Last week South Korean doctors announced that they had successfully cloned a human embryo and had extracted stem cells from it to use in stem cell research. This scientific breakthrough sparked fierce debate across the world as to the pros, cons and implications of such a feat.
The vast medical potential that stem cell research promises is the strongest argument for supporting the continued cloning of human embryos for their stem cells. Stem cells taken from adults, although less morally questionable, are less likely to grow outside the body and are not as versatile as embryonic stem cells.
There is an overwhelming sentiment that medical scientists have an obligation to research the possibilities that stem cells hold, since the scientist’s job has always been to find cures for diseases and prolong lives that would be cut short due to disease. Stem cells present the greatest opportunity for medical advancement right now, so it is the medical researcher’s duty to explore them.
Scientists mean to use these cells to further the research into several diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. They hope that harvesting stem cells from embryos will allow them to replace diseased tissue with healthy tissue in those suffering from such ailments.
Finally, those who support the research into stem cells emphasize that responsible research, funded and controlled by the government, would have a much higher chance of reaping the best medical benefits from the research and avoiding the possible disaster of human cloning, to which the American public is strongly opposed.
Ultimately, some argue that to disregard the great medical potential stem cell research holds for saving millions of lives in itself could be considered wreckless and immoral.
Those who oppose stem cell research and human cloning do it on the grounds that the stem cells are the most fragile types of life in our society and deserve our protection to prevent them from being used as tools in research.
To those people, the stem cells are not cells lying in a Petri dish, but potential babies. Killing them by tearing them apart to be implanted in other bodies is immoral. Human life, no matter what form, has an innate value that prevents others from objectifying it.
The slippery slope argument contests that if stem cell research and cloning human embryos to harvest stem cells is allowed, this will lead to other medical advances that travel further and further down the moral scale. It raises the question that if human embryos can be created for medicinal purposes, why should they not be created for reproductive purposes? If cloning is deemed morally sound, then we’ll start asking if it’s all right to genetically engineer our children to have a certain color hair or a certain IQ. The list goes on, and the breakthrough the South Koreans made brought the entire world one step closer to this point.
The results of stem cell research and cloning have also been shown to be dangerous. The animals that have been cloned so far suffer from genetic defects. Stem cells implanted in the wrong area could cause seizures in patients. It is altogether too much of a risk, and too much of a cost to pay in life to consider these options.