Controversy Over Stem Cell Research Essay

A sound evaluation of stem cell research needs to take account of the likelihood of achieving its beneficial outcomes.In matters of science, and particularly, in areas that are newly developing and comparatively uncharted (such as embryonic stem cell research), it is sometimes difficult to settle on those probabilities with complete confidence.

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Crude as it may sound, responding to this problem calls for a moral calculationa decision about how the positive value of destructive embryo research is to be weighted, from a moral point of view, in comparison to the negative value (or disvalue) of destroying embryos.

Whatever way that calculation is done, it is important to get a clear idea of what moral weight each side of the equation has.

The possibility of destructive embryo research, particularly embryonic stem cell research, presents us with a moral problem because it appears to bring into tension two fundamental moral principles that we esteem very highly: one principle enjoins the prevention or alleviation of suffering, and the other enjoins us to respect the value of human life.

As noted, the harvesting and culturing of embryonic stem cells has considerable potential to bring about remarkable potential benefits in the way of alleviating debilitating medical conditions.

Needless to say, what the most ethically justified response is to this sort of question is far from obvious.

It is not immediately apparent, either, just what should count as the appropriate criteria for assessing possible responses to it.This description would be warranted by virtue of the biological uniqueness of these cells alonetheir ability to self-renew infinitely while retaining a remarkable capacity to differentiate into any form of cell tissue.But as well as this, the culturing of embryonic stem cells holds tremendous potential for the development of new forms of regenerative medicine to treat debilitating or fatal conditions that would not otherwise be curable.Or should we give more weight to the second, and prohibit destructive embryonic research because it violates respect for the value of the embryo as the very beginnings of a possible human life?This, at bottom, is the ethical problem generated by destructive embryo research.It results, in other words, in the expiration of the very beginnings of a possible human life.Issues about the value of life emerge here in perhaps their most stark and poignant form in the question of whether life for those already existing should be improved at the seeming expense of a possible human life that has just come into being.Embryos have Status as Human Beings or Persons Embryos have Status as Potential Persons Embryos have Status as Divine Creations Embryos are Harmed by their Destruction (Whatever their Moral Status) Embryos have Status as Human Life with Intrinsic Value Embryos have the Status of Mere Body Parts Embryos Created for Research Purposes?Endnotes The discovery, isolation, and culturing of human embryonic stem cells has been described as one of the most significant breakthroughs in biomedicine of the century.It is somewhat of an irony that the discovery of cells with such a tremendous potential for improving and prolonging our own lives, should bring with it some of the most trenchant and intractable questions about the value of life itself.The harvesting of embryonic stem cells results in the destruction of the embryos from which they are harvested.


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