While trying to fundraise and spread the word for the local MS Walk, my friend ran into some issues when attempting to make a speech at our school about it. Because I attended a Catholic school, they had issues concerning talking about stem cell research since it involves killing embryos in order to find cures for vicious and fatal diseases. This got me thinking of the ethics behind this. Is stem cell research ethical?
I was biased when this conflict arose because I had grown up watching my friend’s mom go through MS and for her to not be able to fundraise publicly at our school tore her apart. This begs another question: Is it ethical to kill a life to save another?
What is stem cell research?
The proper term, human embryonic stem cell (HESC) research is a breakthrough for modern medicine. It gives people with awful diseases hope for the future. HESCs are so wanted because they’re known for their ability to change into all different types of cells in the body. The goal for HESC research is to find out how the cells change and how we can turn the stem cells into certain types of cells that can cure and treat these life-threatening diseases and illnesses.
What diseases can HESC cure / treat?
Like all medical procedures this does have some potential harmful effects, but it’s nothing compared to the outcome of being treated and cured…
SOME of the diseases HESC can help include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Heart failure
- Spinal cord lesions
The reason HESC causes so much uproar is because in order to advance medicine, we must destroy innocent embryonic lives. These cells are made through in vitro and on the fifth day of development, they consist of 200-250 cells on the outer layer (trophoblast). The inner part of the cell, the blastocyst, contains 30-34 cells. In order to collect the stem cells, the removal of the trophoblast is key. When this is done, it kills the embryo, thus creating this ethical issue.
Recently, scientists have discovered adult human skin cells to mimic properties of the HESC which excludes the need for the stem cells. However, the current unanimity is to go ahead with the HSEC research because of the promise it holds.
Ethical or not so much?
I think the consensus honestly depends on your belief system of when a baby is alive. Is it at conception? Is it at the first breath? Once this is figured out I think people will come to a conclusion on ethics. However, as for science, this is breakthrough medicine and we cannot just brush it under the rug.