A Review of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ethics

Embryonic stem cells are embryos that are cultured in a laboratory through the process of in-vitro fertilization and are later developed into the necessary tissue / organ /organism by way of definite selection. A process of somatic stem cell culture of cells transferred into the embryo of a particular sheep gave rise to the very famous Dolly in 1997. It was in other words, a Clone.

One of the most significant breakthroughs in bio-medicine has been the discovery and culture of human embryonic stem cells. It has also led to the discovery that many diseases could possibly be cured by the transplant of the generated cells to replace damaged tissue, induce dopamine-rich neuron cell growth in cases like Parkinson’s Disease and to also aid in re-growth of lost cartilage and tissue as in Arthritis.

There are however two aspects of such an embryonic stem cell culture. A) cells may be developed for research and disease treatment and B) a child may be produced.

The irony of such discovery and bio-medical development has brought all, i.e., scientists, government and civilians to a crossroads; the ethics of human embryonic stem cells. In light of this, there are a few questions that were of prime importance and which are still being addressed.

1. Ethically, what in principle is the issue with destructive embryonic research?

2. What is it that the value of the human embryo exists in?

3. Does the way the embryo dies, is destroyed or succumbs to make a moral difference?

4. Where would we draw the line between cell research and human cloning?

5. Should the life of a developed living embryo be compromised to let a fully developed human being live?

6. What is the difference between a living cultured embryonic stem cell through the process of in-vitro fertilization for the purpose of research and a living embryo developed through the same process for childless parents?

Such are the questions that are raised by pro-life activists and speculators the world over. The proposed destructive embryonic stem cell culture presents us with severe moral issues that have to be seriously taken into consideration. The two possible scenarios of the results a) to alleviate suffering and b) respect and value life right from the earliest stage as in an embryo, glare in our faces. Ethically we are bound to value, respect and preserve life, and on the other hand, this breakthrough has brought hope for the suffering through medicine.

However strong a scientist or body of scientists may argue in favor of the need for embryonic stem cell research to alleviate suffering, cure diseases, repair defective and damaged tissue or alter birth defects, we should remember that:

1. The embryo represents life.

2. Destroying an embryo outside a womb is the same as abortion which is otherwise termed as Medical Termination of Pregnancy.

3. The embryo is a potential person

4. The living embryo is created in the image and likeness of God, although through human / artificial media.

5. Living embryos, when destroyed are subjects of harm and subjected to harm, morally speaking.

6. A living embryo is the first stage or the beginning of life that each of us have passed through.

7. Willful destruction of a human embryo is against the commandment, “You shall not kill.”