The Debate over Embryotic Stem Cell Research
Stem cell research sparks a heated debate in both the medical and political world. Scientists derive stem cells from embryos or adult cells. The medical community already uses adult stem cells in bone marrow transplants, some cancers, certain auto immune diseases, blood conditions, metabolic disorders, and countless other conditions (Guthrie, 2003, p. 64). Research involving adult stem cells is currently federally funded and not a major topic of debate. The center of the stem cell controversy circles around the use of embryotic stem cells for research. The debate begins with the ethics of using these cells because researchers destroy the embryo after extraction of the needed cells.
The main argument the group supporting embryotic research defends is that researching stem cells from an embryo can bring a cure to diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Senator Tom Harkin, of Iowa, supports such research. In an article in The Congressional Digest, he states “where there cannot be new life, there can be new hope – new hope for thousands of Americans suffering from horrible and debilitating disease that withers the mind and the body and robs us of our loved ones” (Harkin, 2001, p. 236). The support of this cause bases itself on hope that a cure may be found in these cells. Dr. Lana Skirboll states that the embryotic stem cells have extraordinary capabilities in the sense that these cells “can develop into almost all of the body’s many cell types” (Harkin, 2001, p. 244). She continues to argue that adult stem cells also have these same qualities, but embryotic stem cells have a better chance of developing into more specialized cells. The argument stresses that because it is not conclusive what cell therapy is more promising; the door should be left open to explore both areas of research.
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