Friday, February 8, 2013
Stem Cell Technology and its Impact on Society
Article Link: This was published as a paper called 'The Ethics And Politics of Stem Cell Research' and its link is http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447568/
Response: Stem cell research, one of the most intriguing issues in medicine today, continuously makes ethical and political controversies with new developments. To begin this blog, I would like to describe stem cells and its types in brief. Then, the blog would focus on the controversies surrounding the stem cell research followed by my final thoughts. The International Society for Stem Cell Research, a non-profit organization that promotes stem cell education and research defines stem cells as the most basic cells for every body part, from tissues to organs. The most well known stem cells are embryonic stem (ES) cells. These cells are among the first elements present in the development of a human being. The second type of stem cell is called a fetal stem cell. Researchers take these stem cells from aborted fetuses, embryos of about 7-8 weeks of development. Adult stem cells (ASCs) are found in adults. They produce new cells to replace old ones, such as blood, liver and nerve cells.
As we have seen, stem cells can be embryonic, fetal, or adult. The ethical debate surrounding stem cell research relates only to embryonic stem cell research. The major argument proposed by opponents of embryonic stem cell research is that they categorize it as immoral, unethical and illegal. There is much incongruity among the major world religions as to the morality of destroying an embryo in the name of science. As for the proponents of embryonic stem cell research, the article puts it succinctly as 'Those who argue in favor of stem cell research fall into two categories. In the first are those who feel that they must refute the arguments of those who oppose stem cell research. They fail to take into account that their opponents’ argument depends on the definition of when life begins, a sacred text that yields no truth because it is potentially “unknowable.” The second group chooses to reframe the question in terms of benefit. The criticism of this argument is the moral relativism of choice between helping many at the expense of a few.'
Overall, the one point I would like to bring everyone's attention to is the fact that the use of stem cells in the treatment of numerous conditions and diseases gives hopes where there was none before. The goal of all medical efforts is to endeavor to relieve human woe while doing no harm. If scientists can use adult stem cells in spite of the complications involved, these cells may provide an ethical alternative (at least a path of least resistance) to embryonic stem cells.
There is a fine line between utilizing technology to help cure and prevent disease and that of using it for selfish purposes. Hence, it is imperious for legislature dealing with stem cell research to remain current with the ever-evolving technology.
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