One Life against Another
by C_aan0720 on February 12, 2015 - 8:41am
When it comes to issues concerning the sanctity of life, many conflicting opinions arise. Embryonic stem cell research, for instance, is not accepted by everyone. While some people believe that this type of research is necessary because it can lead to saving lives and alleviating suffering, others think that the use of embryonic stem cells does not respect human life.
Embryonic stem cell research is mostly useful for research on regenerative medicine and tissue replacement. It also permits scientists to study diseases as well as test toxicology. The use of embryonic stem cells, cells taken from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst, is more advantageous than using adult stem cells because they are pluripotent and can replicate endlessly. In fact, they can “grow into all derivatives of the three primary germ layers: ectoderm, endoderm and mesoderm” (“Embryonic Stem Cell”). The issue linked to this type of research comes from the fact that in order to isolate the inner cell mass, the blastocyst has to be destroyed. The blastocyst is the state that an embryo reaches four or five days after fertilization. With that, comes the question of the moral status of the embryo.
On one side, embryonic stem cell research gives us a chance to find and test remedies against diseases, but on the other side, it is destroying a potential human life. The teleological argument tells us that the ends justify the means. Whether an action is right or wrong depends on the context and on the end goal. The summum bonum in the utilitarianism perspective, a sub theory of the teleological theory, is the greater good of the community: “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness”. In the context of embryonic stem cell research, the greater good would be to continue the research, because it helps the greater number by saving lives and it takes in consideration moral sentiments, one of the higher pleasures. Indeed, knowing more about cell division and mutation opens up the possibility of perfecting new medication for illnesses such as cancer. Embryonic stem cells can even become a “source of replacement cells and tissues” (“Embryonic Stem Cell Research: an Ethical Dilemma”). Research benefits human beings now while embryos are potential human beings. Furthermore, the embryos taken for research come from either existing stem cell lines, spare embryos from fertility treatment or are made in labs. It is important to understand that an embryo has to be implanted in the uterus to develop into a child. An embryo itself has no human characteristic. To continue, “more than half of all fertilized eggs are lost due to natural causes” (“Stem Cell Basics”). There is also a time limit for keeping spare embryos. After that limit, they are destroyed. These spare embryos are given as donations from clinics with the consent of the donor since in vitro fertilization provides many embryos, but not all of them are used for implantation. In brief, a lot of the embryos would have been lost and would not have developed to become a person. Using them for research helps people while not really harming others. By doing this, the greater good is achieved for the greater number.
“Embryonic Stem Cell.” Science Daily, n.d. Web. 8 Feb 2015.
Hug, Kristina. “Embryonic Stem Cell Research: an Ethical Dilemma.” EuroStemCell. `March 2011. Web. 9 Feb 2015.
“Stem Cell Basics.” National Institute of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, April 2009. Web. 9 Feb 2015.