Ethical dilemma is a conflict that arises between two possible actions where one is considered to be sufficiently favorable, and another unfavorable; it can also be defined as a conflict between two ethical principles that tend to balance with each other. Bioethics is a study that considers the moral and ethical side of the controversial issues or advancements in the medical and biological fields. It is concerned with questions that arise between science and philosophy. The dilemmas arise when the credibility of the scientific approach to answering some life phenomenon are questioned.
This essay studies the use of the stem cells in researches and medical treatment, focusing on the bioethical dilemma of creation, treatment, and destruction of the embryos of human species. The essay will study the background, history, and different points of view on the embryo’s stem cells researches, and will present a conclusion whether carrying of such projects is ethical or immoral.
The stem cells were first discovered in 1978, and since then, a lot of researches had been carried out to study the qualities of these cells, and the possibility to use them in medical treatment. Since the stem cells were discovered to develop into any cell, they open new possibilities in the development of new medical remedies for treating different health conditions. Some of the conditions treated with the use of the stem cells that have tested this application are; treatment of physical trauma, genetic diseases and degenerative conditions. Many other treatments, where the stem cells are used, could potentially be developed in the future due to its ability to repair serious tissue damages (Klimanskaya 252). High level of breakthrough has been shown through research involving the use of adult stem cells. The first human clinical trial was approved in 2009 when the stem cells of an embryo were used.
The research on human embryonic stem cell has brought about controversies associated with human life and humanity, taking into account human ethics and the need to bring a solution to certain life phenomenon. With the use of current biomedical technology, the creation of the embryonic stem cell for human species requires destruction of the human embryo. The debate on stem cell has led to the emergence of movements that are concerned about the rights and the status of the embryo to be a human being since the very moment of conception. These movements view stem cell researches to be a violation of the sanctity of the human life. In fact, it is rather arguable that this process can be tantamount to murder (Panicola 236).
The argument of those who are opposed to carrying out the stem cell research is that human life should not be violated; this is paralleled with their strong belief that human life begins at the point when the female ovum is fertilized by the male sperm cell, and when they form the first single cell.
On the other hand, a portion of the stem cell researchers make use of stem cells that were created, however, were not used in the invitro fertility treatment, in order to create more stem cells. A majority of these embryos are destroyed or stored for a long time, for a time longer than the viable storage time. Approximately, around 400000 of such embryos have been in existence. This move has given some activists who oppose abortion to rally on support of the human embryonic stem cell research (Jackson 262). Medical researchers largely agree that the stem cell research is potentially able to alter the approach dramatically, understanding and treatment of diseases. Most medical researchers predict that, in the future, it will be possible to make use of technologies obtained from the stem cell researches, to treat a wide range of diseases and medical impairments. Some of the condition, for which this technology has been championed, includes injuries of the spinal cord and Parkinson’s disease. These have been championed by Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox, who have suffered from these illnesses. The medical benefits that have been foreseen from the stem cell research have prompted the urgency of the debate on this very matter, which has been requested by those who support this technology.
Taking into consideration today’s situation in the USA, the National Institutes of Health Guidelines (NIH) gave a statement that the research on the human pluripotent stem cells were going to come up with treatment for many serious diseases and injuries, like Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, multiple sclerosis among many others. The NIH strongly asserts that the potential of stem cell research to come up with the necessary treatments is pursuit worthy of its course. This, they say, will be done with certain ethical standards.
Indeed, in the year 2006, some stem cell researchers were able to obtain stem cells from a mouse embryo without destroying the embryo. If an improvement is done to this technique and its reliability is boosted, then this can be extremely important and can help in providing an answer to the ethical concerns as far as embryonic stem cell research is concerned (Jackson 262).
Another technique that was aired in 2007 by the US and Japan is the method of programming the skin to produce stem cells by the introduction of artificial viruses. The process of obtaining stem cells from the embryos is more complex, and, therefore, with the introduction of this new technique will be much cheaper. However, the method may alter the DNA structure in the newly formed cells leading to cancerous tissues. Therefore, more research will be carried out to study a risk of creating cancerous cell is taken.
Currently there have been clinical trials researching the stem cell usage. They focused on oral lithium or neurological function on the person’s suffering from serious injury of the spinal cord. This has generated its usage from the fact that umbilical blood stem cells may be beneficial for spinal cord injury while lithium may foster regeneration and healing of the spinal cord in case of the spinal cord injury (Panicola 236).
It is argued that embryos are not viable human beings at the time when they are still not able to survive outside the womb. A large number of zygotes do not implant after conception; thus, it would be a waste not to put them into use. Some believe that the embryo are not human beings and that the life of Homo sapiens commence when the heart begin to beat. The embryonic stem cells multiply rapidly and thus only a few are put into useful use, without which many will not be put into any useful application.
Adult stem cells from the same patient’s own body may not be able to cure him/her of his/her genetic disorders, and a transplant from another healthy person may be more viable. Abnormalities of the patient’s DNA caused by toxins and sunlight may not be suitable for treatment of the impairments (Lanza 276).
In the United States in 1973, a case in the Supreme Court concluded that due to inviability of the fetuses when they were not yet able to survive outside the womb, abortion was not a crime if performed for the sake of a woman’s health.
Many questions arise concerning the stem cell research, and application of its results in the medical field. Julian Savulescu put forward several arguments. He claimed that this process is liable to abuse. It does not respect a person’s right to individuality and autonomy. It approves eugenic selection instead. He goes to illustrating the advantages of stem cell research but lays an emphasis on control. His main reason is that if this practice goes on unchecked then someone will be playing God’s role, which is against all moral standards.
In the recent past, a debate of whether to legalize abortion or not has been extremely loud between the world governments and religious leaders. While it is considered to be a crime in accordance to religious settings, some governments have moved to legalize it giving reasons, such as protecting the mother in dire cases. The dilemma here is whether to allow the fetus or the mother to suffer. Some doctors in the past have been in between tough situations of whether to help abort a young girl who still wants to go to school or save her fetus.
Cloning also did not get down well with religion, which believed that creation was solely vested in God’s hands; and, therefore, using science to do an almost equal work would be more of blasphemy. Science, on the other side, did not hesitate to prove their point. Indeed, the controversy becomes vivid when people consider such cases. Both cases may be holding viable arguments but to whom to give the winning point depends on certain country, community or person.
The religious groups do not consent to stem cell researches; their main argument is that it is an immoral act to kill an innocent human creature even if the same is done to help others. The act of using the stem cells differs fundamentally from the doctrine of the Christian church (Bernstein 18). Islam, however, mostly supports some forms of the stem cell research. The Islam knowledge and its tradition of not accepting surrogate motherhood or adoption of embryo prove that Quran supports the stem cell research.
It is rather vivid that advancement in the medical field has led to many questions on whether to accept some things that are brought about in life treatment or not. Stem cell bioethical dilemma is, indeed, a controversy that can still be debated widely. To my mind, the potential of the stem cells use in the medical treatment is crucial, as it can help in curing people of the fatal diseases; however, the process should be put under control, as the extensive and deliberate researches can cause serious problems for the society and safety of people.