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Stem Cell Research - Promise & Peril

Far more explosive than the nuclear bomb issue, the stem-cell research dilemma will leave you groping for a stand. If you say "yes", you are essentially supporting the use of embryonic stem-cells for the possible cure of many diseases, regardless of the questionable means. Those opposing argue that research on embryonic stem cells involves the destruction of some human beings for the so-called benefit of others. For the Stem-cell debate to join the all-time classroom classics, viz; capital punishment vs life imprisonment and working vs stay-at-home moms, we need to first understand what the brouhaha is all about. We invite your questions and comments.

The History
Prior to 1998, the only stem cells available to researchers were derived from non-human sources. In 1998, stem cells of human origin were derived for the first time, from both human embryos and human fetal tissue. This landmark research opened the door to new scientific studies and possible therapeutic applications.

What is an embryo?
We all begin as the union of one egg and one sperm, and somehow the cells in the resulting embryo are correctly triggered to become skin, muscle, nerve or any of the varied cells that make up the human body.

Why is it so important?
Scientists believe that embryonic stem cells offer the promise of spectacular treatments and cures for some of humanity's most serious chronic diseases. The stem cells can be nurtured into any cell in the body and researchers say that new, healthy cells can be injected into patients to correct such disorders as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord paralysis and damage from heart attack.

Rationale behind President Bush's decision
President Bush gave the go-ahead for US federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, but limited it to existing stem-cell lines. "As I thought through this issue I kept returning to two fundamental questions," he said in the speech. "First, are these frozen embryos human life and therefore something precious to be protected? And second, if they're going to be destroyed anyway, shouldn't they be used for a greater good, for research that has the potential to save and improve other lives?" Essentially a middle ground between those who want as much stem-cell research as possible and those opposed to any research that destroys human embryos.

Why is no one happy?
Those who say that the embryos should not have been destroyed in the first place are still offended . And from the scientific point of view, it is not enough cell lines.

Human cloning and stem-cell research - two sides of a coin?
Human cloning may soon become an accepted means of producing human embryonic stem cells for use in medical therapies.

End justifies means?
By definition, research on embryonic stem cells involves the destruction of some human beings for the so-called benefit of others. Therapeutic cloning goes one step further and entails the deliberate creation-as well as the sacrifice-of human embryos for the alleged good of others. It treats human life as a commodity to be manufactured when needed and destroyed when desired to achieve some "greater" purpose.

Moral dilemma
Does the embryo have the same rights as other humans? Is potential lost when a human embryo, cloned or not, is torn apart to supply stem cells for the benefit of another?


We invite your questions and comments.
Sources : http://www.bioethix.org http://www.cihr.ca


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