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Stem Cell Research

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The argument of whether stem cell research is right or wrong has been going on for fifty to sixty years. Lisa Sowle Cahill discusses some important issues and her views of stem cell research in her article Stem Cells: A Bioethical Balancing Act. Her main topic points touch base on stem cell researches importance, new The National Institutes of Health (N.I.H) rules, the pro-life protest, the specifics of an embryo and when it becomes a person, its commercialization, and lastly how it is an issue of social justice.

Cahill first goes on to discuss the medical reason of why stem cells are being researched. The reasons that she lists are that scientists have discovered that stem cells may be able to cure cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and spinal cord injuries. Stem cells can be used from any part of a person's body, but the ones from the embryos have proved to work the best. The way they work is that when they are given to a patient they start to act like new cells to replace the ones that are hurt or dead in the body. Stem cells from embryos that are very early in their fertilization are the best because they have not developed fully and can transform into any kind of tissue in the body. With this great discovery the question of if achieving good through evil is worth it or not. She goes on to explain the answer to this question is only in the eyes of the beholder. Some just only focus on the good of the act and downplay the loss of an embryo. Others believe we must protect the unborn and that just because it may save a life; it is also destroying one in the process.

Up until last summer embryo experimentation has been banned in the U.S. Since it is now allowed scientists are receiving donations from private companies to research embryos to find cures for diseases. Some new rules were set up for the N.I.H to follow for instance they were only permitted to "use frozen human embryos that were originally created in the course of infertility treatment for couples who no longer need them (Cahill pg 128 par. 2)", but the couples must give their consent to donate the embryo. Another rule is that the research has to be reviewed four times, once by researchers and three times by the N.I.H. Around the same time N.I.H. made their changes Britain allowed "therapeutic cloning" which is aiming to "facilitate the use of a medical patients own cell to produce a stem cell-providing embryo (Cahill pg. 128 par3)".

Cahill points out the views of pro-life supporters and Catholic leaders next. They see using stem cells has murdering "innocent" humans and morally wrong. The Catholic Church believes that they agree with trying to help the sick and ease their pain, but not at the cost of someone else's life. Pope John Paul II made it clear in a speech he once made that he supports finding out ways to save the sick as long as it meets the higher standard of "the integral good of the human person" and he says that the embryo classifies as a human.

The whole argument over whether or not stem cell research is right or wrong revolves around the question of is the embryo a person and this is the next point Cahill explains. Bioethics think that the embryo is not considered a person until after two weeks so using the embryo before then is not wrong. They say that the lining on the embryo cannot slip apart and form identical twins. The opposite view comes from the Catholic Church whose wishes are to protect the embryo from being destroyed. They believe that "as long as an embryo is a developing life with a human genetic code, it is a person despite its uncertain identity and prospects" (Cahill pg.130 par. 1). Cahill understands that both parties do not really having a common ground to agree on, the one thing that both should understand is that the embryo is a form of life in the begging stages.

Cahill then goes on to explain the commercialization of stem cell research. There is only one law that attempts to protect the embryo and that is the one that says it cannot be bought or sold, but what difference does that make if things like stem cells that come from the embryo can be sold. Cahill believes that the laws should not be "inflexible" and that if scientists have used their expertise to find a way to heal sickness then they are entitled to do so.

Her final point has to do with the issues of social justice. Cahill states that this includes everyone within the health care system. This cannot happen if the full focus is protecting the embryos freedoms and rights. She goes on to say that she does not know the embryos "moral status", but she does know that it is very important to its future for the public



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