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The Cases For and Against Stem Cell Research

I. Introduction

❶New embryonic stem cell lines from frozen embryos Women and couples who undergo infertility treatment often have frozen embryos remaining after they complete their infertility treatment.

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Every year fertility clinics create many blastula that are destroyed because they are made in surplus. Supporters of ESC research generally feel that using cells from these surplus blastula for research and developing medical treatments, which could help improve and save people's lives, is much better than throwing them away. This is where discussion is important.

Debates and discussions about the moral and ethical status of ESCs help establish the rules and regulations that govern scientific research and the development of medical treatments using stem cells. Embryonic stem cell research poses a moral dilemma. It forces us to choose between two moral principles:. In the case of embryonic stem cell research, it is impossible to respect both moral principles. To obtain embryonic stem cells, the early embryo has to be destroyed.

This means destroying a potential human life. But embryonic stem cell research could lead to the discovery of new medical treatments that would alleviate the suffering of many people. So which moral principle should have the upper hand in this situation? The answer hinges on how we view the embryo.

Does it have the status of a person? Chapter 1 of this film introduces some of the key ethical arguments. The moral status of the embryo is a controversial and complex issue. The main viewpoints are outlined below. The embryo has full moral status from fertilization onwards Either the embryo is viewed as a person whilst it is still an embryo, or it is seen as a potential person. Development from a fertilized egg into to baby is a continuous process and any attempt to pinpoint when personhood begins is arbitrary.

A human embryo is a human being in the embryonic stage, just as an infant is a human being in the infant stage. Although an embryo does not currently have the characteristics of a person, it will become a person and should be given the respect and dignity of a person. An early embryo that has not yet been implanted into the uterus does not have the psychological, emotional or physical properties that we associate with being a person.

It therefore does not have any interests to be protected and we can use it for the benefit of patients who ARE persons. It needs external help to develop. Even then, the probability that embryos used for in vitro fertilization will develop into full-term successful births is low. Something that could potentially become a person should not be treated as if it actually were a person.

A candidate for president is a potential president, but he or she does not have the rights of a president and should not be treated as a president. There is a cut-off point at 14 days after fertilization Some people argue that a human embryo deserves special protection from around day 14 after fertilization because:.

We do not have the license to engage in lethal experimentation, just as we may not experiment on death row prisoners or harvest their organs without their consent. Many philosophers, as far back as Locke, would claim that a human being has rights, but that being human is not a necessary and sufficient condition for having personhood.

Being human is a biological condition, being a human being or, more to use more exacting language, having personhood is a normative condition. The questions then becomes: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for moral status and how do they apply to the human embryo? I will address these questions in the subsequent sections of this paper. Within this debate on ES cell research, a great deal of time and energy is spent among scientists and philosophers debating the biological issues of the embryo such as numerical continutiy and many arguments are made both for and against designating the embryo as a person in the name of science.

While I suggest that the issues which will aid our progression to consensus on this topic do not lie in biology, science can aid our normative attribution of moral status for the embryo. Some ES cell research proponents, including myself, use scientific information to suggest that it is appropriate to wait until at least fourteen days after conception to claim numerical continuity, since it is only then that totipotency has been lost.

Additionally, it is only sometime after fourteen days from conception that the development of the primitive streak which marks the development of neural receptors signals the development of any potential for sentience.

This is a position which I believe is tenable, but we should acknowledge that it is a normative decision we are making and not a scientific decision. Furthermore, if we are to hold such a position, we must be clear as to how sentience and its attainment effect our attributions of moral status. I will address these issues in the next section. If the embryo is not property and the embryo is not a person, then it must be something else.

To understand this approach, we must understand how she establishes each level of her criteria for moral status and why any one of the three standard intrinsic properties fail as the singular criterion for establishing moral status.

It is important to note that Warren acknowledges that this approach is a common-sense morality. This is because life is the ultimate, absolute value which all organisms share equally.

However, application of this strict and absolute principle quickly wanes to absurdity when we realize that many of our normal daily functions cannot occur without some destruction of life; e. While some including the Concerned Women for America have tried to re-shape the Sanctity of Life principle by saying it is only relevant to human life, those seeking to hold this general principle of life as ultimate and absolute have some vicious obstacles to overcome.

In order to be true to the sanctity of life principle, one may be forced to accept that any attempt to make such qualifications as only human life matters could result in the untenable outcome of allowing other qualifications.

Thus, one objection to such a qualifier is that to allow only human life to be absolute causes us to allow the principle to be denigrated such that some life is not worth living. Though this is just the point of the CWA and others, the problem is that this could be the case whether the living creature is an animal, a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. Such denigration of the value of life is unacceptable even to the proponents of the Sanctity of Life principle.

As Schweitzer claims, there can be no qualifiers to the type of life we are talking about. Another problem with this is the charge, made by Singer, of speciesism referenced above. Fundamentally, the objection is that it seems problematic as humans to claim our humanness as the qualifier to attain full moral status. It is common for people hold that animals have some rights and those rights are defined by the nature of our obligations which are based on some level of moral status.

Thus, the sanctity of human life as a uni-criterial principle is not a sufficient ground for establishing either partial or full moral status. Thus, all living entities are given some moral status, but not full moral status. This principle treats all harms done to living things as undesirable, other things being equal, and imputes no wrongdoing to those who harm living things when there are morally sound reasons for doing so.

However, Warren recognizes, as do some Sanctity of Life proponents, that no right is absolute and that the right to life can be overridden with sufficient justification. This notion re-iterates problem with the uni-criterial Sanctity of Life position in that such justifications i. Next, Warren analyzes the principle of sentience as a uni-criterial approach to moral status. To do this, Warren launches an attack on one of her own mentors, Peter Singer, himself a preference utilitarian. However, Warren effectively demonstrates how this notion of sentience is unacceptable as the singular criterion in the establishment of moral status.

If we view our own pain as objectively bad, then logical consistency requires that we apply this principle to others. The latter holds that within the limits of their own capacities, human beings who are capable of sentience but not of moral agency have the same moral rights as do moral agents. I believe these last moves by Warren offer a methodology with which a utilitarian framework can be created.

The greatest objection I have always had towards utilitarianism has been its inability to account for human rights. But how, you may ask, can a utilitarian model account for moral rights such as liberty, justice, and equality when practical necessity dictates otherwise or the expected gain in the greatest happiness is sacrificed?

Thus, there are utilitarian reasons for adopting a non-classical utilitarian principle. It must be remembered that moral rights are not absolute in that they may be overridden at times.

Take self-defense or war as examples. Whatever the justification is, it is still a justification to override the principle. Thankfully, Warren is not so resistant.

Building upon her theory, Warren borrows from such figures as the environmental ethicist, J. Baird Callicott and feminist ethicist, Nel Noddings, to introduce two relational rather than intrinsic properties: Warren then captures these two relational properties which she believes are important to moral status in her three remaining principles.

Living things that are not moral agents, but that are important to the ecosystems of which they are a part have? The Transitivity of Respect Principle: She notes that none of these relational principles can diminish the moral status gained through the employment of any of the preceding, intrinsic principles, but that they can enhance moral status. She holds that neither of these two relational properties represent a necessary and sufficient basis for moral status, but that the theories which value these properties contain insights that need to be incorporated into an adequate account of moral status.

Furthermore, a complete and accurate understanding of moral status cannot be gained until a complete review of all the interrelated principles are balanced against one another and the practical implications of each are considered. Clearly early embryos are endowed with life and, therefore, deserve respect and some level of moral status.

Nevertheless, these early embryos do not have either the capacity for sentience or moral agency. So they cannot be considered to have full moral status. The failure by many in this debate, including Singer, is the failure to ascribe some moral status or moral value to the early embryo.

Even if the early embryo does not have full moral status, it certainly should have some moral status based on its attribute of being alive. However, in the case of ES cell research and its potential therapeutic applications, other things are not equal.

The symbolic cost associated to allowing the destruction of human embryos in ES cell research is primarily the undesirable capacity to diffuse or obscure the value we hold in this intrinsic property of life.

The intrinsic costs associated to not allowing the destruction of early embryos in ES cell research at minimum are that millions of persons with full moral status will die and even more will suffer significant physical and psychological pain.

This expansive claim can be made because o other means currently exists, or will exist, in the foreseeable future which can alleviate the suffering and death that ES cell therapies have the proven capacity to do. Thus, the benefits of ES cell research far outweigh the symbolic costs incurred from the destruction of life that is without full moral status. Within the Interspecific Principle, embryos may gain a higher level of moral status based on their social relationship to human beings, but only if such relationships exist.

If research embryos are created through IVF or somatic cell nuclear transfer SCNT techniques using donated gametes or cells, then such relationships would not exist. Thus, the basis for creation of research embryos for use in ES cell research is established.

For embryos with such social relationships, their enhanced status cannot override the interests of parents who can claim full moral status. Yet the questions of how to show the proper respect to specific embryos should be addressed.

If parents or donors take offense at such destruction based on the symbolic value of life, it would be morally objectionable to force such destruction. By observing the Transitivity of Respect principle in this manner we do not lose the opportunity for ES cell research. One reason is that since other embryos will be available for use in ES cell research, the potential benefits of ES cell therapies are not necessarily foregone. Therefore, ES cell research may continue even though the symbolic value of life in some embryos will be protected by allowing for the respectful disposal of such embryos.

Within the Transitivity of Respect Principle, policy makers and philosophers alike should take into consideration the religious and traditionally held viewpoints of others towards these early embryos, but only where it is feasible or morally permissible to do so. In this case, I argue that it is morally impermissible to forgo the potential benefits to hundreds of millions of sentient, moral agents to whom we are obligated to seek the relief of pain and suffering.

The relative costs and benefits of such decisions were briefly outlined above. However, one may ask, based on the Transitivity of Respect Principle, why it is not feasible to not take certain actions supporting ES cell research. I believe there are numerous valid responses. First, we must recognizing that since ES cell research is not illegal in this country, it will continue in the private sector without significant legal or moral consequence.

Thus, from a practical perspective, reaching common ground on embryonic moral status is a central component to answering the question of whether to allow federal funding for ES cell research. The lack of such federal funds will 1 slow research advances by keeping universities and key research teams out of the process, 2 eliminate government NIH oversight which would provide regulation and monitoring ensuring that embryos, donors, and patients are given the respect they deserve, and 3 will slow the development of many clinical applications since private companies will only pursue those activities or products which will quickly produce products and profits.

Thus, accepting the application of the other multi-criterial principles as articulated above, this faster road to cure is necessarily more ethical based on our ability 1 to alleviate the death and suffering of more persons and 2 to more adequately protect the interests of those with full moral status. Opponents of ES cell research and particularly opponents of the creation of embryos for this research who take a deontological position, will likely suggest that it is wrong to use embryos as a mere means to our ends rather than as ends in themselves.

For example, using the multi-criterial approach, bricks may be used to build a house or a horse used to plow a field, but neither the bricks or the horse are instrumentalized.

Likewise, using the full application of the multi-criterial principles, early embryos may be used to advance ES cell research, but the early embryos are not instrumentalized. While I do not have sufficient space to address this concern completely, I will briefly mention a few responses. If we accept this potentiality distinction, we will have returned to the ill-fated debate of the evolving biological standards of potential which can be taken to extremes.

Orrin Hatch of Utah — who support embryonic stem cell research. But could you explain how the Judeo-Christian and Western moral ethic informs your views on this issue and why you think that God is ultimately on your side? My approach to this is not religious. That being said, those foundations are not utterly secular, and my understanding of them is not utterly secular.

I think that to believe in human equality you do have to have some sense of a transcendent standard by which to make that judgment. In other words, when we talk about equality, what do we mean? Equal in relation to what? Some people have certainly tried to make a purely secular liberal argument for human equality.

I think that this is really about whether we believe in a liberal society, which comes from a belief in human equality. Why do you think this has happened, and what do you think this trend indicates?

When you put the question in medical terms, you find, I think, somewhat larger majorities supporting it. In our poll, we asked the same people a series of questions that basically put the same issue in several different ways, and their responses are total opposites of one another.

To my mind, the aim of people such as myself has always been to find ways of doing the science without violating the ethics rather than to force a choice between the science and the ethics. It certainly has been done in some instances when the principle was more evident and more obvious — such as imposing limits on human subject research.

Again, the aim from my point of view — and from a lot of people on my side of this argument — has been to find ways to advance the science without violating the ethics.

That would begin to break up the practice of medicine and to affect our attitudes about science — which on the whole has done a tremendous amount of good for society. So I think what everybody should aim for is finding a way to end this potentially very damaging debate rather than force a choice.

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Stem cell research would deviate efforts from other health strategies

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Watch video · Embryonic stem cells offer hope for new therapies, but their use in research has been hotly debated. Presenting the issues, rationale and key ethical arguments.

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What are the arguments against stem cell research? Stem Cell Research I strongly oppose human cloning, as do most Americans. We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts, or creating life for our convenience.

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Apr 14,  · Good arguments can be made both for and against paying donors of research Human stem cell research raises some ethical issues that are beyond the mission of institutional review boards (IRBs) to protect human subjects, as well as the expertise of IRB members. Oberman M, Reijo Pera R, Wagner RM, Wuerth MT, . On the standard argument against HESC research, While it may take several years before researchers succeed in deriving gametes from human stem cells, the research holds much promise for basic science and clinical application. Holm, S., , “The Ethical Case Against Stem Cell Research,” Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics .

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Critics against stem cell research argued that the ethical issues of scientific work on aborted fetuses did not justify the possible benefits. "A life is a life and that should never be compromised. A fertilized egg should be valued as . Sep 05,  · The Case Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research: An Interview with Yuval Levin There has been some discussion that this advance makes the moral and ethical debate over embryonic stem cells moot. Do you think that’s an accurate assessment? And so, to my mind, the argument at the heart of the embryonic stem cell debate is the argument.