Through the course of scientific research and development, there have always been two sides of the equation; those who support the advancement and those that criticize it. In this generation, one of the most heated debate subjects happen to be in the field of stem cells research. The scientific community and the conservative population are now in the brink of having a heated argument on the recognition of stem cell processing.
Stem cells are actual primal cells that are capable to renew themselves through mitotic division and can convert themselves into other forms of specialized cell types (Wikipedia, 2007). There are three basic categories for the stem cell process classification. These are the embryonic stem cells, the cord blood stem cells and the adult stem cells. The first type may be acquired through blastocycts, the second through the adult tissues which are difficult to remove and very limited (Robinson, 1998), and the last comes from the umbilical cord.
The scientific community has already presented some profound uses and benefits of the process of stem cell collection. For several years now, the main condition that is proposed by this sector is the total possible solutions for serious illnesses and diseases. The stem cells have the property to naturally heal an individual through the process of integrating a renewable material gathered from biological hosts.
According to scientific researches, stem cells can be used to regenerate lost or damaged tissues. They can act as renewal agents to form new healthy cells that will replace unusable biological tissues due to diseases. Because of the ability of stem cells to compensate for the lost cell quantities, they can readily repair the body of the patient without even introducing substances to hasten the process. The stem cell itself can be converted into the required tissue for repair.
The process of harvesting stem cells is not limited to “patching” for repairs. Scientists also have provided a more specific use of cultivating new body organs such as brain, heart and liver. This is the strongest factor why they have been very keen in developing further the stem cell research. People with serious illnesses can have the opportunity to acquire organs in replacement for their own damaged ones. The most promising attributes that the scientific community has presented is the use of stem cells to treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, spinal damages and even cancers (Abboud, 2002).
On the other side of the debate, there are sectors in the society, especially religious groups like Christians, which are very much against the process of using stem cells. The main concern for their argument lies on the belief that human life is sacred and therefore should be respected. The presentation of the academe in terms of using stem cells is very vague and concentrates only on the outright benefits of the project. However, they failed to address the ethical and moral concerns which most people deem to be the overall representation of the populations’ perception in life.
Stem cells use the technique of harvesting fresh and high quality cells from embryos and adult tissues. An embryo is recognized to be the perfect source of stem cells. However, once the stem cells are collected, there will be no chance for the embryo to survive and become a full human being. Religious sectors slam this aspect as it is already blasphemous to the very essence of life. The embryos will just be used for the sole purpose of collecting stem cells and will then just be disposed like a plastic bag after use.
On the other hand, for the adult tissue collection, stem cell reproduction is only possible when the exact match of the DNA source is cultivated to form an embryo. This embryo will be the host of the stem cells to be collected for the donor. Religious groups are against this process because it already constitutes the aspect of cloning.
The conservative sectors somehow support the creation of research developments of disease treatments for the benefit of the whole population. However, with the stem cell procedures, human life will become just a commodity to sustain medium term resolution for biological health problems. It would be ethical to use laboratory techniques to produce embryos for couples who cannot bear their own children, but the use of this technique to form embryos as products will not be justified anymore.
More of the controversial aspect of stem cell presented by religious groups is the abolishment of the right of a being to live. By collecting stem cells from an embryo, it will no longer have the chance to survive. This is nothing different than killing a human being or even abortion. For most conservative groups, embryos are already humans. They already have life. The Christian bible even says that human existence begins at conception (Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:4-5). Anything done to destroy the conceived life form is nothing but murder. Life being sacred should be preserved and respected and should not be used as a means to extend the life of another person. “Because research on embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of a living human being, it is against God’s will. No amount of promised “benefit” to society or to medical knowledge can justify the killing of a human for spare parts.” (Got Questions, 2002).
Contrary to the presented benefits of the scientific community, there are also disadvantages that may be classified in using stem cells. This has nothing to do with any ethical or religious philosophy but rather at the biological essence. Stem cells can cause cancers (Abboud, 2002). Embryonic stem cells are very versatile and can be differentiated to attach to another host. However, due to being foreign in origin, they can become malignant. This is one of the most important factors that researchers should address.
Yes, it is possible that the embryo to be cultivated comes from the donor itself but the same effect of rejection probability may be realized. Like cloning, there might be no 100% assurance that stem cells will work accordingly to the body structure even for its host to complete its usage. The same age and quality of the cells are very much dependent on the donor’s.
One more argument of the ethical groups is the real intention of the research communities that support stem cells. As with the same medical breakthroughs, it cannot be denied that these types of researches have a very strong lust for profit. The benefits may be recognized but the true intention of doing such may just crumble on the intention to earn money.
As of today, the debate is still ongoing whether to permit and legalize the use of stem cell harvesting. Of course, everybody would want to be healed and get cured of the diseases. However, there are still much more that needs to be considered if the “proper” procedure and the “right” goal of doing something would justify the true means.
The use of knowledge and expertise is always a great way to expand more beneficial horizons. Because of the development in the fields of medical and scientific breakthroughs, there is now a greater chance for each individual to have a healthy and happy life. However, there are still some limitations that one needs to consider before going one step further. The conditions set forth by the approval or non-approval of stem cell research will greatly depend on the very society that will implement it.