Monday, March 16, 2009

Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

I had to write a short essay for my public high school Biology class.



Scientists largely agree that stem cells may hold a key to the treatment, and even cure, of many serious medical conditions. But while the use of adult stem cells is widely accepted, many religious groups and others oppose stem cell research involving the use and destruction of human embryos.

Their reasoning can be summed up by the fact that, once an egg is fertilized, it will develop into a fully-developed human. This opinion is often related to religious doctrines which state that conception is the beginning of human life (or the presence of a soul).

Based upon this reasoning, the argument against embryonic stem cell research is that human life is valuable and should not be voluntarily destroyed. It has been argued that "the line at which an embryo becomes a human life remains unclear". It doesn’t matter. If we don’t know when the exact time is when a soul enters the embryo, then why even risk it. That isn’t left up to humans to decide.

No hope for a 'greater good' can erase or diminish the wrong of directly taking innocent human lives. In fact, policies diminishing the respect for human life can only endanger the patients that stem-cell research offers to help. The same ethics that justify taking some lives to help the patient with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease today can be used to sacrifice that very patient tomorrow.

Anecdotal appeals to one’s emotion do not nullify the reality of Truth. If life is sacred and is to be preserved, then personal stories cannot change the reality. Our individual perception of what is “truth” might change based on our life experiences. Truth, however, does not change. It would certainly be painful to witness a loved one suffering from a debilitating illness. But, this pain does not change what ultimately is right or wrong.

Eventually, each of us will die, but that gives no one a right to kill us. Our society does not permit lethal experiments on terminally ill patients or condemned prisoners on the pretext that they will soon die anyway. Likewise, the fact that an embryonic human being is at risk of being abandoned by his or her parents gives no individual or government a right to directly kill that human being in the first place.

The use of adult stem cells and umbilical-cord blood have been shown to offer "a better way" to produce cells that can benefit patients suffering from heart disease, corneal damage, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis and many other diseases.

There is no moral objection to research and therapy of this kind, when it involves no harm to human beings at any stage of development and is conducted with appropriate informed consent. Until the time in which scientists discover how to allow embryos to give consent for their own stem cells to be used, politics cannot condone this form of human destruction.