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- Embryonic Stem Cell Research research papers examine the governments decisions on this particular research and also examines the issues involved.
“Embryonic stem cell research will prolong life, ..
Biomedical sciences are progressing at staggering rate. This fact is no more evident than in the burgeoning field of stem cell research where therapeutic applications such as tissue and organ transplantation are being developed. These therapies have the potential to save millions of lives and greatly reduce human suffering. The ethical dilemma lies in the fact that much of the research requires the destruction of human embryos. Unfortunately, when faced with such choices, our standard ethical frameworks seem to demand opposing and intractable positions. The goal of this paper is to find a common ground from which we as a society may reasonably and faithfully deliberate about embryonic stem (ES) cell research. In the paper I will (1) identify and evaluate the main arguments both for and against this research, (2) explore the central question of moral status, (3) consider the application of Mary Anne Warren’s “multi-criterial” approach to the moral status of the embryo, and (4) offer some initial policy recommendations.
The main argument for ES cell research is that it will reduce human suffering and promote human well being, or the common good, by curing or eliminating many illnesses. The debilitating effects of such diseases as diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimers (to mention only a few) may potentially be eradicated through the therapeutic applications offered by ES cell research. ES cell research is touted by many to be the most probable and quickest way to attain these therapies due to the undifferentiated nature of the stem cells as well as the ability of ES cells to overcome immunological concerns. Thus, it is research with ES cells versus adult cells which should be pursued. Any harms caused by the destruction of human embryos will be outweighed by the goods attained in the relief of human suffering. However, social utility is not always a sufficient grounding to justify actions. Except for hard-line, classical utilitarians, most agree that there are some moral constraints on the promotion of the common good. Issues such as justice, human rights, or respect for persons often mitigate social utility.
Stem Cell Research Paper | Stem Cell | Embryonic Stem Cell
The embryo as property view, can only be held if no moral status is attributed to the embryo. The most obvious avenue to reaching this view is one that Singer or Hare might take within a preference satisfaction utilitarian framework. Here the claim would be that since the embryo has no preferences or interests, it has no claim to moral status. However, our common-sense tells us that there is something about the embryo which instills it with value. This is not to say we must resort to speciesism (following Singer, i.e., it is not the specifically human quality of the embryo that makes it worthy of some degree of protection), but that there seems some incongruity in dealing with human beings purely as if their rights were dependent upon a scientific account of their developmental stage (e.g., passing the eight cell stage, developing the primitive streak, etc.). In fact opponents of ES cell research draw our attention to our disposition to protect the vulnerable who may not yet have developed. The embryo seems both developing and vulnerable. Singer says it is not vulnerable because no harm can be done to it. But the harms many are concerned with are the harms to justice and human rights which a strict utilitarianism seems unable to account for. One of the greatest advantages of the account of moral status I plan to offer is its ability to take a fundamental preference satisfying ethical framework and still compensate for fundamental human rights.
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Within this debate on ES cell research, a great deal of time and energy is spent among scientists and philosophers debating the biological issues of the embryo such as numerical continutiy and many arguments are made both for and against designating the embryo as a person in the name of science. While I suggest that the issues which will aid our progression to consensus on this topic do not lie in biology, science can aid our normative attribution of moral status for the embryo. Some ES cell research proponents, including myself, use scientific information to suggest that it is appropriate to wait until at least fourteen days after conception to claim numerical continuity, since it is only then that totipotency has been lost. Additionally, it is only sometime after fourteen days from conception that the development of the primitive streak (which marks the development of neural receptors) signals the development of any potential for sentience. It is at this point of establishing identity and sentience (qualities we believe to be important on a developmental view of the embryo) that I suggest we should become more concerned with the embryo’s interests and rights. This is a position which I believe is tenable, but we should acknowledge that it is a normative decision we are making and not a scientific decision. Furthermore, if we are to hold such a position, we must be clear as to how sentience and its attainment effect our attributions of moral status. I will address these issues in the next section.