Stem cells research offers the scientific world an excellent opportunity to understand the mechanisms of human development and differentiation. With this understanding, scientists believe they will have a key to developing cures for illnesses such as diabetes, spinal cord injuries and debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (Lo & Parham, 2009). However, with all these promises, the field of stem cells research has brought forth a fierce debate that borders on morals and ethics. People’s beliefs about right and wrong have made opponents to this field of science denounce it vehemently as unacceptable. The practices go against the grain of moral and ethical principles and must be stopped to prevent further erosion of ethics (Knowles, 2010). However, proponents of stem cell research argue from the premises of its benefits to humanity. It will help develop cures for diseases and improve the quality of life. Politicians have also been drawn into this debate. Most of the politicians fight through legislations that either advance the field of stem cell research or destroy it (Lo & Parham, 2009). Therefore, this paper seeks to analyze this debate and dissect the different ethical issues regarding stem cell research. Moreover, this paper will examine the legislations on stem cell research and how they encourage the advancement of or prevent the progress of stem cell research.
Ethical Issues on stem cell research
Stem cell research offers hope for the advancement of the understanding of human development and differentiation. The field will help scientists develop drugs that will cure diseases that are currently considered incurable. In this respect, the quality of life will improve, and the cost of health care will come down considerably (Lo & Parham, 2009). However, questions arise on the methods used by scientists to arrive at the desired destination. Tests have to be done, and this is where the problem lies. The methods used by scientists in advancing stem cell goals raise sharp ethical and political controversies. The use of pluripotent stem cells lines that have been obtained from embryos and oocytes presents several disputes that border on the start of life and human reproduction (Lo & Parham, 2009). The field of embryonic stem cell research has elicited uproar in many corners of the society, especially among people that oppose abortion and pro-life activists. Embryonic stem cell research requires the use of pluripotent stem cells obtained from five to seven-day-old blastocyst, which involves the destruction of embryos (Knowles, 2010). The destruction of embryos has caused a fierce debate regarding the beginning and sanctity of life. These discussions are also linked to abortion. Opponents of stem cell research argue that the use of embryos in research is morally wrong as it denies the embryo the right to life. Religious people also claim that it violates the sanctity of life because it results in the death of the embryo, which is a living thing whose life must be protected. According to Lo and Parham (2009), an embryo has the potential of becoming a human being (Lo & Parham, 2009). Given the right conditions, an embryo could implant itself and develop into a fetus that is born as a baby nine months later. Killing the embryo in the name of science is unethical: it is murder and robs the embryo of the right to live.
Furthermore, the field of Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) has elicited ethical concerns. The area offers the promise of personalized autologous stem cell transplantation (NCB, 2000). In this respect, a patient’s genes are extracted and used to develop stem cell lines that help in the development of personalized therapies. The technique produced the famous Dolly the sheep (Lo & Parham, 2009). It entails transferring nuclear DNA from a donor cell into the oocyte from which the nuclear was obtained. Creating human SCNT has been controversial. In this line, people object to the creation of embryos with the intention of using them in research and