Ethical Analysis of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Every year millions of people suffer and eventually die from serious or largely incurable degenerative diseases of the nervous system (Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, and stroke), heart (myocardial infarction), liver (hepatitis), pancreas (diabetes) and other organs. Stem cell therapy could alleviate or possibly cure some of these diseases (McLaren, 2001). Embryonic Stem cells (ESCs) are cells found in a 200 cell, 5 day old embryo that has not yet developed into a fetus or any specialized cells. These stem cells have the potential to develop into any type of cell (Cornwell, 2006). Stem cells derived from embryos can potentially be used to replace existing damaged cells in humans. Because stem cells have not yet differentiated into specialized somatic cells such as skin cells, liver cells, muscle cells, and nerve cells they can possibly be used to develop treatments for degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, or help to repair damaged tissue from spinal cord injuries, heart-attacks, and strokes. Stem cells might be able to offer victims of heart attack new heart cells to replace damaged cardiac tissue, young individuals suffering from diabetes may be able to receive new insulin producing cells, and individuals whose nervous system has been damaged by disease or injury might be able to see or walk again (Green, 2001). The potential of these cells to replace dead or damaged cells in any tissue of the body may bring about a new field of medicine that leads to cures for diseases now thought to be incurable. Any new experimental medical treatment raises ethical issues for health care professionals and patients, but research on embryonic stem cells raises in addition the ethical conflict between the destruction research causes to embryos and the potential magnitude of benefits (McLaren, 2001). Embryonic stem cell... [continues]
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