On March 2009, President Barack Obama reversed President Bush’s policy prohibiting the use of federal funds for stem cell research, and allowing federal taxpayer dollars to fund significantly broader research on embryonic stem cells. But should federal funds support stem cell research?
According to the HSCI (Harvard Stem Cell Institute), “stem cells are cells that can both self-renew (make more stem cells by cell division) and differentiate into mature, specialized cells such as blood cells, nerve cells, muscle cells, etc.” While adult stem cells usually develop into the same type of cell as the tissue they reside in, embryonic stem cells are thought by most scientists and researchers to hold potential cures for cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, heart conditions, and many other rare immune system and genetic disorders as they can be coaxed into becoming a variety of other types of cells.
Moreover, over 100 million Americans suffer from diseases that eventually may be treated more effectively or even cured with embryonic stem cell therapy. Some researchers regard this as the greatest potential for the alleviation of human suffering since the advent of antibiotics. Also, many pro-lifers believe that the proper moral and religious course of action is to save existing life through embryonic stem cell therapy as human stem cells can also be used to test new drugs – instead of testing in humans – and in medical treatments that now require organ donors; solving the “donors problem” (the need for organ donors currently outweighs the available supply).
However, despite all the advantages and possibilities that embryonic stem cell research can provide, there are still some people that are against such innovation. They believe that life begins at conception, and that destruction of this pre-born life is morally unacceptable – it is immoral to destroy a few-days-old human embryo, even to save or reduce suffering in existing human life. They argue that insufficient attention has been given to explore the potential of adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood for stem cell research, which have already been used to successfully cure many diseases. Moreover, it is a fact that no cures have yet been produced by embryonic stem cell therapy.
At every step of the embryonic stem cell therapy process, decisions are made by scientists, researchers, medical professionals and women who donate eggs; decisions that they believe to be fraught with serious ethical and moral implications. Those against embryonic stem cell research argue that funding should be used to greatly expand adult stem research, to circumvent the many moral issues involving the use of human embryos.
In conclusion, although President Obama’s directive is a great step in stem cell research, there will always be controversy surrounding the development of embryonic stem cells. Fortunately, numerous successes have been linked to stem cells obtained from non-controversial sources, including cord blood and adult menstrual stem cells. Since the first cord blood stem cell transplant in 1988, an estimated 10,000 cord blood transplants have been made worldwide. Stem cells from cord blood have recently been used for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy, leukemia, and severe combined immune deficiency, for example. In my opinion, whatever your personal view may be about the stem cell debate, there is indisputable evidence that stem cells save lives.
According to President Obama, when US’ interests and values are at stake, they have a responsibility to act. Libya’s dictator, Qaddafi, was not only denying people freedom, but also started to attack his people: he destroyed cities, killed, arrested and murdered Libyan people and left them with no water, food or health care. Moreover, even American people (journalists, tourists etc) were suffering. Libya was in the middle of a humanitarian crisis: those people…