Stem Cell Research vs. Morality
On October 4, 2004, with his wife by his side, actor Christopher Reeve died of heart failure because of complications due to a spinal cord injury. Christopher Reeve believed strongly in stem cell research, and he knew that one day he would walk again, but it was not to be. If it came down to saving the life of a loved one, would people consider morality, or would he or she go against their religious convictions or moral beliefs to save a life? This is a very difficult question that many would have a tough time answering, and this paper will attempt to make answering this question easier. Stem cell research is seen as a potential life-saving breakthrough; however, it is being hindered by some religious groups who say it is immoral. Stem cells offer a possible cure for a number of illnesses like leukemia and other various forms of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and pulmonary disease, just to name a few. The study of stem cells has become a very popular alternative, which many people see as their only chance for survival. However, morality issues raised by religious groups are an ongoing hurdle concerning the advancement of this technology. The majority of Americans are in favor of stem cell research; however, there are those who are not, based on their religious convictions and moral beliefs. As it pertains to embryonic stem cells, many Americans see research on embryos as morally wrong, and that embryonic research should not be performed for any reason. These Americans also believe that the destruction of an embryo is ending a human life because life for them begins at conception. Before looking at the social issues of the human stem cell, it is important to understand what a stem cell is, where it comes from, its uses, etc. “Adult stem cells are located in tissues throughout the body and they function as a reservoir to replace damaged or aging cells” (Jama and Archives Journals, 2008, para. 1). There are three primary sources for acquiring these cells: the embryo, umbilical cord, and adults. The methods in which stem cells are taken from an adult are as follows: by taking it from bone marrow, the blood stream, and various other systems. The bone marrow is seen as a treasure-trove for stem cells, but during the procedure some of the bone marrow is destroyed and this causes significant pain. Stem cells’ being extracted from the blood stream is accomplished without harm to the bones, but this method is more time consuming. Moreover, when it comes to issues of health, time is often valuable so the latter process is typically not an option. When extracting stem cells from various other systems, the cells are not considered versatile and they can typically only be used for the area in which the cells are being extracted (i.e. lung for a lung, liver for a liver, etc.). Although the process for extracting these stem cells is challenging because they are removed from the body of the patient, they are far superior to the embryonic or umbilical cord stem cells. They are abundant, the DNA match is always exact (the immune system never rejects cells), and the results have been promising. The second source for finding stem cells is in the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord, which offers a wealth of stem cells, also offers a perfect DNA match for families who have made plans for the future. Cells from the umbilical cord are removed after the child is born and are then deposited cryogenically in appropriate holding facilities. They can be held in an animated state indefinitely for the child’s lifetime, and they can use it if an emergency should ever arise. The cord cells also can be used by the baby’s siblings and parents, plus anyone else compatible; however, the further the relationship between the two becomes, there is a higher probability that the antibodies of the immune system will reject the cells. This type of...
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