What Is Life and When Does It Begin?
“When does life begin?” this has been the most difficult question to answer for most individuals regarding Embryonic Stem Cells. Many believe life begins at conception, such as the Catholic Church, others feel something is not living until the life form is independently viable. Most don’t even know themselves what they consider to be life. One thing is for sure, not everyone feels the same.
The reason that this question is so import to the ethics of Embryonic Stem Cell Research is that in order to create them the destruction of an embryo is required. Who would have known that a few little cells smaller than a tip of a pin could cause so much controversy.
The main argument for people who don’t support the destruction of embryonic stem cell research is that life begins at conception and that an embryo has the potential for life and therefore should be respected as a human life. They say it is unethical to kill one life in order to potentially save another.
Supporters of Embryonic Stem Cell Research feel much differentially. Their first argument is that the embryos are created in a lab dish using an egg and somatic cell DNA and don’t have the potential for life because they type of embryo would not be able to survive development. They also argue that every day hundreds or thousands of embryos from IVF (In Virtro Fertilization) clinics around the world are discarded every day and that these embryos could be salvaged into something more useful than just medical waste.
Cloning has been another important topic of discussion. When a scientist takes an egg and places somatic DNA of a donor (or patient) into the egg and creates stem cells that egg is a clone of the donor. This is to ensure a 100% identical genetic match to the individual that needs the cells. Before that embryo is destroyed it is a genetic clone of the donor. Currently we don’t have the technology to allow this embryo to grow and develop into a viable life form; mainly because it’s illegal, but some worry this could cause problems in the future.
The stories of science fiction books and movies maybe tomorrows realities, every day technology advances. Scientists have actually been able to fully clone other life forms such as “Dolly” the cloned sheep. This certainly raises many ethical problems. Obviously creating fully cloned humans is not the intention of scientist today, but what if the technology to do so falls into the wrong hands and humans are grown to harvest organs? Should cloning all together be illegal, even if it is just in a lab dish to create cells? Or should it be allowed and just be regulated by the government? These are just a few ethical questions raised and that need to be considered.
How Long Are We Meant To Live?
In the Bronze Age era humans’ life expectancy was 18 years. In medieval times it was only 20-30 years. Today the United States average life expectancy is 83.5 years. Yes we have come a long way, with our life expectancy growing ever longer. With stem cell treatment and current medical technology we no longer are worrying about “How long will we live?” but now it is more of a question of “How long do we want to live?”
Jeanne Calment lived for 122 years and 164 days. Sounds like a good life right? Reality is that most people feel they wouldn’t want to live to be older than 90 years or so because the quality of life becomes so poor that it is not worth living for. They also feel that stem cell research would only add to this problem of making life longer.
On the other hand many supports of stem cell research argue that stem cells can help ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to reach their desired living age. They also argue that stem cells can not only increase the average quantity of life but also the quality of life of those older individuals. ( Whitney, Craig R. (1997-08-05). "Jeanne Calment, World's Elder, Dies at 122”)
What Are The Legal Rights Of The Donor?
Even if you do support stem cells, or if you don’t, you still must consider who the cells are coming from. If stem cells come into common practice we must be prepared to outline what the legal rights of the donor are. What if you and your spouse use IVF to conceive your child, do you want your extra embryos to be used for stem cell research? What if your baby was just born and you’re asked if you would like the Cord Stem Cells collected? How do you determine what will be best for you and what is best for the general public? It’s definitely not easy to do, but something that would be easier if there were some legal outlines as to what are your rights as a donor.
Cost vs. Benifit
“Is all this research really worth it?” This is a commonly asked question among skeptics of stem cell research. Billions of dollars are gone and all it seems we have is the assurance that we are just one step closer to the answer of all aliments. Some feel that this will never pay off. They don’t believe that we will ever cure anything with stem cells or it will be so costly that it won’t be logical. On the other hand scientists and supporters feel they are closer than ever, with the treatment of the worst sickness on their fingertips. Scientists insist that once a proper method of using stem cell therapy is developed that it can be mass replicated and in return cost will drop dramatically.
Another issue with this is that if stem cell therapies are developed it will be by private organizations. This is because there is currently no federal funding for stem cell research in the United States. This means that the technology will be in the hands of big corporations CEO’s and not doctors. So most likely the treatments will remain quiet costly to common individual. But then again can you blame them? They are the ones who spent these billions of dollars to develop the techniques, their only trying to make their money back. So what should the government do? Risk the money in trying to develop treatments or should they keep the money and keep taxes lower? One things for sure, no everyone will agree.