Stem Cell Research Phylosophical Controversies

As the technological age continues to improve and better the lives of human beings, more controversial issues seem to crop up. Controversial positions have been taken as a result of diverse philosophical approaches that tend to favour one position over another. This has led to the rise of the term bioethics. This discipline is concerned with ethical controversies that have been experienced with progress in the fields of biology and medicine. One of the areas that have witnessed increased debate is stem cell research and human cloning. While some people have found this a scientific step that positively contributes towards better lives, others find it an unethical venture that degrades humanity and hence needs to be done away with (Cohen, 2007). This paper intends to argue that stem cell research and human cloning are positive scientific steps that lead towards better lives and therefore more effort should be added to improve on the research.

Without a doubt, biotechnological developments can greatly influence the positive socio-economic lives of a society. Through these technologies, certain biological complications have been solved allowing proper functioning of individuals in society. Consequently, this has improved the economic ability of the individuals and consequently the whole society. However, with the development of biotechnology, come certain ethical complications that need to be solved. This leads to the discipline of bioethics. Given the importance associated with medical and biological advancement in technology, is it logical for a discipline to come up with arguments to limit or minimize experiments? This is a question that seeks to understand the relevance of debates and regulations on developments in technological approaches to biology and medicine. Although one may think that regulations and limitations on such developments serve as drawbacks to an otherwise positive development, it is necessary to understand that technological advances could sometimes go overboard hence allowing scientists to misuse their discoveries. The debates are therefore necessary to ascertain the best position that should be taken. By getting the best approach, limits can be put to the extent by which scientists can go in their research and experimentation (Bellomo, 2006).

Bioethics is a study that involves a philosophical approach to controversial issues of ethics within the field of biology. It deals with the controversial relationship between biotechnology, life science, philosophy and law. Within its scope, this field of study includes debates concerning life’s boundaries, organ donation and transplant, decision to turn down medication attention due to specifications of one’s religion et cetera. The most controversial issue in the field of bioethics has been the decision on the limit upon which their ethical concern should reach. While some tend to be interested in limiting the study to morals associated with technological advances in biology, others prefer the involvement of all actions within treatment that might harm an organism.

The fundamental principle of this subject is identifying moral values and their relations to treatment. This includes the application of values such as benevolence, autonomy, human dignity as well as respect for the sanctity of life. Given this argument, it is clear that any medical approach that touches on the sanctity of human life and its dignity is worth addressing in bioethics. The issue of stem cell research and human cloning are among issues that have offered controversial positions in the field of biology and medicine. These fields are faced with two perspectives that cannot exist concurrently. On one side, there is the call for respect for the value of human life while on the other side there is a call for alleviation of pain and suffering from medical conditions. Harvesting of stem cells by destroying embryos offers a perfect solution for alleviation of pain while going contrary to respecting the value of human life (Peters, 2010). The opposite is equally true. As a result, it calls for deliberate and accurate calculation of the weight of both sides of the judgment to come up with a clear answer as to whether this should be allowed or not.

Stem cell research and human cloning is a bioethical concern because it addresses the issue of the sanctity of human life. It also gives a controversial perspective on whether practitioners are respecting the dignity that should be accorded to human life. While some think that alleviation of pain should be the point of focus, others feel that focusing on pain alleviation and failing to consider the sanctity of the life of embryos that are destroyed to develop the stem cells is an immoral action. Stem cell research and cloning are hence bioethical issues because they controversially touch on the issue of human life’s sanctity and dignity (Marzilli, 2007).

Although some religious affiliates tend to argue that stem cell research is a negative scientific advancement that needs to be done away with, a closer look at the positive effects associated with this technological development might prove otherwise. There are indeed likely negative effects; however, the weight that the positive effects of stem cell research carry makes the abandonment of stem cell research and human cloning a counterproductive venture (Marzilli, 2007).

Opponents of stem cell research and cloning have founded their position of argument on the thesis that while stem cell research allows for the development of curative remedies by the use of regenerative stem cells, the methods of harvesting these cells seem to beat logic in the first place. They argue that harvesting these stem cells results in the death of a life that has barely seen the light of the day. In short, the opponents seek to understand the logic of killing a newly conceived life to save another one that has existed for some time. The issue here, therefore, remains on the difference in the value of human life. Does existing life have more importance than a newly conceived one? They tend to question the legality of creating an embryo just to destroy it later. This happens in the cases where adult stem cells fail to be compatible with the recipient resulting in rejection. This forces scientists to develop embryonic cells by the use of cells from the recipient. The resulting embryonic cells have all the genetic design of the recipient hence no chances of rejection. This is what is referred to as cloning (Mulkay, 1997).

Another point of argument by the opponents is the issue of respect for subjects by medical researchers. They argue that any experiment to be carried out on children or any other person who cannot defend himself has to be subjected to restriction. As a result, they argue that embryos, just like children, should be protected and treated with the utmost respect by researchers. This is because they are human beings at an early stage and cannot argue for themselves. By failing to recognize the important value of life for these embryos, the researchers will have gone contrary to their professional expectations (Herold & Daley, 2007).

On the other hand, stem cell research carries with it several advantages. Research has shown that using stem cell research technology, new heart cell tissues can be developed to assist in curing heart disease and also stroke. In addition, stem cells can offer a remedy for nerve cells whose loss in the brains lead to Parkinson’s disease. Therefore stem cell technology will offer a remedy for patients of this disease. Other diseases that could be cured as a result of success in stem cell research is paraplegia, Alzheimer’s, chronic heart damage et cetera. These diseases have several economic and social damages that would be reversed if stem cell research was a success (Mulkay, 1997).

Considering both sides of the argument, it is true that there is some truth that is based on. While opponents believe that it beats logic to destroy life to save another one, proponents have a different view. To them, saving a life and alleviating human suffering is the main point of view. This paper will thus show why stem cell research should be encouraged despite the moral and ethical controversies.

The first argument by the opponents is that creating a life to save another beats logic. To begin with, it is important to understand in the first place how these embryos are created before they are used within the research. One should understand that the embryos are not stolen or forcibly taken from pregnant mothers and girls as they may seem. Most of these embryos are derived from cloning. Due to the issue of immunological incompatibility which led to cases of rejection of tissues, it was realized that some adult stem cells which are multipotent would be transformed into pluripotent embryonic cells. In this process referred to as therapeutic cloning, the nucleus of an egg is combined with the nuclease of another cell from the person that intends to receive treatment. The fusion is then triggered to form an embryo from which the stem cells are removed to treat the patient. In this case, there will be very limited chances of immunological incompatibility.

A small anecdote might clarify the situation in the picture. If a farmer has a cow and expansive cultivation of Napier grass, how would one feel if he heard that that one of the farmer’s cows died of hunger and the farmer was crying and had had nothing to eat for three days because of sorrow? Everyone will think that the farmer was mad. It will be a matter of “it beats logic!” most people will wonder why the farmer could not the Napier grass and feed the cow. However, what would be the reaction if the farmer pointed out that he did not feed Napier grass to the cow because he felt that the Napier grass had a right to grow. He did not want to cut short a promising future of otherwise healthy Napier grass. People would ask him why in the first place he planted the Napier grass. It was meant to ensure that the cows were well fed and stayed healthy.

This is the exact situation of stem cell research. If an individual has egg cells and other cells from which she can create embryonic stem cells, why should he die from a heart attack when heart tissues could be easily developed from stem cells? It should be noted that these are the individual’s cells. It is a matter of taking up one cell and giving it the pluripotent ability so that the cell can be used to create tissues that would assist the patient to correct the problems associated with his heart. Failing to take advantage of the cells to create a remedy is similar to refusing to take Napier grass and feed it to the dying cow because Napier grass deserves to live to the maximum age. If the Napier grass was planted specifically to feed the cow, what injustice will have been committed by allowing it to fulfil its mission? Similarly, if one can give his cell pluripotent ability, why should he die from a heart attack or Parkinson’s disease? Whether one calls it creating embryos or creating life, the truth is that therapeutic cloning is simply giving one’s cells a pluripotent ability that would enable the cell to regenerate into any tissue in the body system and also reduce chances of immunological incompatibility.

Considering the second argument that researchers need consent from their subjects and that subjects that cannot argue for themselves need to be protected, one needs to ask the question, whose life is being used in the experiment? It is the patient’s life that is being used for the experiment. It is the patient who is donating his cells to be given the ability to regenerate into different tissues. It is a matter of duplicating one’s life to sustain the original life. Consent then needs to be taken from the source of life who is the patient. Therefore, there is no breach of professionalism by this process.

In conclusion, stem cell research is a controversial issue. However, before concluding that this is a negative scientific development, it is important to ensure that all facts are well understood. If one understands that cloning is simply allowing an originally non-pluripotent cell to acquire this characteristic, then the sentimental attachments accorded the issue would be forgotten. As a result, the benefits of stem cell research and cloning would be enjoyed by many.

Reference List

Bellomo, M. (2006). The Stem Cell Divide: The Facts, the Fiction, and the Fear Driving the Greatest Scientific, Political, and Religious Debate of Our Time. New York: AMAZON. Print.

Cohen, C. B. (2007). Renewing the Stuff of Life: Stem Cells, Ethics, and Public Policy. New York: Oxford University Press. Print.

Herold, E., and Daley, G. (2007). Stem Cell Wars: Inside Stories from the Frontlines. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Print.

Marzilli, A. (2007). Stem Cell Research and Cloning. New York: Chelsea House. Print.

Mulkay, M. (1997). The Embryo Research Debate: Science and the Politics of Reproduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Print.

Peters, T. (2010) Sacred Cells? Why Christians Should Support Stem Cell Research. Rowman & Littlefield. Print.