore it just represents cells of a human but not a human.
Furthermore, the embryos that are used are donated out of consent by couples seeking in vitro fertilization services. Since these cells would have ended up destroyed anyway, embryonic stem cell research turns them into useful resources that end up saving many lives. It would be more ethical to channel a resource into life-saving endeavors than to waste the same resource and leave out unresolved problems. It is selfish and unwise to destroy approximately 18 percent of the zygotes that do not implant after conception (Bookstrike, 2010), yet these embryos are better off donated to stem cell research.
Stem cell research comes to solve most of the issues and situations that present tough while using other technologies. Even though there has not been much success so far, the field is very promising. With substantial time and resources, the challenges surrounding the use of stem cells in the treatment of diseases would no doubt be dealt with. It would be pertinent for the government to act altruistically by funding stem cell research with readiness to reap happiness for all. Scientists in the field of stem cell research should continually be guided by utilitarianism in order to amass more support from the people and governments. Attempts to practice ethical egoism in stem cell research and use should be discouraged, and all people be left to benefit.
Bookstrike. (2010). Arguments for embryonic stem cell research. Bookstrike.com. Web.
Hinman, L. M. (2007). Ethics: a pluralistic approach to moral theory, (4th edition). Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.
Holland, S. M. (2007). Public health ethics. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Oxford University Press. (2010). Stem cell research. Web.
Popular Issues. (2010). Pros and cons of stem cell research. Web.
Vaughan, G. (2009). Pros and cons of stem cell research. Web.