Embryonic Stem Cell Research
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Over the course of the last several years, the government’s decision not to use federal funding to support embryonic stem cell research has promulgated a considerable amount of debate regarding the issues involved in embryonic stem cell research. While supporters of the movement argue that embryonic stem cell research could provide cures for debilitating, degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, opponents of the measure argue that the process of embryonic stem cell research serves as the basis to violate the sanctity of human life. With so much at stake—i.e. the possibility of cure for millions of individuals suffering with disabling conditions—there is an impetus to examine both sides of the issue to determine whether or not the government should uphold its current policy or remove barriers to embryonic stem cell research with the goal of improving the quality of life for millions of individuals.
Critically examining the central issues involved in the debate over embryonic stem cell research, it becomes clear that much of the debate against the process is similar to what has been espoused regarding the practice of abortion. Opponents assert that the use of embryos for the purpose of stem cell research serves as the basis to destroy the life of the embryo, an act that is not tolerable on an ethical level. Despite the fact that current abortion policy states that women can seek an abortion for a fetus that is up to 20 weeks gestation, embryonic stem cell research, which would take place in the second to fourth weeks of life for the fetus is considered unethical and inhumane. Clearly, the government’s policy with regard to both stem cell research and abortion creates a paradox.
While preserving human life is one issue that has served as the basis for opposing embryonic stem cell research, other authors have noted that fear over the potential for human cloning as a result of stem cell research has also fueled sentiment against the procedure. In short, many opponents are afraid that embryonic stem cell research will lead to human cloning, which will in turn create a quagmire of ethical issues with which society is ill equipped to handle.