Stem cell research is unethical. There are no scientific proofs for the fact that stem cells can be useful in medicine. Stem cell research is presented by a set of unclear medical assumptions which lack scientific grounds, but lead to killing thousands of unborn embryos, which have full potential to become humans.
Con on Stem Cell Research
Much has been said about the benefits and drawbacks of stem cell research. Thousands of citizens discuss ethical side of stem cell research. Stem cell research is connected with numerous ethical issues, but the cons evidently overweigh the pros of this type of scientific activity.
Prevention and alleviation of suffering versus respecting the value of human life
Do we have the right to deprive somebody of the right to live, to save someone else’s life? I don’t think so. The central element of this ethical debate is whether an embryo can be considered a live being. To answer this question, we should look more thoroughly at what stem cells are. “Stem cells come from the inner cell mass of a human embryo, have the potential to develop into all or nearly all of the tissues in the body” (Stem Cells, 2008). Proponents of stem cell research will argue that stem cells can be derived from other sources besides embryos, but these sources are literally the same, and can potentially damage human organism. As embryonic cells are derived from a blastocyst, germ cells are derived from fetal tissue, and adult stem cells are derived from “mature tissue” (AAAS, 1999). Proponents of stem cell research try to convince the society, that embryos used in stem cell research are dead, or will never used in other medical purposes. However, stem cells are primarily derived from either aborted fetuses or preimplantation fetuses. In both cases, death of an embryo is intentional and unavoidable. This is why I base my disagreement with stem cell research on the assumption that by promoting and supporting stem cell research we seriously conflict the value of a human life. We undermine the right of a fetus to become a child; we undermine the right of a woman to become a mother. We indirectly encourage abortions, because a woman will use stem cell research as an excuse in her desire to get rid of an unborn child.
I sincerely believe that an embryo is a live being. There are two criteria on which I base my argument. In medical terms, an embryo possesses a full human genome. In general terms, an embryo “possesses full potential for development into a human being” (AAAS, 1999). These two critical elements help determine that an embryo is a personality, who possesses full right to live. Sometimes, proponents of stem cell research refer to the fact that an embryo does not possess consciousness and self-concept, and this is why it cannot be considered a live personality. However, the absence of conscience is another argument against stem cell research: we do not have the right to deprive a person of life without his (her) conscious agreement. When adult people sacrifice separate organs to save someone else’s life, they take conscious decisions. Such decisions are fully ethical and morally acceptable. However, when we kill an embryo which has full potential to be developed into an adult person, we cross all ethical boundaries.
The government may promote numerous health policies, to increase the value of a human life. Yet, the government cannot take an ethical responsibility for killing someone for the sake of someone else. “President Bush said in mid-May 2005: ‘I am a strong supporter of stem cell research, but I’ve made it very clear to Congress that the use of federal taxpayer money to promote science that destroys life in order to save life, I am against this” (White, 2008). The government has initially positioned itself against the stem cell research. “No federal funds should be used for the creation of any human embryos for research purposes” (The White House, 2001). State authorities possess sufficient freedom in promoting or restricting stem cell research funding. Official statistics shows that only 6 states have encouraged stem cell research in the United States (Washington Post, 2001). That means that the major portion of the American population realizes the moral and ethical threats of stem cell research.
It may seem surprising that so many Americans position themselves against stem cell research. Theoretically, stem cell research can cure numerous diseases. Practically, stem cell research has not produced any results which would help curing the most problematic diseases. Simultaneously, thousands of unborn embryos have already been killed. “Experience is already showing how a tragic coarsening of consciences accompanies the assault on innocent human life in the womb, leading to accommodation and acquiescence in the face of other related evils” (Fox News, 2001). There is still no scientific proof for the fact that stem cell research can cure at least one specific disease, which cannot be cured by using traditional medical approaches. “Some scientific expectations seem to be well founded, while others originate from adult and embryonic research enthusiasts” (Solbakk, 2006). Stem cell researchers are trying to desensitize the American society towards the value of human life, but they lack scientific grounds to prove that killing embryos will make society healthier.
Embryonic stem cell research destroys human life. It is wrong to think that the absence of soul in an embryo means the absence of life in it. It has already been mentioned, that a human embryo has a full potential to become a conscious personality, who will have self-concept and probably, soul. There are no strict scientific criteria for determining, what a soul is, but the fact of an embryo’s potential to become a human has been scientifically proved (AAAS, 1999).
Stem cells remain a problematic area of medical research. Even when we speak about other sources of stem cells beyond embryos (e.g. adult stem cells), there is no sound knowledge on how these stem cells will impact human organism. “It’s no wonder the research community would like to find out how to increase the body’s natural production of stem cells from the bone marrow where they are made” (Stem Cells, 2008). Do we know how the increased stem cell production will impact human organism? Do we know how the bone marrow will alter the functioning of the central nervous system of an adult? Until these questions are answered, we will have no right to expose adults to stem cell experiments. Such experiments will again desensitize the American society towards the value of the human life; we will no longer be personalities, but will turn into mere objects of non-transparent medical research. Even informed consent cannot serve the means of making stem cell research more ethical: asking women in labor to donate stem cells is wrong. “Informed consent requires that the woman or couple, with substantial understanding and without inappropriate influences, authorize the use of their spare embryos for research” (AAAS, 1999). A woman in labor cannot think clearly; a woman in labor is inappropriately influenced by the medical personnel; a woman in labor cannot take conscious decisions. This is why using the difficult and stressful physiological situation of a woman in labor breaches the main provisions of informed consent in ethics.
There is no guarantee that stem cell research “repairs” human genetics. For example, before the lamb Dolly has become an example of a successful cloning, scientists had wasted 276 attempts to produce a cloned animal. Evidently, the remaining 275 cells with the lamb’s DNA were damaged! (Socialist Worker, 2006). How many attempts will we need to finally “repair” human genetics without damaging it? In addition, using stem cells from aborted fetuses poses another problem: spontaneous abortions are caused by serious fetal anomalies. 20% of self-aborted fetuses display chromosomal abnormalities (AAAS, 1999). By using such stem cells we expose human organisms to unknown genetic dangers.
To use stem cells means to play with the human life which was given to us by God. God has not provided us with sufficient knowledge about stem cells and their impact on human health. God has not given us the right to kill unborn embryos with scientific purposes. Religion may not be the main factor against using stem cells in research, but religion cannot also serve the justification for killing thousands of embryos without any particular goal. Stem cell research plays with the life of the fetus, and the life of a woman: a woman is exposed to an unlimited number of dangerous procedures before she can donate an embryo. Women undergo extra cycles of ovulation and retrieval to produce more “free embryos” for research; women experience serious psychological and emotional stress (AAAS, 1999). In many cases, the production of spare embryos takes place as a result of failed fertility procedures for women. These failures put women into a double emotional jeopardy, which will impact their female functions and health in the short and long-term periods.
Politics is closely connected to stem cell research issues. The politics of prioritizing human health or making stem cell research legally permissible attracts attention of specific social groups. The problems of stem cell research are linked to the social and legal position of women in society. Stem cell research “will enshrine the sanctity of a blastocyst and lay the basis for further reproductive disenfranchisement of women. This is a continuation of a long battle to roll back the right to choose” (Socialist Worker, 2006). The way we use technological advances is also a matter of political choice and preferences. Politics should be directed in way to protect the rights of the majority, and not undermining the basics of political and religious equality and freedom. Technological advances are not always positive and are not always virtuous. The creation of nuclear weapons is an example of technological advancement, but it has not benefited society. That is the case with stem cell research: technological advancement places us in the center of a serious ethical dilemma, and the way we use these advancement will determine the further stability and success of our societal development. To position stem cell research as a virtuous advancement means to promote hypocrisy in medical research. By using this advancement we bury all ethical and moral problems without resolving them.
Stem cell research is unethical. It undermines the equality of social rights between men and women. Stem cell research exposes women to unlimited health dangers. Scientists have not proven that stem cells could be useful in treating problematic diseases. Stem cell research remains the area of non-transparent medical approaches and assumptions which lack scientific justification, but which kill thousands of unborn embryos, who possess a full right to develop and live.
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