Controversy over stem cells

One of the most hotly debated issues in the country today is the controversy over stem cells and how they should be used, if at all, to help cure a number of diseases. The issue, without fail, incites a wide array of beliefs within an issue that includes such important elements. It is believed by many researchers that the use of embryonic stem cells can help cure Parkinson’s disease and other common and crippling diseases of the brain and spine. Many researchers point out the fact, on both sides of the issue, that such assumptions have not been proven since actual research on the issue has been limited by both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. Even though there are two very distinct sides of the issue, regardless of how one believes, there should be a great deal of empathy for those on the other side of the fence. If a person’s family member was suffering from a debilitating disease, he would want everything to be done to cure his loved one and to better their life. The concerned family member would do all that he could in order to alleviate the pain and perhaps even return the loved one to a physical state similar to before the individual was even struck with the ailment. In the same way that the parents of a sick child will mortgage their house and gladly go tens of thousands of dollars in debt if it only increases the hope of their sick child being cured, so too are the same level of emotions when the grown up children of an individual is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and cannot even recognize their own offspring or one who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, is forced to be confirmed to a prison that is their own body. This is understandable and if put in the same position, I would find myself doing much of the same in order to help save the lives of my loved ones and would not fault anyone for doing much of the same. However, in the end, there exists, despite the recent message of humanism and relativism which is further choking this country, absolute morals and values which used to be the foundation of this country. That is why, after much thought, I have changed my mind as to the morality of using human stem cells in order to treat diseases. It has forced me to reassess my belief on the death penalty as well and other issues that deal with the premature ending of life. A human stem cell, according to all of the major religions which encourage absolute morality is a human life and needs to be given the chance to live.

Before one should make up their minds on such an important and controversial issue, a better knowledge of the issues surrounding stem cell research is needed.  Many people, I believe, would change their minds of they were well informed about the issues and circumstances that surrounded such an important issue. It is unclear as to how they would then lean, but at least they would be more informed.  When more people in this country can name members of the Seven Dwarfs over the number of Supreme Court Justices or when 37% of Americans do not know what century that American Civil War took place, ignorance of the most common facts in many social and politicians issues, when it comes to the American public, is a foregone and accurate conclusion which often times leads to unwise decisions.

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“Stem cells are cells that are able to change into specialized cell types but are also able to renew and be revived through future cell division.”[1] This means that stem cells can multiple into healthy cells according to where they are placed in the body. Many diseases are caused by a breakdown of the important and healthy cells which are relied upon in order to further the function of a certain part of the body. Successful stem cell implementation helps to grow healthy cells in order to take the place of the cells which had been destroyed by the disease. Stem cells are different in the fact that they have the potential to form into a wide array of different cells.  As a universal socket wrench is built to fit all sizes of bolts and therefore their appeal with mechanics rises exponentially, so too does stem cells which can bond to and multiple into a wide variety of cells which are needed to combat the symptoms of a number of diseases that affect the heart, brain, spinal cord and skeletal muscles. What is now being learned and which gives hope to people on both sides of the issue is that: “adult stem cells, or cells which cannot grow into a human, can be guided towards cell types such as fat, bone, muscle, blood vessels, nerve and even brain and liver cells.”[2] This occurs while the mother is pregnant with her child and the extraction of these cells do not harm the baby in any way, nor does it destroy stem cells which could ever become a human life. This, according to Dr. Alinoui of the University of Chicago: “if give the proper funding from the government, will be the miracle drug of the century.”[3]

All of the above mentioned promises the results of a miracle drug and the wonders of modern science. Also, most people, regardless of a lack of formal training in the scientific field can see that the above mentioned seems to be too good to be true. Sadly, it is for those who feel that there currently exists, regardless as to what any government should say, sanctity to innocent human life. In order to complete this research as well as the implementation of the human stem cell, the stem cell, which if given the chance would turn into a human being, would have to be killed or as some prefer to apply the euphemistic term to this procedure: the destroying or discarding of the unused stem cells.

Also, another important issue to juggle is the research which states that much of the wonders of stem cell research have been overestimated. In November of 2005, Princeton University President and geneticist Shirley Tilghman stated: “Some of the public pronouncements in the field of stem cell research comes close to over promising at best and delusional fantasizing at its worst.”[4] This adds fuel to the fire as there still is a severe shortage of research which states that stem cell research will actually work as promised. What further prevents the pro life movement from casting their vote in support of stem cell research is the fear that in doing so, a Pandora box will be opened at the same time. If the government consents to the destruction of the human embryo in order to conduct stem cell research and it doesn’t work, will the scientific community cease and desist their use of human stem cells in future experiments? It seems highly unlikely that the scientific community would quit and submit to the religious community even for an instance. Also, will those scientists who want to experiment on cloning, be emboldened by their recent victory over the religious community, to therefore seek to achieve cloning as well? When on moral wall starts to crack, the hole only gets bigger and bigger through the constant pressure from amoral members of our society who are only motivated by their own fallible senses.

It is important, even for the young, to make decisions concerning important issues such as this. Hopefully, science will be successful in finding alternative ways in which to use stem cells which are located in the inner fluid of the placenta as well as in the umbilical cord. Science is promising to try and the Bush administration has allotted the funds to complete the research, to see if all sides of the issue can be satisfied. However, until that time comes, people need to know what side of the issue they are on and once all of the data has been encompassed, a decision which they are willing to stick to in the event that they might be forced to make the decision. Despite the fact that I am against the destroying of human stem cells fore medical purposes, I have a great deal of empathy for those who have been encouraging Congress to override the President’s veto concerning research for stem cells. Usually, this is not the case for me. I have caught myself allowing my emotions to override civility when discussing an important issue with somebody who I disagree with. Insults and rude words sometimes follow and I have been working on containing such disgust in such issues. However, when I come to the conclusion that the destroying of human stem cells is morally wrong, I still feel a great deal of empathy for those who feel otherwise since I too, have lost loved ones who have not died quickly and suddenly in their sleep but who have wasted away to only a skeleton of their former vigorous self. It is a very painful thing to witness so I know where they care coming from. Many times, one forms an opinion based on ignorance or a superior moral high horse who seek to pass judgment on not just the action but on the person as well. This is not only morally wrong, but is extremely counterproductive for an open dialogue as well.

I have been pro life since I became aware that people in America had the right to stop a human heart from beating simply because their pregnancy was of an inconvenience to them. It is hard to contemplate such an action which is completely avoidable in its very nature. My politics have been shaped by such beliefs. The issue of stem cell research is a relatively new one and another example in which science compels an open dialogue concerning the role of morality and science in 21st century America. Many people believe that a human being should only be protected when that person exists outside of the mother’s womb and the facts that the fetus can react through facial expressions as to whether or not he likes the food that his mother is digesting, has fingers, toes, repositions himself more than a hundred times a day and some researchers have concluded that he is able to feel pain during the last trimester, does not matter. The belief that a fetus should be protected has not only been self evident to me for at least a decade but is backed up by every major religion in the world. Wisdom from the Bible, Torah and Qu’ran which had lasted for thousands of years and which more than 60% of the world who subscribe to, all deal with absolute truths and the fact that what was wrong yesterday is still wrong today.[5] This is in direct conflict with America’s morality. In a politically correct country, we have become a blameless society as a shrinking number of people say that they believe in absolute morals anymore. All too often, an individual’s morals change with the situation that they find themselves in. This is not passing judgment on the world because I have been guilty of this as well. I have lied, cheated and stolen when it was convenient for me to do so. However, it did not change the fact that what I was doing, regardless of the lack of consequences, was wrong and something which would behoove me if I avoided in the future.

However, the key factor which those who believe that the destruction of a human embryo is justified fail to realize that what is convenient is not always right. I lied to my parents as a child because I didn’t want to get caught and punished for something that I had done. Many times, I was not found out and avoided the punishment all together. The situation  would then shift in my favor as I avoided a grounding and a lecture from my parents. However, this did not make my actions right. Speeding is not right. It is against the law and endangers everyone else on the road.  When I was younger, my driving attracted more than a number of speeding tickets. I would rationalize my speeding my saying that the drivers on the road were too slow, I would have been late for a meeting or I was just not a patient person. All of the aforementioned excuses were true but it still did not justify the fact that I was speeding. Now, in comparison to the debate over the destruction of human stem cells, speeding or lying to my parents as a child might seem insignificant. Also, it might be except for the underlining issues of morality which exist in all three situations.

Those who believe that the premature ending of a life, do not have to cite the previously mentioned characteristics a baby who is inside his mother’s womb. He does not have to see pictures of the growth of a baby within his mother’s womb and that by the third trimester, the baby looks very human. He does not have to know the baby feels pain when his brains are being pulled out through his nose during a late term abortion or that the mother is forever scarred, emotionally and many times, physically after such a barbaric procedure. Many who believe that abortions, when it is occurs from irresponsible life choices and therefore is avoidable, should be called murder, cite all of the aforementioned facts, not to convince themselves, but to try to convince others who have failed to have that gut reaction that something is simply wrong. This is the majority of the reactions from people who believe that abortion; the ending of a human fetus and the destruction of stem cells is murder and is morally wrong. Ask a child or somebody who has yet to be subjected to the political correctness of our blameless society what they felt about the destruction of a fetus or a stem cell. Many, unaware that by believing in an absolute moral value, one possesses a contrasting opinion which is “close minded” and “old fashioned” and therefore not valid, would say that there is something wrong with the destruction of human life in all of its forms. Despite being ignorant of the fact that at least 60% of the American public are in favor of retaining the 1973 Supreme Court Decision of Roe vs. Wade, not including the woman who first brought the suit.[6] They would just know it to be wrong.

This issue has forced me to reexamine my own beliefs on other issues of life in this world. I used to be a strong supported of the death penalty. One who kills a child and then gets to sit in jail and watch cable television and to lead as inactive a life as they probably did before they committed the crime, seems like no punishment at all. Also, with most states feeling that chain gangs are against the 8th amendment of the Bill of Rights which forbade cruel and unusual punishment even though millions of people in America and billions across the world complete such hard tasks as part of their job, it seems unlikely that there exists a suitable punishment for those who kill little children other than the death penalty. Also, there are dozens of verses in the Bible which support capital punishment as well as dozens which people read as saying that forgiveness of the crime and the person also leads to absolution of the death penalty. To error on the side of caution, I recognize the paradox that exists when one is against the destruction of stem cells but is in favor of the death penalty.

However, there has been some research which has promised that such debates, which have been bought on by science, will be put to rest by science as well and one more controversial issue can be taken off America’s ever growing partisan and divided nation. This comes from the belief by some of the nation’s leading scientists that stem cells which derive from the liquid in the placenta and in the umbilical cord contain much of the same ability to help cure the diseases which scientists currently believe embryonic stem cells promise to accomplish. In President Bush’s recent veto of additional research being used for stem cell research, he allotted for an increase in the money which is to go to research in finding alternative means which accomplish the same goal. There is much promise in this newest change to the debate and if possible, people can have the same hope that they had with the previous practices of research in human stem cells without any opposition from the political right and the religious. Instead of two sides fighting one another, they will now be in union together and the money and resources can then be pooled together. More time, money and effort can be used, which was previously used against one another, to be in league for a common cause; the betterment of the quality of human life.

This is what we all as human being should be encouraged to accomplish. Human life is the most important thing which a person can own, yet is one of the most popular things under assault in this world. Wars, natural disasters, abortions and now the destruction of human stem cells all account for millions of deaths a year. Science has contributed to much of the aforementioned. Now it is time for science to take one of these off the table and with added resources from the Bush administration, perhaps the latter of the four horrific impediments on the happiness of the human race, will be used for good while protecting the life of the unborn. In hindsight, a society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable of its population. The unborn, without a voice and without the means to protect itself, should be a priority on that list.