Stem cell research is one of the most controversial topics in the world today. Some claim that is has the capacity to cure diseases which effect and debilitate millions of people, and that it can even perform seemingly miraculous cures on people who have suffered spinal injuries. Others argue that the research itself should be considered to be entirely unethical and that therefore it should be discontinued. This paper will argue that stem cell research should be continued and that it should be funded by the government. Any question as to the moral implications of the research can be countered by thinking about the benefits that it will bring. It can also be argued that, even if these moral questions were entirely valid, they should not be the concern of an essentially secular government.
It is undoubted that stem cell research has led to major break throughs in the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s which effect millions of people in the USA every year. The act of injecting stem cells into the brains of people suffering from these degenerative disorders has been proven to enable them to heal whereas their case would previously have been helpless. (Denworth, 2014.) The research has also been proven to provide the hope of curing those who have suffered severe spinal trauma and who have been told that they may never be able to walk again. (SCF. 2014) Already, results from early tests and trials have shown that there is a huge amount of untapped potential in stem cell research and the more tests are carried out the more this seems to be irrefutably the case.
The major moral argument against the research concerns the fact that stem cells are often extracted from human embryos. The use of embryos in scientific experimentation is controversial for the same reason as abortion. Many people believe that a human embryo, or indeed and biological tissue which has the supposed potential to develop into a human being should be treated as if it possesses what can be termed moral agency and therefore a ‘right to life.’ As such, experimenting on stem cells derived from embryos would be as equivalently wrong as conducting fatal experiments on human beings who were fully developed. It seems that this is clearly an absurd argument if one view it in this light. It is clear that an embryo is not a human being. However, it is possible to argue that this controversy in itself is not what actually lies behind government hesitancy when it comes to committing to the funding of stem cell research. In 2011, one reporter noted that; ‘Nearly all of the Republican presidential candidates would put the brakes on President Obama’s effort to broaden federal spending on embryonic stem cell research, a move many scientists feel would jeopardize the future of the field.’ (Boston Globe, 2011.) This hesitancy, however, does not reflect the views of the general American public, as the same article states that over 55% of them are in favour of continuing and increasing the degree of stem cell research being carried out. Rather, the concern of politicians is connected to fear over fundamentalist opinions and ‘swing states’ which may lead to one party getting into power or not. The only way to solve this problem would be a cross party consensus on stem cell funding that would mean that, regardless of which party was voted for, stem cell research would continue to be funded. While this would not solve what some claim to be immorality of the research, it would show that this is essentially a political rather than a moral problem and would treat it accordingly.
In conclusion, this paper has argued that stem cell research should be continued, increased and funded by the government. It has argued this because the research has been proven to be successful and because, rather than representing serious moral problems, it is possible to show that political controversies over stem cell research have more to do with vote winning than with moral philosophy. The only possible political solution to this would be universal funding for stem cell research. Therefore it should be continued and funded.
- “Most in GOP Field Would Scale Back Stem Cell Research Funding.” Boston Globe. 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2011/08/07/most_gop_candidates_oppose_stem_cell_funding. Web.
- “I Will Walk Again.” 2014. Stem Cell Research Facts. Retrieved from http://www.stemcellresearchfacts.org/i-will-walk-again. Web.
- Denworth, Lydia. “Stem Cell Therapy Could Transform Parkinson’s.” Scientific American. 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/stem-cell-therapy-could-transform-parkinsons/