Stem cell research controversy and debate: pros and cons. Stem cells from human embryos may help save lives but pose ethical problems. Find out more and join the discussion.
Embryonic stem cell research controversy
Technology and scientific progress becomes sometimes controversial. In 1998 scientists discovered a technique to extract stem cells from human embryos. These cells, also known as human embryonic stem (hES) cells, have great potential to cure diseases. However this discovery also created great controversy, in particular amongst religious and conservative. Many pointed to the moral and ethical problems of the creation, use and destruction of human embryos in the process. Stem cell research clashed with their religious beliefs. The Islamic and Jewish communities did not in principle oppose stem cell reseach, however most Christian Churches, including the Catholic Church have strongly criticized the use of embryos for research purposes.
Numerous difficult questions have been raised:
- When does human life begin?
- Can a human embryo be considered a human life and have rights?
- Should the destruction of an embryo for research purposes be considered a criminal offence?
- Could clones of patients be created simply to cure them?
In 2006 scientists made another remarkable discovery: how to stimulate patients own cells to behave like human embryonic stem cells. These cells, also known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, have opened the possibility to explore many cures for diseases and replace to a great extent the utilization of hES cells. However, many experts recommend to continue doing research on hES, for control purposes and because it is not certain which one will be most useful in cell replacement therapies.
The legislation on embryonic stem cell reseach is not homogeneous. In the EU, the regulation of stem cell research varies widely. Some countries, such as Belgium, Britain, Denmark, and Sweden, allow it, while others, such as Austria, Germany, Italy, and Ireland, consider it an illegal practice. In the US the George W. Bush administration imposed strict conditions to stem cell research, but President Obama lifted the federal funding ban for stem cell research. New Zealand, most of Africa and South America are very restrictive concerning stem cell research. On the other hand, China, Japan, India, and Israel are supportive. However, even in the countries where embryonic stem cell research is legal and supported by the authorities, human cloning and the creation of embryos solely for research purposes is banned.
Stem cell research pros and cons
In order to decide whether our governments should support and fund this type of investigation it is important to consider the pros and cons of stem cell research:
- Stem cell research could help find the cure for many diseases including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, some cancers, and spinal cord injuries.
- This research could help erradicate many genetic disorders and diseases.
- It could produce treatments for many diseases and injuries, such as spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, etc. So although patients may not be cure in all cases, their living conditions may improve.
- Scientists can test many drugs without the use of human or animal test subjects.
- Limbs and organs could be created in labs from stem cells for transplants.
- Scientists, through stem cell research, can learn about human development and prevention treatments.
- Some experts think that traditional methods can be often more effective than those using embryonic stem cell.
- No definite cures have been found from human embryonic stem cell research yet.
- Stem cell research is very expensive and it divert resources from other projects.
- Stem cells are prespecialized, so they cannot be used to generate all type of cells.
- The destruction of embryonic stem cells for research is considered morally questionable because it prevents the development of a human life.
Do you think there should be more support and funds available for scientist to pursue embryonic stem cell research? Should they promote other research agendas? Why?
If you change your mind, you can change your vote simply by clicking on another option.
Should governments support embryonic stem cell research?
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