Imagine a certain research procedure that has the capacity to cure all kinds of cell-related diseases ranging from “cancer to paralysis”. These cellular diseases are so destructive that people collectively donate “millions of dollars” annually towards research, in the hopes of finding a particular research method that will lead to a cure for each respective disease. But, we no longer have to imagine that this research exists. It already does–Embryonic stem cell research is exactly the scientific procedure that would give scientists the chance to open that very wardrobe into Narnia and create a brand new world in which these diseases are extinct.
But, firstly, how is it even possible that one type of cell research can cure so many diseases?
Embryonic cells possess a property called pluripotency that allows for them to turn into any cell in the body. Most of these cellular-level diseases are caused by the death of cells that cannot naturally restore themselves. In other words, once certain cells, like nerve cells are gone, they are gone forever. The possible discoveries that can be made with the help of embryonic stem cell research are endless. Recently, “a tiny beating heart” was grown by scientists from embryonic stem cells!
It is clear that embryonic stem cells are the key to curing all these debilitating diseases because of their pluripotent properties. However, even with all these curing properties considered, many people are opposed to this research. In fact, most countries in the world are against this research and even the ones that are not, do not provide sufficient funding towards it. In fact, the embryonic stem cell research debate has become a major one in the field of bioethics.
Why on Earth would people be opposed to something so beneficial?
The opposition generally tends to consist of people from religious backgrounds that believe that “life begins from the moment of conception.” Thus, the two opposite sides of the debate are between the scientific community and the religious community. Embryonic stem cell research is regarded as problematic for the religious community because either four or five day embryos are used in the research. Dr. Wilke, a representative of the religious side of the debate, believes that “killing this living human embryo at day four or five…is in fact, killing a living human.” Thus, those with similar views as Wilke believe that by allowing the research to occur, society would essentially be allowing scientists to kill “tiny humans” who are not strong enough to defend themselves. Because Wilke considers the embryonic stem cells equivalent to a full grown human, it is consistent with his belief that the research “deliberately [kills] one living human to possibly benefit another.” Furthermore, in the religious community, this research is thought of as something that is used to save some people (the ones with terminal illness) at the cost of the death of others (the tiny embryonic cells).
As you may have noticed, this debate sounds incredibly similar to the right to life abortion debate. Except, with the one key difference in that an abortion can be made until the “ninth week of gestation in the US”. But, by week nine, the fetus already develops most of its organs! Through multiple polls taken, it is clear that the majority of Americans are pro-choice. This is inconsistent with the governments’ stance on the limited funding towards stem cell research.
It does not make very much sense to censor embryonic stem cell research that involves only five day embryos, but allow the abortion of ninety day developing fetuses.
Another inconsistency that does not add up is the use of embryonic stem cells infertility treatments. During these treatments, women often take in hormones that stimulate their ovaries to release more eggs. This is done for the sole purpose of increasing their chance of pregnancy. Because of the increased amount of eggs released, more eggs are fertilized than needed. More often than not, the excess ova is then simply thrown away. This is a wasteful practice, especially when considering that the excess eggs could be used for research instead. Despite, their wastefulness towards embryonic stem cells, infertility treatments are still legal. It does not make logical sense that the government is for infertility treatments, but is against embryonic stem cell research (that has the ability to increase the standard of life in humans).
The embryonic stem cell research obviously has a greater return rate to society than the infertility treatments!
In consideration with the flaw in logic, it seems as though the opposition has a “fear of the unknown,” more than anything else. Remember, thousands of embryonic stem cells are being thrown away daily in infertility treatment centers, while nine-week pregnancies are also being aborted in hospitals. However, for some peculiar reason that has been contradicted a plethora of times, most countries do not allow for the use of five day embryos in research that would aid in eliminating some of the most saddening diseases in society. It is also important to note that five day embryos do not have any bodily-structures resembling those of a person, they only contain the structural DNA needed to turn into a person. With everything considered, because the “life starts the moment of conception” view has not been a concern for abortions and fertility treatments, it should not be a concern for something as potentially useful to society as embryonic stem cell research.