Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stem Cell Research

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Derivation of Embryonic cells from early human embryos, Embryonic germ cells and fetal stem cells from aborted, fetal tissues raise ethical, legal, religious, financial and sociological questions. Further, the potential uses of stem cells for gathering human tissues or perhaps organs, is a subject of the ongoing public debate. In discussing weather stem cell placement does more harm than good, it is necessary to examine a number of arguments associated with the number of ramifications including the sacrilegious preservation of the fetus, umbilical chord, adult tissue and bone marrow. However these life-affirming options evidently acknowledge through research we are provided with positive ramifications of removing the impediments to aging, disease and cancer. Professor Van Zant states, “ it is possible to by life altering or replacing a stem cell to make them better at withstanding DNA damage.

In the face of extraordinary advances in the prevention diagnosis, and treatment of human diseases, diabetes, cancer and diseases of the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease, continue to deprive people of health, independence and well-being. Research in human developmental biology has led to the discovery of human stem cells, and adult. Recently, techniques have been developed for the in virtro culture of stem cells, providing unprecedented opportunities for studying and understanding human embryology. As a result scientists can now carry out experiments aimed at determining the mechanisms underlying the conversion of a single undifferentiated cell, the fertilized egg, into the different cells comprising the organs and tissues of the human body.

Although it is impossible to predict the outcomes, scientists and the public gain immense new knowledge in the biology of human development that will likely hold remarkable potential for therapies and cures. Opponents argue that it an immoral exploitation of living human matter, although one can deduce from the evidence that it is immoral for society to be ignorant towards the scientific research in which concludes a possible end to all ailments. Therefore would you save a loved one life or watch them pass over due to so call morals? AAAS and ICS concede that there is a variation of ethical, social, political and religious viewpoints are considered in discussions about the scientific use of tissue from the human embryos and ramifications of basic research in human stem cells. Therefore, it is important to promote continued dialogue among all segments of society concerning he implications of stem cell research.

I dont think we need a pause on the stem cell issue. Were not talking now about cloning for reproduction to create new human beings but were perhaps talking about cloning cells to produce more cells which are never going to be anything but cells to be used for research or to help people. In hopes they, get over those diseases like Parkinson’s dont think we should pause because if we pause we are delaying the prospects of the cures that we might get.

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So effectively were condemning people with those diseases to continue to suffer from them longer than they would if we were to go ahead. So thats not an issue that I think we have to pause on. But I do, share the view that there are a lot of new issues in ethics and they certainly need a lot of social discussion, a lot of social attention. I dont particularly think this is one of them.

But questions that I think were mentioned in our background about genetic selection, for example, about selecting your offspring to have concern characteristics or qualities, those are going to be very important issues in the next decade or two.

The issue of whether or not the government should fund stem cell research raises the question of just what is considered a person. The stem cells are gathered from the tissue of aborted fetuses and questions are raised by pro-life parties as to whether funding this research will cause an increase in the number of abortions and/or the social acceptability of the procedure, Siegal said.

The right-to-life parties argue that embryos have a human quality that should not be destroyed for research, Siegal said, but the view that an organism is a Homo Sapien does not necessarily imply person hood, according to the opposing viewpoint. In many cases the stem cells were obtained from embryos that would have been aborted anyway, but the argument of a slippery slope effect worries that if accepted, more abortions will be performed. Also, the pro-lifers argue that the women who feel ambivalent about having abortions will be more likely to go through with them, and it will become more socially acceptable. The Catholic Church also poses this argument, Siegal said.

Should taxpayers pay for research on embryonic stem cells? The answer offered, with evident sincerity, by President Bush is neither moral nor capable of practical limitation.

In its earliest days, the embryo is a living human composed of stem cells, each of which can develop into all or many of the more than 00 tissues in the human body. If stem cells are removed to a dish they can replenish themselves in lines, perhaps indefinitely. No moral problems arise in the use of stem cells derived from adults. But to obtain stem cells from a human embryo requires the removal of the inner cell mass which terminates the life of that embryo.

President Bush said We do not end some lives for the medical benefit of others. That life, including early life, is biologically human, genetically distinct and valuable. We can promote stem cell research without ... ethical abuses. First, we can encourage research on stem cells removed from sources other than embryos. Second, we can encourage research on embryonic stem cell lines that already exist. Therefore federal funding for research on existing stem cell lines will move forward; federal funding that sanctions or encourages the destruction of additional embryos will not. While it is unethical to end life in medical research, it is ethical to benefit from research where life and death decisions have already been made.

Bush approved funding on cell lines derived with the informed consent of donors, from excess embryos created solely for reproductive purposes and without any financial inducement to the donors. His policy differs from National Institutes of Health guidelines, issued in 000, only in that he would not fund research on lines created after his Aug. announcement.

You then realize that were the first generation of humans who have ever been able to alter that and we can alter it literally in nanoseconds.

The enormity of that power, I think well look back on it and say this is the greatest power we ever discovered because it goes to the very essence of ourselves and to the essence of life itself. And seeing weve only had that power for a couple of years, I think at least we can take some time, it doesnt have to be this week, that we decide on what the values are that we want to govern that.

Ethics say the right and wrong of destroying even unwanted embryos in order to do promising medical research depends on what you think those embryos are. If they have the moral status of persons, many argue, then they can not be treated as a means to even the most humanitarian end. If they are other then doing the research may seem the grater good.

The counter argument is that although stem cells are clearly not human beings, they are derived from human embryos that have the potential to become human beings. The Catholic Church, for instance, does not protest the use of stem cells as such, but rather the destruction of the host embryos that takes place in order to obtain them.

There is no easy legal response to this issue. If an embryo is a cell, or group of cells that by itself can develop into a whole human then the scientists and policy makers are murderers, no matter how altruistic their motivations. If you believe that an embryo is, at best, a mere potential life, then the practical use of embryos to defeat disease is the only moral and legal response.

On August th 00 President Bush announced that federally funded stem cell research could proceed, but it would be restricted to cell lines that are already established in laboratories. This is classic dancing on the head of a pin - yes, it rejects the use of stem cells created for the process of research, but it takes the practical view that those cell lines already in existence might as well be used. In other words, as we say in Australia, its having a bit each way. Bushs political solution is no solution at all, because it does not address the most basic dilemma that separates the two sides in this debate and opts instead for the comfort zone.

What is life? We all wish there was a simple definition, but in truth it is the most ambiguous term in the dictionary. For what its worth, this writer is impressed by Ronald Baileys argument. Although a one-week-old embryo is certainly alive on a cellular level, molecular biology now suggests that the capacity for life be contained not only within an embryo, but also within adult cells. If that is so it means that the potential for life will no longer be a sufficient argument to sustain the protection of the law. After all, we daily slough-off skin cells in the shower. And though it is no simple solution, it seems preferable to afford legal protection to those already alive and suffering from diseases that can be alleviated by the use of embryonic research.

The ethical dilemma arises because the easiest source of these cells is the human embryo. The proposed guidelines would allow the use of aborted tissue and surplus embryos from in vitro (test-tube) fertility clinics. They would not allow researchers to start embryos for research purposes. The question as to whether such research should be allowed touches on the more fundamental question as to when a human life begins. This question is one of both science and metaphysics. Unfortunately, it seems to have been decided on purely political grounds with the victory of the pro-choice movement. They are, for obvious reasons, unable to admit that there might be a living being before birth.

In the Buddhist view of human life, the mind is not seen as reducible to matter, but the two are seen as separate and mutually supporting. The teaching of the Dependent Origination describes in detail how existence occurs and it is noteworthy that consciousness is described as the cause of body-and-mind. In regard to the issues we are considering here, we could say that the development of the physical form of the embryo is in some sense guided by the consciousness which is present from conception.

This idea may not be so far-fetched. Science has a very good and detailed explanation of how DNA controls protein synthesis, but the mechanism that governs formation of specific organs from undifferentiated stem cells is still largely a mystery. The radical biologist Rupert Sheldrake has suggested that there is some kind of non-material field that controls this process, which would be another name for Mind in the Buddhist sense. The Buddhist scriptures define the beginning of life as the moment when three elements come together, the seed of the father, the blood of the mother in her time, and the consciousness-seeking rebirth. The difficulty in the case of stem cell research, for a Buddhist, then becomes a matter of defining conception. Is an embryo begun outside of a human womb really a complete being? We would have to know the unknowable to answer that.

If ethical guidelines are devised entirely from the materialist viewpoint, backed up by the abortion lobby, these questions will not even be considered. On the other hand, there are strong reasons to be careful about a ban as well. Stem cell research does hold out considerable promise to relieve what has hitherto been incurable suffering and Buddhists should first and foremost be for anything that relieves human suffering.

In this case, however, there may be a middle way. As mentioned at the outset, embryos are not the only source of stem cells. Research on stem-cells derived from adult tissue avoids all the ethical dilemmas, and may even be medically superior for immunological reasons. (see Weekly Standard for March 6, 001.) If our society took seriously the human dignity of the unborn, we would have a strong moral incentive to investigate this option more vigorously. It may just be possible to cure people without destroying any embryos at all.

Ethics claim that the right and wrong of destroying even an unwanted embryos in order to do promising medical research depends on what you think those embryos are (perspectives, religious views, 000, p1).For example, if embryos have the moral status of persons they cannot be treated as a means to even the most humanitarian end. If, on the other hand, they are not reviewed as “future persons” then doing the research may seem the greater good, (perspectives, 000, p1).

The Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran church in the US and Australia oppose the research as “immoral, illegal and unnecessary, whilst the prespatorian church approves of such research when the goals are “compelling and unreachable by other means” (perspectives, 000, p). Nevertheless, many Roman catholic leaders are cautiously tolerent of stem cell research if it is done within the 15 day window of embryonic life before implantation would occur in addition, orthodox Jewish congregations state categorically that “an isolated fertilized egg does not enjoy the full status of presented”. (Perspectives religious views, 001,p).

The (roman) Catholics doctrine is really a philosophical question rather than a purely religious one. It’s based on the idea that if you have individual lives you automatically have a person. Even the church has admitted that they cannot argue this “for sure” but prefer to “give” the embryo the benefit of the doubt. (Perspectives, 000, p4). Obviously, it is already problematic to future and ovum outside the body because of the maternal relationship from the context. Using discarded embryos is a lot different from specifically creating embryos for research.

Stem cell research is both ethical and justified, as the goals are compelling and unreachable by other means, as they provide positive outcomes in curing life’s imperfections.

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