In 1996, the United States Congress adopted the Dickey-Wicker Amendment which prohibits the federal government from funding “research in which a human emryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.” Despite the induction of the amendment, in 1998 James Thompson of the University of Wisconsin released information showing that he had used cells from human embryos, which were then discarded, to devise stem cells, cells that are the initial undeveloped form of all human cells and can therefore be used to replace any damaged, diseased or disabled cell. Upon the release of Thompson’s studies involving stem-cells and the subsequent destruction of human embryos the United States media, health care system and government have been enraptured in a contentious debate over the use of stem-cells and their research.
While many individuals, entities and governments are currently involved in a discussion about the ethical use of stem-cells, rather for or against, it is important to understand that not all stem-cell research is considered unethical. The distinction between ethically performing stem-cell research and unethically performing stem-cell research derives from the source of the cell. In human embryonic stem-cells (hESCs), the cells are pluripotent, meaning the cells are undeveloped and can develop into any type of cell. The other type of stem-cell is known as a differentiated “adult” stem-cell, which is already formed into a specific type of cell, but still represents potential for the growth and reproduction of new cells. In the use of hESCs, the embryos are destroyed due to the extraction of stem-cells, which, by pro-life supporters, is viewed as an unethical destruction of human life akin to murder. The efforts of the opponents of stem-cell research are focused on ending federal funding for stem-cell research. In the words of Steven Aden of the Alliance Defense Fund, an opponent of using hESCs for research, “Americans should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments, and violate federal law. In these tough economic times, it makes no sense for the federal government to use taxpayer money for this illegal and unethical purpose.” Proponents of hESC research and development are in favor of using the cells in order to cure many of the diseases that science and medicine has struggled to contain and eliminate in the past. Essentially, scientists and doctors can use hESCs to create new cells from scratch, creating new organs for individuals whose are failing or to replace cells that are damaged or destroyed. David Green, the president of Harvard Bioscience says, “The big conceptual breakthrough is that we can move from transplanting organs to manufacturing them.” Using such concepts, stem-cells have to date been used to strengthen the heart after a heart attack, grow replacement teeth, implant a new trachea for cancer patients and restore the blood of those suffering from leukemia. Since the introduction of the stem-cell debate into the public, the issue of hESC research has been both supported and barred by the American government, showing the differences of opinion that government policy-makers and their constituents hold on the ethics of using hESCs. In 2001, President George W. Bush placed a ban on the use of federal money to develop new lines of stem-cell research, except the 21 “lines” of cells that had already been developed. Under the guidelines established by Bush, it was not illegal to use or conduct research and procedures involving hESC, but all efforts had to be conducted by private companies and corporations.
When Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, took office, he quickly reversed the federal guidelines on hESC research and development, allowing the use of federal funds to support the use of hESCs. Despite the edict from the President many still did not support the use...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document