Today, say that embryos have no moral status

Today,
stem cell research particularly embryonic stem cell has been one of the most
remarkable areas of medical research. Joshi et al. (2016) affirm that stem cell
research has opened up a fascinating branch of research with its ability to
divide throughout life, differentiate into many different types of specialized
cells and eventually cure a plethora of diseases, namely leukemia, diabetes and
Parkinson’s disease. According to Vittana (2017), more than 60 diseases and
over 6,000 patients have been treated with a treatment that maneuvers the use
of cord blood stem cell. However, stem cell research has been tainted with debate
and controversy since the discovery of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) in 1998
(Joshi et al., 2016). The advancement of hESC research has been slowed by not
only ethical issues but also legal and social controversy (Joshi et al., 2016).
It creates many questions which must be answered. Here, we strongly oppose
human embryonic stem cell research and we will discuss on our reasons of the
objection from various perspectives, and suggest a better approach to continue
stem cell research without involving hESC.

 

Patil
(2014) states that question of ethics and moral values arise as the process of
extracting stem cells destroys the embryos, and will eventually lead to the
destruction of potential human life. However, since embryos do not exhibit the
characteristics of personhood in their early development stage, Patil (2014)
believes that embryos are merely one of the parts of human body and they deserve
the respect for their unique values but not to the extent as a fully developed
person. In order for them to have moral status independently, Patil (2014)
outlines several properties which they need to acquire which are psychological,
physiological, emotional and intellectual properties. Therefore, under these
circumstances, embryos are believed can be used for research purpose. Arguably,
it is rather doubtful to say that embryos have no moral status at all and have
the same status as other body parts of a human. Although embryos do not possess
the important attributes of personhood in the very beginning of their existence,
they will somehow exhibit them if they are allowed to develop and fulfill their
potential as human beings (Euro Stem Cell, 2011). Thus, embryos deserve the
same respect and right, equivalently with an adult or a newborn child.

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United States National Library of
Medicine (NLM) (2009) states that, in 2001, the use of stem cell lines was
announced permissible by President Bush as long as they are derived from the
destroyed embryos, and not from the new ones. Embryonic stem cell lines are
pluripotent embryonic stem cells which are grown in cell culture for months and
remain undifferentiated (Mandal, 2013). Mandal (2013) also highlights that these
stem cell lines then will be able to differentiate into desired cell type. In
other words, they will behave and function like a normal hESC. However, there
are still unforeseeable benefit and risk in this research. Vittana (2017)
explains that if stem cell lines are derived from the existing embryonic stem
cells and do not belong to the patient, the possibility of the patient’s body
to reject them is high. What is more crucial is, although National Institutes
of Health (NIH) opposes the further destruction of human embryos for research
purpose, the question on the moral status of the destroyed embryos still lie
unresolved since the use of existing embryonic stem cell lines is still
allowed. Overall, the complicity in exploiting the destroyed embryos is an
immoral act.

 

There
is no doubt that embryonic stem cell research offers a valuable chance to study
more about diseases and how to develop the cures. In response to this
undeniable fact, NLM (2009) states that NIH has diligently supplied its funding
to stem cell research particularly
hESC research since 2001. However, as a public funder, NIH
is responsible to allocate its resources in a just manner. On top of this
issue, Dresser (2010) argues that embryonic stem cell-based treatment is
relatively an expensive treatment and not all people can afford it due to the economic
barrier. This, therefore, raises some questions; does hESC research is aiming
to help people all over the globe and does it deserves the funding from NIH? In
addition, since most of the researchers concentrate on wealthy nations and health
problems of people there, Dresser (2010) highlights another social injustice
issue. The issue is questioning whether NIH and US government have the desire
to improve the health of people in poor nations which continued to decline by
time or the research funding decision is influenced by congressional politics
(Dresser, 2010). As expressed, it is unfair to devote a lot of money to the
research while there are still so many people suffering from lack of access to
basic health care especially those who live in poor countries.

Human
Embryonic Stem Cell research is one of the most promising areas of medical
study but it is still at its infant stage (citation). Therefore, there might be
several unavoidable flaws which likely to occur such as rejection from the
patient’s body. Joshi et al. (2016) report that rejection rates for embryonic
stem cell therapies are likely to be high as stem cells which are derived from
embryos that are not patients own will trigger the activation of immune system and
in the end, body system will recognize the cells as foreign cells. Based on a recent
study, Vittana (2017) highlights another health problem that is possible to appear during the
treatment which is the development of tumors. Development of these tumors
happened as a result of the uncontrolled dividing process of embryonic stem
cells. Another research proves that the implementation of embryonic stem cell in
a treatment involving heart disease patients has led to the narrower of
coronary arteries (Joshi et al., 2016). Generally, the condition of the patient
became worsened and it subsequently leaves a negative impact on embryonic stem
cell treatment. Despite all the benefits hESC might contribute for a better health
care in the future, this therapy seems to have many drawbacks which makes it a
mediocre approach and a better approach is necessary.

Countries around the world have outlined
several restrictions on embryonic and fetal research as a response to the various
controversies over
stem cell research specifically embryonic stem cell research. Legislations
governing embryonic stem cells are diverse and vary across countries all over
the globe (National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 2016). According
to The New Atlantis (2012), in Italy, they imposed strict laws in regulating
embryonic stem cells research based on Law 40 which came into effect on March
10, 2004, and the law stated that both embryos research and research on human
embryos are banned including the use of embryos in determining the embryonic
cells lines. Italian law also provides penal provision ranging from ten to
twenty years for impermissible experimentation on embryos (The New Atlantis,
2012).  NCSL (2016) reports that under
South Dakota law enacted in 2000, it strictly prohibits the research on embryos
regardless of their sources. Furthermore, according to South Dakota law, the annihilation
of embryos to run non-therapeutic research is considered as a crime (NCSL,
2016). Hence, the formation and existence of effective legislation concerning
restriction on embryonic research demonstrates how harmful this experimentation
could be.

 

Indeed, looked at as a whole, it may not necessary to use embryonic stem
cells to pursue stem cell research. Adult stem cell, therefore, might be a
better choice. Salim (2015) asserts that adult stem cells have been used more
than 40 years as active agents for bone marrow transplantations to cure various
blood disorders such as leukemia, anemia, blood cancers and immune system
dysfunctions. Interestingly, a new approach called “induced pluripotent stem
cells ((iPSCs) has been introduced (Patil, 2014). Salim (2015) explains that a recent
research showed that adult stem cells can be reprogrammed to become induced
pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), cells that behave and in the meantime can
perform the same function as embryonic stem cells. Through iPCS reprogramming, any
types of cell tissues can be generated from adult stem cells (Vitanna, 2017). This includes the involvement of
reversing the differentiating cell signals to produced desired or specialized
cells (Joshi et al). Apart from that, Kirsten Riggan (2011) argues that direct
cell reprogramming can be implemented in biomedical field as it has a higher
percentage of success compare to human embryonic stem cell which is still at
its infancy. As expressed, iPSCs are produced in a more ethical way
without the destruction of human embryos compared to how embryonic stem cells
are derived. In general, it is proven that the use of iPSCs in stem cell
research can avoid technical challenges and social controversies.

In a nutshell, human embryonic stem
cells offer a better chance in treating malignancies diseases but inflict many
issues in term of moral, funding and in the establishment of law in the effectiveness
of the clinical application in the future. Stem cell research is advancing
beyond time despite all of the controversies it has faced. Thus, all parties including
policy-makers, ethicists, and researchers should think of the right way to
pursue this research without violating human subjects. Adult stem cell research
may be the best answer for this problem. Therefore, we should focus more on
this research to increase the effectiveness and efficiencies of the adult stem
cell application in future. 

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