Stem Cell Research: A Moral Dilemma?

March 11th, 2009

Embryonic Stem Cell ResearchOn Monday, President Obama lifted the federal limits on embryonic stem cell research. In a nation of wildly varying opinions, this comes with both strong support and passionate opposition.

What is Stem Cell Research?

Embryonic stem cells are unique cells that can develop into any type of specialized cell that exists in the human body. It’s believed that these cells can be used to reverse significant damage and serious disease, and this is why it’s such a hot research topic. For example, stem cells could be used to replace dead muscle tissue in a heart attack victim or repair spinal tissue and give someone who’s paralyzed another chance to walk.

Some of the serious conditions that stem cell research is intended to address include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. As such, the dramatic life changing potential of this research is quite obvious. However, despite this potential, the use of human embryos and the concept of regenerating human tissue is too morally unsettling for some people to support it.

The Moral Dilemma

To some, stem cell research is a naive attempt by humans to “play god.” I typically don’t like the idea of science attempting to outsmart nature, but how can you refuse a paralyzed accident victim the possibility of being able to walk again?

One of the major moral conflicts is the use of embryos. Because they must be destroyed for the research, and because they represent the earliest stage of human life, many consider their use to be unacceptable. However, millions of people are using fertility clinics and having embryos created in a lab. If it’s acceptable to create them in a test tube, freeze them, and discard them if unused, then why isn’t it acceptable to use them for revolutionary research?

Another significant moral concern is that embryonic stem cell research will lead to forms of human cloning. This is definitely a frightening topic, and in my opinion, is inviting science to become arrogant and lose respect for nature. Perhaps cloning an entire human organ can save lives, but where do you draw the line? While that’s a difficult question for society to deal with, I don’t think the potential of stem cell research should go unrecognized based on the possibility of it being misused. Besides, those who have influence and want to experiment with cloning will find ways to do it regardless of it’s legality.

Perhaps a better compromise is needed that will allow embryonic stem cell research to advance, but will limit the potential of it being used for questionable purposes. I don’t know what that would be, but I feel that disallowing it completely would be a poor choice.

Lifestyle will Always Matter Most

With or without the advancement of embryonic stem cell research, the foundation of good health will always be a healthy lifestyle. Many of the conditions that embryonic stem cell research is predicted to reverse are often a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. As such, I fear that advances in stem cell research will make people feel as if they can get away with these unhealthy choices. I think it will reduce fear of disease and lessen the incentive for people to live healthier lives, and this could have a negative impact on all of us.

Perhaps stem cell research will create more trouble than it’s worth. However, I can’t help thinking about accident victims who’d miss out on the chance to walk again and others who are suffering severely from no fault of their own. It’s these victims of misfortune more so than those suffering from their own doing that inspire me to support embryonic stem cell research. I just hope it will be used wisely and responsibly.

Replace What You Take Away

When depriving someone of something they value, it’s only fair to replace it with something comparable. The opponents of embryonic stem cell research are looking to deprive some very unfortunate people of a precious opportunity. Instead of merely opposing embryonic stem cell research and shattering the hopes of these people, I suggest that opponents of stem cell research give back by advocating the healthier lifestyle habits that will greatly reduce the incidence of the diseases that the research aims to reverse. By doing so, you just may end up saving your own life as well!

What do You Think?

What are your thoughts on embryonic stem cell research, and what do you think of President Obama’s decision to lift federal limits?

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