Stem Cell Research: Pros and Cons
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- George Dion
One Method to Cure Them All
Imagine a world where the blind can see and where the crippled can walk. Stem cells can make miracles like this a reality. Stem cells are cells which have no specific function, but have the ability to replace any type of cell in the human body when needed. There are two types of stem cells; embryonic and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells can generate all cell types of the human body. Adult stem cells are limited in the number of human cell types they can produce. Research in stem cells is causing a lot of controversy today due to the ethics that go behind gathering them. In order to gather embryonic stem cells, an abortion needs to be performed. Many people in our society are protesting government funding for this practice because they believe that it is immoral and unethical to destroy human life . Many of these people are part of an anti-abortion group called “The Pro-Life Movement.” Members of this group are devoted christians that believe abortion is a sin. With debates escalating to bombings of abortion clinics, politicians have to decide whether or not funding for embryonic stem cell research is the right action to take to better our country. With other nations further along in embryonic stem cell research, delaying government funding could set us back even further behind in our medical studies.
In order for one to take a side in the debate on whether or not the government should fund stem cell research, one must first understand what embryonic stem cells are and what potential do they have in the medical field. In the human body, there are over 220 different types of cells. All of those cell are derived from a group of cells known as embryonic stem cells. An embryonic stem cell is a cell within the human embryo without a predetermined function. This type of stem cell has the potential to become a number of many specialized cells. They can trigger this ability when they are placed among other specialized cells. Specialized cells include any type of cell in the human body with a specific function such as hair, skin, muscle, or organ cells. Embryonic stem cells differ from adult stem cells. Adult stem cells are similar to embryonic stem cells, but they only have a limited number of functions.Therefore, it does not make sense investing time and money into utilizing a type of cell when an even better cell exists. Modern science would have the ability to harness the incredible power that is derived from the embryonic stem cell, but activists that believe stem cell research is unethical are holding them back. Because the only way to acquire embryonic stem cells includes destroying the embryo, Christian pro-life activists choose to protest this practice rather than help make a contribution to society by supporting it.
From a scientific standpoint, one can only agree that the pros of stem cell research outweigh the cons. Stem cell research is supported by many because these cells have the potential to treat a wide variety of medical conditions and diseases. Stem cell research could even lead to a cure for some of the most tragic injuries and disease of the human body (Stem Cell Facts). These diseases and injuries include but are not limited to: diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, stroke, birth defects, and even cancer. With this information alone, an avid member of society can come to the conclusion that stem cells have the ability to cure the diseases that are killing millions of people worldwide and should be utilized to their full potential. People with cancer who undergo numerous chemotherapy sessions, which only slow down the spreading of the cancer, could be fully cured with only a few treatments of stem cell therapy. If scientist had undisputed support from the general public, we can witness the use of stem cells being mastered in our generation; and no one would have to suffer like the millions of people debilitated with these tragic diseases again.
As also stated in Stem Cell Facts’ article, the cons of stem cell research include the fears of what could come of such knowledge and the moral implications of using the stem cells. Ignorant, Christian, pro-life activists fear that this practice is in a way “trying to play God,” and that humans should not be messing with human life. With this logic, stem cells can be viewed as a gift from God meant to be developed as used to help our fellow man. The cons of stem cell research are based solely on personal beliefs, there is no fact behind them. Opposers of embryonic stem cell research do not take into account the medical promise that funding for this research will bring. These people also believe that stem cell research would promote abortion, a practice that pro-life activists find inhumane. Many of the debates and controversies go even further than this, such as how the stem cells are collected, why embryonic stem cells are preferable to adult stem cells and the moral implications that are involved with using the stem cells from a fetus that could have been a contributing member of society if it was allowed to grow to become a full term baby. (Stem Cell Facts)
In 2001, President George W. Bush restricted federal funding for research on stem cells obtained from human embryos because the technology required the destruction of human life. (Benson). President Bush made this decision to acquire more support from fellow politicians. This restriction was later uplifted by President Barack Obama in 2009. This action was taken by our president because he saw the clear potential that embryonic stem cell research has on our society. In 2012, the presidential election campaign raised uncertainty about funding for stem cell research . Many Republicans stated that if elected, they would drastically reduce future federal funding for embryonic stem cell research in attempt to gain the popularity over Christian voters who are against practices that include destroying human embryos. This shows that the people who are supposed to be focused on the main interests of citizens of our country only care about acquiring the most votes in an election.
There is no doubt that the majority of Americans support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Based on a survey conducted in 2007, 51% of Americans said that it is important to conduct stem cell research that might lead to new cures than to avoid destroying human embryos (Gilgoff). Many of the citizens that protest stem cell research and the gathering of embryonic stem cells believe that this practice is inhumane. From a political standpoint, supporting stem cell research will benefit those involved in politics and the general public as a whole.As citizens of this democratic country of ours, the majority of the people’s vote in topics such as this should contribute in the discions made by politicians if they can directly effect the people. From a moral standpoint, it makes sense to support research that would give up one life to ultimately save millions around the world. In my opinion, finding cures for tragic diseases is more important than following the words from a book.
Even though research in embryonic stem cells is at a very promising and crucial point, there are people who will go to all means to try to hold back new developments. There is a group in California named “ The Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.” They are a Christian pro-life activist ministry dedicated to educating the youth of America about practicing abstinence, by the information found on their website, this group seems more like a cult than a group whose intentions include educating the youth of America. The group consists mostly of California residents between the ages of 18-30. By organizing protests at various abortion clinics, the members of The Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust are spreading their ignorant pro-life message, contaminating the minds of today’s youth with personal opinions rather than facts. This one small group will not influence many people’s opinions about the matter, the main group that is trying to cut off funding for embryonic stem cell research is the Catholic Church. (Who Are the Survivors?)
In 2001, the U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops stated that they feel that embryonic stem cell research is “immoral, illegal, and unnecessary (PBS).” They believe that life is sacred from the moment of conception. But what about conception that occurred before wedlock? Does that not go against the Catholic church's beliefs? Granted that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, a pregnant woman who is not ready to become a mother and would like to make a contribution to the medical field should have the right to donate her embryo without the fear of being harassed by the church or any active pro-life activists protesting at clinics. It is clear that the only people who are against embryonic stem cell research are religious people who are simply abiding by the requisites of their faith. Why should the United States continue to seek outdated treatment when a more promising, advanced medical procedure is out there?
Embryonic stem cell research is reaching potentials only thought possible in science fiction. Imagine if you could take living cells, load them into a printer, and squirt out a 3D tissue that could develop into a kidney or a heart. Scientists are one step closer to that reality, now that they have developed the first printer that is able to produce living embryonic human stem cells (Cronin). With this technology, we are one step closer to creating artificial organs that are able to perform just as well if not better than original human organs. When this practice is mastered, there will be no need for patients to be placed on long waiting lists waiting for an organ donor that matches their criteria. Researchers from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, have created a cell printer that is able to produce living embryonic stem cells. This machine can be used to create 3D human tissues which can be used for testing new drugs and growing organs. In the near future, this machine will even be able to produce cells directly into a human body. “Tests revealed that more than 89% of the cells were still alive three days after being produced from the printer.” These tests prove that this machine is capable of creating cells that are able to sustain human life. If the majority of the cells created by this machine could only stay alive for a minutes, or even hours, it would show little potential for this printer. Since the results are far more promising, printers like this that are capable of creating embryonic stem cells can revolutionize modern medicine today.
When we have the ability to end the suffering of many people across our country, why would we hesitate? Our country was founded on the belief that the state should be separated from the church. This simply means that religious beliefs that are based solely on opinion should not influence the decisions made by politicians. If it was not for President Bush’s administration banning federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, advancements that will be made ten years from now could have been made today. Embryonic stem cells are a vital aspect in the medical field.
Our country was found on the belief of separation between religion and state. The First Amendment of our Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (Cornell)." This means that beliefs and rules of the church should not affect political decisions. Embryonic stem cell research would fall under this category of the constitution. If our politicians honored the Constitution, they would come to the logical agreement that funding this research would save many lives in the United States. For this controversial issue, the pros undoubtedly out-weigh the cons. Anyone who cannot see this is blind to the scientific facts. With the chance to rid the suffering from millions of people worldwide, why would anyone try to protest embryonic stem cell research?
"Stem Cell Research Pros and Cons." Stem Cell Facts. N.p., 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 21 May 2014.
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