Ethical Aspects in Stem Cell Research


Stem cells are found in organisms that are multi-cellular. They are able to renew themselves through cell division called mitotic and differentiating into specialized types of cells. Stem cell research grew from the findings by Ernest who is Canadian scientist and James Till in 1960s. The mammalian stem cells are adult stem cells found in tissues of adults and embryonic stem cells found in blast cysts. In developing embryo, there is differentiation of stem cells into embryonic tissues which are specialized. Progenitor cells and stem cells in adults serve as body’s repair system, replenish specialized cells and ensure that regenerative organs such as skin, intestinal tissues and blood maintain a normal turnover. It is possible to grow stem cells and transform them into cells that are specialized with characteristics like the ones of cells of nerves and muscles through cell culture. They can be used in medical therapies in particular cell lines which are embryonic and autologous stem cells are generated by therapeutic cloning.

According to medical researchers, therapy for stem cell is able to dramatically change treatment for human diseases. Many therapies for adult stem cell are already in existence such as transplant for bone marrow used for treating leukemia. In future, medical researchers will use technologies from research on stem cell in order to treat a variety of diseases, for example, injuries to the spinal cord, Parkinson’s disease, muscle damage and cancer. However, there is scientific and social uncertainty in stem cell research which can be overcome through future research, educating the public and public debate. (Almeder, 2004)

Is stem cell research ethical?

Today there are people in the hospital who are about to die due to liver failure. They have little expectation that they will get a transplant before they are too ill to be saved. Even if they are lucky to get a transplant, they will have the burden of taking drugs for multiple anti-rejections for the rest of their life which would compromise their health. Scientists have a method for building new liver for people with liver failure that would match them perfectly and does not require anti-rejection drugs. For such a solution to be perfect it will require other lives to be destroyed but the law does not allow the life of one person to be taken in order to save the life of another.

If a woman is in labor and her life is threatened by the fetus, there is need to abort the fetus but once the baby’s portion has emerged, the fetus should not be aborted because the life of one person can not be set aside for another person’s sake. The principle underlying this ruling says that a person who unjustly pursues another person to kill him may be killed. The fetus is not yet a complete person and is pursuing his mother in a manner that can inevitably lead to her death and we may decide to kill it first. But once the fetus emerges partially, it is a person who is fully fledged. (Nigel, 1987)

Stem cell is derived from fetuses that are aborted and adults but the best source are cells in a small clump composing of zygote a few days after conception. In order to investigate possibilities that are inherent in the stem cells, 100,000 pre-embryos left after in vitro fertilization are used. The question that arises is as to whether it is ethical to destroy pre-embryos in order to get stem cells to carry out research that may save the life of thousand of people.

Early stem cells are able to differentiate into each cell of the body of human being forming entire fetus. if we are capable of manipulating conditions that control differentiation of cells, replacement organs and cells may be created in order to cure diabetes, Parkinsons and Alzheimers diseases. The promises given by technology of stem cell combine with cloning. In a case where a man die of liver failure, if one of his cells are cloned, but not allow cloned cells develop into fetus, this might be placed in appropriate environment for it to differentiate and use the liver that is genetically identical to the one of the person who is sick. If this liver is grown to maturity, the sick man would be offered with transplant of the liver that can not be rejected and does not require anti-rejection drugs. Unfortunately, it is not known if a human being can be cloned successfully and practical value derived from stem cells is not known. Several years of expensive and research that is labor intensive will be required in determining the potential of stem cells in treatment and palliation. (Almeder, 2004)

Humanity is ascribed to an embryo immediately it is implanted into the womb. An embryo in the womb of the mother will continue growing in order to reach parturition. Pre-embryo from in vitro fertilization if left without being touched in a test tube will eventually die. These pre-embryos need active intervention to reach a situation that is potential for life. The alternative for such reasoning is that, it is forbidden to kill skin cells of an adult because it is possible to clone the person from any cell in the body of an adult. (Carrier, 2004)

Pre-embryos may be destroyed when it is necessary to save life. Judaism requires all Torah laws to be transgressed except that of murder, idol worship and adultery. For example, when a

person is gravely ill; other people would drive using a car to get him kosher food, even if there is necessity for saving their life. If pre-embryo is not covered by commandment not committing murder, we might end up allowing them to be destroyed to get its stem cells if it will be able to save the life of a person who is already born. The question we are left with is whether research has put into consideration saving of life. This argument is more appealing if there is demonstration of medical treatments that are concrete for saving life.

Nevertheless, Rabbis oppose creating pre-embryos deliberately aiming at destroying them because this cheapens value given to human life. Fascinating insight is offered by halachic process in the areas of ethics that includes biomedical ethics. This gives us opportunity for evaluating explosion of technology surrounding us through Torahs lens and ensures we get to know science well. Judaism is not concerned with technology but only requires us make use of science in an ethical and responsible manner to make our lives better. (Zoloth, 2001)

Benefits of stem cell research

Stem cell research has many potential benefits. It has ability to be able to duplicate body parts such as spinal cord, legs, heart and arms which would cause a drastic change to world of medicine. Every moment, a person has to get an organ transplanted in her body and we would not need to look for a donor. After the organ is transplanted, there is no need for the patient to take drugs because the immune system accepts the organ transplanted automatically.

The organs such as spinal cord that are not possible to be donated and be accepted in the body are duplicated. This means that for a paralyzed person with fracture in the spinal cord, stem cells can duplicate spinal cord tissues and then transplant them. There are more potential with such a research and they need to be known more and be explained in full. When we talk about how research on stem cell works, stem cell refer to a cell that is able to grow to form a certain organ. Human being is made up of collection of organs and the first stages of embryo are made up of stem cells that grow to form organs. In order to get a heart that is an exact copy as your heart, an embryo is cloned by use of your DNA and once the stem cell of the heart develops, it is extracted and you get your own heart. This is possible when stem cells from and adult are used but it is hard to work with them and the technology to use them is not yet developed. (Rockville, 1999)

Stem cell research offers an advanced knowledge of development of cells in the body of a human being or animal. It studies how to replace a dead or damaged cell with a healthy one in the body. Once this part is studied, it bring our cells basing on therapies in order to fight diseases because there is believe by scientist that it is possible to use stem cells to treat diseases like cardiac malfunctions and diabetes. In today’s biology, the most prominent area for research and study is stem cells.

Stem cells are non specialist cells that renew themselves for a given period of time as cell division takes place and it is possible to induce them for them to have special functions. These special cells have interesting tissues such as muscle for heart beating or production of insulin in pancreas. Muscle and brain stem cells were discovered with cells for replacement to regenerate the lost cells automatically. Research on stem cells and the results are promising for the future and an extensive research is needed to come up with the best benefits in order to fight diseases that are threatening to our life. (Rockville, 1999)

Morality issues on stem cell research

Stem cells can be sourced from adult stem cells from adult or pediatric donors, embryo germ cell from fetuses that have been aborted and embryonic stem cells from preimplanted embryos after they disaggregate. The first source has no ethical problem which is special to many people. Tissues can be donated by children and adults where the conditions of consent are appropriate and respected. The people who have no objection to induced abortion are less concerned with use of embryo germ cell than the one who oppose abortion.

The problematic case which is least ethically is to harvest stem cells from fetuses aborted spontaneously. However, there are obstacles to getting useful embryo germ cells from aborted tissue. The foremost problem is being able to harvest healthy cells from the fetuses. In future, extracting stem cells and culturing them will be an art than established technology. The material derived using this method will be limited even if the circumstances are the best.

We should understand that it is not the uses of all goods produced by acts that are wrongful are immoral. For example, tissues of people who have committed murder are employed by medical researchers. There is involvement in wrongful act when lethal dose is administered by researcher to a victim who is innocent in order to secure samples from the tissue. (Ruse, 2003)


Almeder R. (2004): stem cell research: Humana press.

Carrier E. (2004): stem cell implantation: Jones and Bartlett.

Nigel M. (1987): Embryos and ethics: Edinburgh.

Rockville M. (1999): Ethical issues in human stem cell research: religious perspectives.

Ruse M. (2003): controversy on stem cell; debating the issues: Prometheus books.

Zoloth L. (2001): the human embryo debate on stem cell: The MIT press.

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