Letter to the Editor

Is fetal stem cell research ethical?

Saturday, October 29, 2005



Are you the type of person who voices your opinion when an unethical issue arises, or do you sit back, go with the flow, and let society decide how the issue should be handled?

Fetal stem cell research is a serious controversial issue that has arisen recently not only in the United States but also in several other countries around the world. They question of whether or not the research is moral is a question many people ask today. Arthur Caplan's "Research on Human Embryos Can Be Ethical" was published in Medical Ethics: Opposing Viewpoints, giving his views and supporting the research on human embryos.

To begin with, Caplan gives his view about the morality of the stem cell research issue.

He points out that fetal stem cell research can be of great assistance to doctors in the areas of genetic engineering, transplant therapy, and also in increasing fertility in human beings. However, he believes that"... the secrets of human reproduction and development, the modification of the genetic makeup of future children and their children, the creation of new forms of life and a bounty of therapies that hold out the prospect of a longer and better life.." (148) should be debated now, while embryonic research is just starting to develop.

According to Caplan, the "American governmental agencies" are not funding the embryonic research up to this date. He believes that the research process may be slowed down unless the moral questions are addressed directly (148). He thinks that nothing should prevent fetal stem cell research from happening today. He feels the people who are concerned with the morality questions of the research are actually using it for potitical purposes (148). Nevertheless, he feels that the research will continue even without government funding because of today's technology and know-how (151).

Next, Caplan says that not all embryos will become human beings, even under the best developmental conditions. While he believes that "... all human life has begun with conception," he does not believe that "... all human life must begin with conception," (149) because scientists can create embryos in test tubes.

However, Caplan does not want today's society to see em-bryos treated as products, fearing that the values of parenting will be reduced and procreation will be commercialized. He also firmly believes that "creating embryos" requires special knowledge, guidance, and skill in today's society (149).

Finally, Caplan states that in the U.S., "...tens of thousands of orphan embryos sit in liquid nitrogen unwanted and highly unlikely to be used by anyone ever to try to make babies," referring to the extra, abandoned embryos of couples trying to get pregnant by using invitro fertilization (IVF) (150). He deems that the United States should allow clinics to use these embryos for research after a 10-year waiting period. According to Caplan, some people believe that these frozen embryos may have the potential to become people. On the other hand, he feels that if no woman wants one of these embryos placed in her womb, they definitely will not become people (150). He strongly believes that surpluses or embryos should be donated to research, which will help find benefits and cures. He compares this to organ donors' families allowing doctors to use the donor's organs to help save others' lives (151). When it comes to morality, he asks society to think of fetal stem cell research as a debate of "...harm to potential persons versus the reality of harm to real flesh and blood persons..." (151).

Although fetal stem cell research may help doctors find cures, help with genetic engineering, and fertility,I strongly disagree with the author's opinion that the research is ethical. This article made me realize how immoral our world truly is becoming. Reading about how doctors "create" and "manufacture" embryos, innocent human lives, in test tubes really disturbs me. I do not believe that it is right for scientists to play God by creating humans or to kill the babies for the sake of knowledge. Furthermore, I feel that if God does not want a couple to be fertile, then its his will. The couple always has the option of adopting one of several thousands of helpless orphans, providing him or her with a loving home.

Also, it really scares me to think that with genetic engineering, scientists will be able to create the perfect person. Pretty soon scientists will be producing perfect people in mass productions just as factories generate products in large quantities.

There won't be any variation; the human race will turn into a world of clones. If genetic modification is allowed to happen, our society will lose all tolerance for unsatisfactory people such as the physically handicapped, mentally retarded, the sick, and the elderly. Even the little imperfections we all have will not be tolerated. Finally, fetal stem cell research helps promote abortion. The author himself stated that life begins at conception.

However, women will probably be more in favor of having an abortion if they know that killing their babies will help in finding cures. Also the author said that not all embryos are capable of becoming people, even under the best conditions. I refuse to accept this because I feel that God can work wonderful miracles.

Even if doctors give an embryo a hundred percent chance of not surviving, God could prove them wrong. The baby could grow up and turn out to be the perso who finds a cure for cancer or the AIDS virus, but the doctors wold never know if they killed that embryo. We cannot justify shedding the innocent blood of unborn babies to help anyone.

It's traumatizing to think of how rapidly today's society's morals are decreasing. To kill innocent lives simply for research and not even think twice about it is very alarming. If our society promotes the use of fetal stem cells for research, we will condemn ourselves to a society of spoiled, self-centered and perfectionist people who cannot deal with the disappointments of life such as infertility, illness and death.

If people do not standup for what they believe is unethical and let society decide for them, our world will not have any morals whatsoever. I am asking society to think of fetal stem cell reseatch as a debate of the "...harm to real flesh and blood persons..." (151) versus killing innocent babies' lives.

Work cited:

Caplan, Arthur.

"Research on Human Embryos Can Be Ethical."

"Medical Ethics: Opposing Viewpoints."

Ed. James D. Torr. San Diego: Greenhaven, 2000. 147-152.

-- Andrea Sis, 19, a Sophomore at Colby Community College in Colby, Kan., is a biology and pre-med major, studying to become a pediatrician. A writing assignment involving debates inspired this article on views and ethics, where she is a strong advocate of the pro-life stance. Andrea received an A on this assignment. She is the daughter of Mike and Diane Sis of Atwood and a 2005 recipient of a $1,000 scholarship for former Catholic Workman members. This piece was contributed by her grandfather, John R. Burk, Atwood.

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