Do stem cells save lives? This is a question that has yet to receive a clear answer, as the research is still in it’s infancy. Sure, there is anecdotal evidence of a person being “cured” by stem cells, but science has yet to reach the point where they can call a stem cell a cure for a disease. Will stem cells save lives if research is continued? No one can answer this question for sure either, but based on vast evidence from basic science, animals studies and limited human trials, it is very likely that stem cells will prove to be a cure for at least some of the diseases that currently have no good treatment. There are a myriad of cell loss diseases in humans that currently have no cure. Cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, burns, these are all diseases of cell loss with no cure. A few have treatments to help manage the disease, but with relatively limited success. Logically, if we have a disease caused by a loss of cells, how do we cure the disease without replacing those cells? Stems cells are likely the answer to how we can replace those missing cells.
Does stem cell research take lives? Well, this all depends on how one defines life. This will vary from person to person, and will probably be the eternal argument. If life begins at fertilization, then yes, stem cell research does take lives. However, if you agree with this statement, then in vitro fertilization clinics also take lives. These clinics generally fertilize more eggs than they plan on implanting into the expectant mother, because they must play the odds on how many fertilization’s will actually take. Embryonic stem cells are typically derived from embryos at four or five days post fertilization. The embryo is referred to as a blastocyst at this stage and consists of just two cell types, one that will become the placenta and one that will become the fetus. There are no organs at this point. No heart, no brain, the embryo is unable to survive on it’s own. I would argue that if the organism cannot survive on it’s own, then how can you take it’s life? It has no life yet.
The question of whether stem cell research is responsible for taking lives is a personal one. However, in this situation it must be weighed against the potential to save a life. Yes, it can be argued that scientists are taking the life of a potential child, but it is “life” that has yet to begin. It does not have a heart that beats, it cannot feel pain or think thoughts. Weigh this against saving the life of a living, breathing child with leukemia. Or allowing a person who has sustained a severe spinal cord injury to walk again, gain their independence back. Or save a six year old who has been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes from years of insulin shots and complications of the disease. How can we deny living, breathing human beings who are here on earth suffering from debilitating diseases the chance to live a long, happy, pain-free, independent life, in order to prevent the “death” of a embryo that hasn’t even experienced it’s first heartbeat?