Phil for Humanity
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The Controversy over Stem Cell Research

There is a great deal of controversy concerning stem cell research, so I wanted to learn what all the hubbub was all about. Here is what I learned.

The human body consists of trillions of living cells. Almost each cell is a specialized cell, such as a skin cell, nerve cell, blood cell, brain cell, muscle cell, etc. A stem cell is an unspecialized cell that can be grown into any specialized cell. With stem cells, doctors and scientists are starting to learn how to repair and replace damaged, dead, and missing cells that would not normally heal or grow back. Hopefully one day, stem cell research will be able to re-grow any new organ or body part, and perhaps also undo the damage done by any disease and aging.

There are two types of stem cells. First, there are embryonic stem cells attained from blastocysts. A blastocyst is basically an egg after it has been fertilized yet before an embryo begins forming in the egg. Second, there are adult stem cells too. As the name implies, these adult stem cells are attained from developed organisms. Adult stem cells are not naturally as versatile or available as embryonic stem cells; therefore, they are currently not as useful for research.

The controversy over stem cells is from the destruction of fertilized human eggs when harvesting embryonic stem cells, therefore killing the human child that the egg could have developed into. Currently, scientists and researchers are only using embryos that are unwanted and would already not be given an opportunity to develop into a human being. For instance, infertility doctors typically create several embryos for women who are unable to naturally become pregnant, and then the doctor chooses the best fertilized egg to implant into the woman and disposes of all the remaining eggs. Instead of these embryonic eggs going to waste, they are sometimes used for stem cell research.

However, many conservative individuals, especially politicians, are trying to make embryonic stem cell research illegal, because they believe it kills human life. For instance, President Bush has already removed public funding from all embryonic stem cell research in the United States of America.

On the other hand, the use of adult stem cells is less controversial, because it does not kill human or potential human life. However, adult stem cell research is significantly behind embryonic stem cell research because of availability and versatility of adult stem cells. Fortunately, the United States government does provide some funding for adult stem cell research.

This leaves the morality of embryonic stem cell harvesting in question. The United States already allows abortions of embryos, yet the laws of the United States restrict the funding of research that destroys fertilized eggs before an embryo starts forming. Basically, the United States believes that embryos are not people to prevent abortions, yet the government gives preferential treatment to pre-embryos. In my opinion, if abortions are legal and morale, then embryonic stem cell research should also be legal, morale, and funded.

Furthermore, if these stem cells are going to be destroyed anyways, it is best to use them to possibly help save and improve lives. The benefits for supporting stem cell research far out way the moral ambiguity of the source of stem cells.

by Phil B.

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