Stem cells refer to the body cells found in human or animals capable of developing into numerous and different cells during the early stages of growth and development. According to Holland, such cells are essential to the body because they can divide whenever there is need for cell replacement without getting exhausted (5). Stem cells have two specific characteristics, “are unspecialized cells capable of undergoing renewal after a long period of time and second, can be induced under certain conditions to produce specialized cells such as tissues or organs” (Goldstein and Schneider 16). Scientists have identified and studied two types of stem cells; embryonic stem cells and adult/somatic stem cells. In Monro, Miller and Tobis’s view, important role and the unique characteristics displayed by stem cells, have promoted their usage in exploring research on treatment of various diseases through a process known as Stem Cell Research (12). Therefore Stem Cell Research is the study of fundamental cells which in most cases develop into organisms by growing the cells and testing their properties in the laboratory. However, stem cell research has been met with mixed reactions by people in all walks of life such as ethics, science, politics, and religious.
Political, Scientific, Religious, and Ethical View on Stem Cell Research
Scientific View: -Scientists support Stem Cell Research because of its medical benefits. Scientifically, stem cells are said to be relevant in regenerative medicine and therapeutic cloning. Most of the diseases that are likely to be cured by stem cells are those that are considered to pose problem to humanity. Such diseases include “Alzheimer’s, Heart, birth defects, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s, diabetes, and replacement of damaged tissues” (Hug and Hermeren 24-30). As such, Scientists cite that, exploring Stem Cell Research could offer better treatment and restore the dream of good health to humanity.
In particular, scientists have isolated stem cells found in cord blood to perform certain vital experiments. These experiments are what have helped in the understanding and predicting various processes involved in cell development and human growth. Similarly, scientists have obtained adult stem cells (IPSCs) from blood, cord blood, and skin to treat various diseases. Most scientists are pro-life and therefore argue that cells such as adult stem cells and uniparental should be used for research without fear because they are not “individual living beings” (Hug and Hermeren 27).
Scientist further argue that stem cells are undifferentiated and therefore are not specifically intended to become a particular organ or tissue say, “a liver or a blood cell” (Hug and Hermeren 27-29). Therefore it is only through Stem Cell Research that such cells can be prompted by scientists to become any type of cell based on the what it is required for. Moreover, allowing Stem Cell Research to be carried out in scientists’ view might help save the life of a patient in need of cell replacement.
Political View: - Governments have varied views on Stem Cell Research. Notably, “there is evidence of passage of legislation regulating the process world wide” (Holland 38). Most of these laws prohibit the creation of embryos for research while allowing scientists to obtain embryos from fertility clinics with the knowledge of the donors. Further mixed reaction exists on the political view of Stem Cell Research as a result of political party affiliation on deciding on how such research should be funded. Holland cites that based on the above disagreements, most governments such as the federal government takes it upon themselves to allocate a given amount of money for the research annually (39). However, further dilemma occurs in the political arena when the government is put into task as to whether they should use tax payer’s money to support a project they are opposed to.
Religious View: - Most religions and their followers are opposed to Stem Cell Research. According to the Jewish law, it is prohibited for an individual to take another person’s life in order to save another life for whatsoever reason. In Holland’s view, such law is set in Talmud and states that there is no life that is more valuable than another’s (89-90). The Jewish believe that taking stem cells from a fetus for Stem Cell Research is equivalent to aborting the fetus. Such view is held despite the fact that the Jewish Meshna allows abortion in instances where a woman in labor is endangered because “one may not set aside one person’s life for the sake of another” (Holland 90).
Baptists on the other hand oppose embryonic Stem Cell Research because of the belief that life begins at fertilization. However, they support adult Stem Cell Research as it does not destroy the embryo. Holland cited that Catholicism prohibits destruction of embryonic Stem Cell Research as per the “Pontifical Academy for Life” (113). At the same time the Catholic Church propagates research on adult and umbilical cord cells.
Ethical View: -The ethical view on Stem Cell Research looks at the morality behind the act. This view cites that, “it is morally unacceptable to destroy an innocent life intentionally” (Hug and Hermeren 402). This is based on the ground that life begins at conception and therefore embryonic stem cells are human beings. According to Monro, Miller and Tobis, it is morally unethical to kill an embryo because human beings have the same moral status regardless of their state of growth and development (63-64).
In summary, Stem Cell Research is an interesting topic that has drawn much debate with some in support of while others opposed to the practice. From the research, it is clear that those opposed to Stem Cell Research concur on the fact that stem cells obtained from embryos have life in them and therefore should not be killed through Stem cell Research. However, those opposed to Embryonic Stem Cell Research support the use of adult and Umbilical Stem Cell Research. On the other hand, proponents of Stem Cell Research cite that the practice is for the good of humanity in terms of cell regeneration and curing of diseases. In my own view, Stem Cell Research is a practice that should be encouraged because of three reasons. First and foremost, Stem Cell Research offers important information required to understand processes involved in human growth and development. Secondly, the process has been tested and found to offer curative options that are likely to relieve humanity of baffling health conditions. Lastly, it can be used to replace cells or organs especially where an individual is at the verge of death and therefore should be considered as a life saving practice.
- Goldstein, Lawrence B. S. and Schneider, Meg. Stem Cells for Dummies. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2010. Print.
- Holland, Suzanne. The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2001. Print.
- Hug, Kristina and Hermeren, Goran. Translational stem cell research: issues beyond the debate on moral status of the human embryo. New York: Humana Press, 2011. Print.
- Monro, Kristen R., Miller, Baker Ronald and Tobis, Jerome S. Fundamentals of Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. Print.