Would you like to see a quadriplegic walk again? What about a cure for debilitating diseases such as diabetes or Parkinson’s disease? Some believe the previous feats are possible, but at what cost? This is the question that lays at the foot of the mountainous debate on embryonic stem cell research. This topic has had a polarizing affect on our society. One side is for research and others adamantly oppose this form of scientific exploration. What is the big deal? This is my attempt to visit both camps and weigh in on the intensely debated issue of embryonic stem cell research.
First, you may be wondering, as I was, what is a stem cell? “A stem cell is a cell that upon division replaces its own numbers and also gives rise to cells that differentiate further into one or more specialized types, as various B cells and T cells” (Dictionary.com). Stems cells have awesome medicinal value, because they can be used to replace damaged cells and tissue. There are different kind of stem cells; fetal, embryonic, and adult. Fetal stems cells can be taken from the umbilical cord from newly delivered infants. Adult stem cells can be found in many different tissues found in the human body. Embryonic stem cells are found in the surplus of frozen embryos used for in vitro fertilization. All these stems cells hold tremendous possibilities for medical cures. However, embryonic stem cells are desired, due to there flexibility in what cells they can reproduce.
There are thousands of relatives of those who are afflicted by different diseases that are willing to undergo embryonic research. Their argument is to allow those embryos, mark to be discarded, to be used for research. It seems to be a great waste of an opportunity to find the much sought after cure they are seeking. Could you imagine seeing a loved one suffer? Knowing embryonic stem cells could hold the answer.
On the other hand, a polar opposite view of this debate can be witnessed. This side views embryos, in essence, as human life. Saving a life by cures found by embryonic research would destroy countless potential lives. They contend it is not necessary to use embryos in research, because stem cells can be harvested by other means.
There are no easy answers for this great ethical dilemma. One must approach this topic with great care and tact. One can observe the slanted view of each party concerning this debate. For those who have family members suffering from horrific diseases, our heart aches for them. Yet, for those precious potential lives, by nature, we are protective.
After much mental wrestling, I have formed my opinion. My opinion is that it would be immoral to proceed with embryonic research. Surprisingly, this was not an easy decision for me to make. I imagined myself in shoes of those parents which have children with potentially curable diseases. My heart breaks for them, but I believe cures could be and are being developed by other stem cell research; which, does not destroy embryos.
First, my initial reasoning is embryonic stem cell research only offers hope of a “potential” cure. This “potential” cure would certainly destroy potential life. There is no guarantee any cure would be found through embryonic stem cell research. I cannot condone the destruction of human life on a “maybe” cure.
Secondly, I believe we are to speak up for the weak and defenseless. Embryos are human life. As I mentioned, my heart goes out to family members seeking a cure, but what about the countless families that will never come to be, if we allow these embryos to be destroyed. We are not merely talking about producing one human life,but rather many lives from this single life.
These potential lives or embryos cannot speak or defend themselves, so we must take a stand for life. One could argue the giving of embryos could be compared to giving an organ. Yet, when a person becomes an organ donor, they must give their consent. These embryos have no voice, so we must speak up.
Finally, I believe this could open up Pandora’s Box, so to speak. If one says human embryos should be sacrificed for others to have a better life. What is to say, that one day a handicapped person may be forced to give vital organs to someone who has more to offer in this life. Of course, this is speculation, but once you cross that line it not easy to return.
In conclusion, the use of embryos for stem cell research is a great ethical debate. It will more than likely be waged for years to come. My heart breaks for families clinging to hope of cures and I pray one is found, but we should not destroy life to preserve it. It is my assumption that embryonic stem cell research is unethical and immoral.