The British House of Lords voted on January 22, to ease restrictions on the use of human embryonic stem cells. Researchers in the UK are now allowed to use early stage human embryos for therapeutic purposes, mainly to retrieve stem cells.
This decision comes amidst a heated debate regarding the medical and economic potential of stem cell research as against its ethical pitfalls. The scientific, legal, ethical and philosophical arguments have been discussed extensively Mieth, ; Colman and Burley, In this report I therefore propose to take it as established that stem cell technology has great promise for the treatment of a variety of diseases and, indeed, that stem cell therapy may hold exciting prospects for medical advances in the first decades of the 21 st century.
What I wish to discuss is why the prospect of stem cell therapy has been greeted, in quite widespread circles, not as an innovation to be welcomed but as a threat to be resisted. In part, this is the characteristic reaction of Luddites, who regard all technological innovation as threatening and look back nostalgically to a fictitious, golden, pre-industrial past.
There are, however, also serious arguments that have been made against stem cell research; and it is these that I would like to discuss. It is indisputable that most novel medical technologies are expensive. However, they usually get cheaper as the scale on which they are used increases. A good example is bone marrow transplantation, which initially was extremely expensive. A few decades later, bone marrow transplantation has become a routine procedure that is cheap enough to be used for the treatment of numerous diseases.
These agents are very expensive now because the cost of their development, testing and production has to be met, but they will rapidly become cheaper as more patients are treated, as the manufacturing process becomes more efficient and as patents expire. There is, however, a further argument against this particular threat. One of the major financial problems of health care since World War II has been that major advances in clinical research resulted in ways of controlling diseases rather than curing them.
The elderly and many chronically ill people in the First World now live a life of high quality. But this depends on the long-term administration of drugs to treat a number of conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
Consequently, the cost of health care in these countries has dramatically increased over the last few decades. Stem cell therapy may indeed lead to cures for many ailments. It is also likely that diabetes will be curable using stem cell treatment. It may also be possible to achieve at least something approaching a cure for cardiovascular diseases by replacing damaged endothelial cells in the blood vessels or the cardiomyocytes in the heart itself.
If these promises hold true, stem cell therapy might result in a reduction in the overall cost of healthcare as a number of currently incurable diseases are cured.
It is difficult to tell in advance what type of research will give rise to what type of benefit. The fundamental research from which stem cell technology originated came from studies in developmental biology whose utility could not have been foreseen. Furthermore, current research into the mechanisms of cellular reprogramming and into the growth requirements of different cell lineages will not only advance scientific knowledge, but is also likely to become of widespread value in clinical medicine.
These two preceding arguments are essentially economic. The following are predominantly ethical and should therefore be given greater weight. Ethics is a subject grounded in philosophy and religion.
Ethics cannot be determined by polling people and asking them what they think is right or wrong and simply accepting the view of the majority.
It does require support from logically and philosophically coherent arguments. This argument reflects the view that divine creation is perfect and that it is inappropriate to alter it in any way. Such a point of view is particularly difficult to sustain in Western Europe where every acre of land bears the marks of more than years of human activity, and where no primordial wilderness remains.
Ever since Homo sapiens gave up being a hunter and gatherer and took to herding animals and agriculture, he has modified the environment. All major food plants and domestic animals have been extensively modified over millennia.
It is therefore impossible to sustain the idea that genetic interventions for food plants, animals and the therapy of human diseases are a categorical break from what has gone on throughout evolution. The following quotation is from Professor Iain Torrance, Professor of Divinity in Aberdeen personal communication , on the subject of co-creation:. It is an enabling: I suggest that this may give us a charter for some acts in which we do co-operate with God, though it would be rash ever to claim confidently that any specific act were such.
I believe we are invited to share in this activity of enabling, which brings the created world closer to perfection. We never know what perfection is or when we have arrived there. Art is a kind of creation of beauty and may in some sense act as an analogy. I believe we have an authority to intervene, so as to heal and restore, but not to manipulate and destroy. Unfortunately, the idea of a perfect creation was adopted by the early evolutionary biologists who, understandably, were greatly impressed by the elegance of evolutionary adaptation.
They therefore tended to replace a perfect divine creation with a perfect evolutionary adaptation. But when scientists began to study the molecular mechanisms of evolution, it turned out that there are only a limited number of strategies available to achieve adaptation.
It is perfectly clear, for example, that no competent engineer would design a creature walking on two legs as badly adapted to the upright posture as is Man. If Man were really made physically in the image of God, it would be bad news for an immortal God. They have generally failed to understand the nature of the evolutionary process, particularly in believing that natural selection produces an overall, optimal phenotype.
To give a current example, if the HIV pandemic continues unabated it will provide a very strong selective pressure in favour of those few people who lack the receptors—CD4 and CCR5—to which the virus attaches. One can imagine that, in due course, their progeny could become dominant in large parts of the world.
However, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that these survivors would necessarily be particularly intelligent, beautiful, moral or have other survival characteristics.
Survival of the fittest—an unfortunate phrase in any case—simply describes those who are fittest to survive under those selective pressures that exist at any one time. This is an entirely pernicious proposition, which finds few defenders in modern democratic societies. On the other hand, there is a general agreement that there are things which should not be done—in science as in other areas of life. The intention of stem cell research is to produce treatments for human diseases.
It is difficult not to regard this as a worthy end, and more difficult to see that there could be any moral objection to curing the sick, as demanded by the Hippocratic oath. The essential problem here is to decide at what stage of development a human embryo acquires the interests—and the rights to protect these interests—that characterize a human being, i.
This is a problem that has occupied a great deal of theological and philosophical attention and the arguments have been extensively discussed Dunstan, ; Dunstan and Seller, Thus, all living entities are given some moral status, but not full moral status. This principle treats all harms done to living things as undesirable, other things being equal, and imputes no wrongdoing to those who harm living things when there are morally sound reasons for doing so.
However, Warren recognizes, as do some Sanctity of Life proponents, that no right is absolute and that the right to life can be overridden with sufficient justification. This notion re-iterates problem with the uni-criterial Sanctity of Life position in that such justifications i.
Next, Warren analyzes the principle of sentience as a uni-criterial approach to moral status. To do this, Warren launches an attack on one of her own mentors, Peter Singer, himself a preference utilitarian.
However, Warren effectively demonstrates how this notion of sentience is unacceptable as the singular criterion in the establishment of moral status. If we view our own pain as objectively bad, then logical consistency requires that we apply this principle to others.
The latter holds that within the limits of their own capacities, human beings who are capable of sentience but not of moral agency have the same moral rights as do moral agents. I believe these last moves by Warren offer a methodology with which a utilitarian framework can be created.
The greatest objection I have always had towards utilitarianism has been its inability to account for human rights. But how, you may ask, can a utilitarian model account for moral rights such as liberty, justice, and equality when practical necessity dictates otherwise or the expected gain in the greatest happiness is sacrificed? Thus, there are utilitarian reasons for adopting a non-classical utilitarian principle.
It must be remembered that moral rights are not absolute in that they may be overridden at times. Take self-defense or war as examples. Whatever the justification is, it is still a justification to override the principle. Thankfully, Warren is not so resistant. Building upon her theory, Warren borrows from such figures as the environmental ethicist, J.
Baird Callicott and feminist ethicist, Nel Noddings, to introduce two relational rather than intrinsic properties: Warren then captures these two relational properties which she believes are important to moral status in her three remaining principles.
Living things that are not moral agents, but that are important to the ecosystems of which they are a part have? The Transitivity of Respect Principle: She notes that none of these relational principles can diminish the moral status gained through the employment of any of the preceding, intrinsic principles, but that they can enhance moral status.
She holds that neither of these two relational properties represent a necessary and sufficient basis for moral status, but that the theories which value these properties contain insights that need to be incorporated into an adequate account of moral status. Furthermore, a complete and accurate understanding of moral status cannot be gained until a complete review of all the interrelated principles are balanced against one another and the practical implications of each are considered.
Clearly early embryos are endowed with life and, therefore, deserve respect and some level of moral status. Nevertheless, these early embryos do not have either the capacity for sentience or moral agency. So they cannot be considered to have full moral status. The failure by many in this debate, including Singer, is the failure to ascribe some moral status or moral value to the early embryo.
Even if the early embryo does not have full moral status, it certainly should have some moral status based on its attribute of being alive. However, in the case of ES cell research and its potential therapeutic applications, other things are not equal. The symbolic cost associated to allowing the destruction of human embryos in ES cell research is primarily the undesirable capacity to diffuse or obscure the value we hold in this intrinsic property of life.
The intrinsic costs associated to not allowing the destruction of early embryos in ES cell research at minimum are that millions of persons with full moral status will die and even more will suffer significant physical and psychological pain. This expansive claim can be made because o other means currently exists, or will exist, in the foreseeable future which can alleviate the suffering and death that ES cell therapies have the proven capacity to do.
Thus, the benefits of ES cell research far outweigh the symbolic costs incurred from the destruction of life that is without full moral status. Within the Interspecific Principle, embryos may gain a higher level of moral status based on their social relationship to human beings, but only if such relationships exist.
If research embryos are created through IVF or somatic cell nuclear transfer SCNT techniques using donated gametes or cells, then such relationships would not exist. Thus, the basis for creation of research embryos for use in ES cell research is established.
For embryos with such social relationships, their enhanced status cannot override the interests of parents who can claim full moral status. Yet the questions of how to show the proper respect to specific embryos should be addressed. If parents or donors take offense at such destruction based on the symbolic value of life, it would be morally objectionable to force such destruction.
By observing the Transitivity of Respect principle in this manner we do not lose the opportunity for ES cell research. One reason is that since other embryos will be available for use in ES cell research, the potential benefits of ES cell therapies are not necessarily foregone. Therefore, ES cell research may continue even though the symbolic value of life in some embryos will be protected by allowing for the respectful disposal of such embryos.
Within the Transitivity of Respect Principle, policy makers and philosophers alike should take into consideration the religious and traditionally held viewpoints of others towards these early embryos, but only where it is feasible or morally permissible to do so.
In this case, I argue that it is morally impermissible to forgo the potential benefits to hundreds of millions of sentient, moral agents to whom we are obligated to seek the relief of pain and suffering. The relative costs and benefits of such decisions were briefly outlined above. However, one may ask, based on the Transitivity of Respect Principle, why it is not feasible to not take certain actions supporting ES cell research.
I believe there are numerous valid responses. First, we must recognizing that since ES cell research is not illegal in this country, it will continue in the private sector without significant legal or moral consequence.
Thus, from a practical perspective, reaching common ground on embryonic moral status is a central component to answering the question of whether to allow federal funding for ES cell research. The lack of such federal funds will 1 slow research advances by keeping universities and key research teams out of the process, 2 eliminate government NIH oversight which would provide regulation and monitoring ensuring that embryos, donors, and patients are given the respect they deserve, and 3 will slow the development of many clinical applications since private companies will only pursue those activities or products which will quickly produce products and profits.
Thus, accepting the application of the other multi-criterial principles as articulated above, this faster road to cure is necessarily more ethical based on our ability 1 to alleviate the death and suffering of more persons and 2 to more adequately protect the interests of those with full moral status. Opponents of ES cell research and particularly opponents of the creation of embryos for this research who take a deontological position, will likely suggest that it is wrong to use embryos as a mere means to our ends rather than as ends in themselves.
For example, using the multi-criterial approach, bricks may be used to build a house or a horse used to plow a field, but neither the bricks or the horse are instrumentalized. Likewise, using the full application of the multi-criterial principles, early embryos may be used to advance ES cell research, but the early embryos are not instrumentalized. While I do not have sufficient space to address this concern completely, I will briefly mention a few responses.
If we accept this potentiality distinction, we will have returned to the ill-fated debate of the evolving biological standards of potential which can be taken to extremes. For instance, is the oocyte a potential person warranting full moral status? If so, then we must do everything we can to ensure its fertilization, development, and birth. In fact, any missed opportunity to have sexual relations is a wrongful act since, in the eyes of the Kantian objector, we are not honoring our highest value of life.
So at what point is a potential person established? Maintaining my earlier position, I suggest that this is a normative decision aided by science and such decision could be some point around 14 days from conception. More to the point, if the IVF embryo is a potential person, then it is morally impermissible to discard unwanted or unneeded IVF embryos.
Enactment of such a requirement to bring to fruition all IVF embryos is not only impractical and implausible, but, I suspect, would not be supported by even the staunchest Kantian objectors. What follows, for this objector, is that such justification of early embryo destruction will result in a rationale which could justify harmful experiments on other human subjects.
While some slippery slope arguments I suspect are valid due to the logical nature of the move from one situation to another, the current argument is clearly more psychological in nature. It is an argument essentially that in taking current actions our emotions and moral sensibilities will become desensitized to the wrongfulness of certain future and unforeseen actions which are clearly wrong.
The practical answer to such psychological slippery slope arguments is cooperative deliberation geared towards establishing legislative boundaries against those future, feared actions. However, the most forceful response to the slippery slope objector is that no such justification for the harming or destroying of human subjects can occur within the application of the full compliment of the multi-criterial principles.
Such human subjects have full moral status which cannot be diminished. Therefore, any harm to a human subject which may be justified will require an entirely different rationale than was used for the destruction of the early embryo.
Such justification will have to meet a much higher standard and does not follow logically or psychologically from the decision to conduct ES cell research. Nevertheless, the objector may still contend that I have not answered the question of specifically how to balance all of the interests and rights of those concerned.
However, as I suggested above, no theory of moral status will give such answers outside of the context of the specific situation. The nature of the common ground I am seeking is one upon which we can collectively engage in such deliberations and the multi-criterial approach offers just such a ground. Thus, shortly I will offer some initial recommendations meant to be used as a start to our dialogue on how to balance interests and show respect.
While the common ground provided by a multi-criterial account of moral status may have helped us get to the point of gaining a reasonable consensus as to the use of some embryos in ES cell research, some objectors may still be uncomfortable with the creation of embryos either by IVF or somactic cell SCNT techniques. The objection is that the means of obtaining the embryos matters. Notwithstanding the fact that the promotion of creating embryos for research purposes i.
One reason for allowing therapeutic human cloning is the issue of histocompatibility. The problem is that stem cells from donors may lack immunological compatibility with the recipients. Turning to therapeutic chimera cloning see Appendix for definition , there is an underlying objection and intuitive objection to hybrid embryo creation based on the concern for mixing genes across species and the uncertainty of risks involved.
One reason to allow such means as therapeutic chimera cloning is the reduction of potentially coercive forces on women to donate gametes. Since obtaining oocytes from women is a difficult and somewhat painful procedure, the availability of these gametes will relieve any potential feelings of pressure by women to donate their eggs.
On a more practical note, Advanced Cell Technologies work has shown that the use of cow ova results in only a minimal and inconsequential DNA mixing. Such presence is of no consquence in the acquisition of the stem cells which will, in fact, have no bovine DNA. Furthermore, the use of animal proteins to create drugs such as insulin and the use of animal genes or cells to create transplantable organs or tissue e.
It is hard to see a significant difference from these practices when compared to the creation of hybrid embryos for the derivation of human stem cells. While there are those on the anti-abortion front who oppose any embryo destruction for any purposes, there are many other anti-abortion activists who hold that it is ethical to destroy the embryo or fetus under certain circumstances.
Examples include when the life of the mother is at stake or the conception of the fetus is a result of rape or incest. If the majority of those engaged in this moral deliberation can agree on this point, then the foundations of the common ground I am seeking have already been laid.
If we can agree that the embryo does not hold exactly the same moral status as an adult human, but that the embryo has some status and deserves respect, then the question is what actions and restrictions will most effectively demonstrate sufficient respect for human embryos. No ethical system will give us the answer to this question. The obligations of moral duty cannot pinpoint the specifics that are needed here nor can a strict utilitarian calculus do the work.
The answers will only come from collaborative deliberation seeking to balance reasonable and supportable views. The reference points for these answers will be diverse and include personal preferences, religious perspectives, emotional paradigms e. Some will want more respect for embryos, others will want less.
Our goal is to find a common enough ground which the majority of us can accept. My recommendations for ways to demonstrate appropriate respect for the embryo based on its moral status are as follows:. Place a limit on the time frame in which destruction of embryos for research purposes is allowed. I suggest 14 days after conception which is before the primitive streak begins developing and, thus, well before any possibility of sentience begins.
This is also the point which is believed to be the last opportunity for twinning and, thus, before distinct individuation. Place limits on the type of research allowed to include only such work that can show substantial benefit to the health of others and that can claim that human embryos are essential to the research.
Ensure informed consent for donors whether of gametes, frozen embryos, or fetal tissue. This regulation reflects the concern for individual autonomy and concern for the emotional well-being of those persons involved.
Ensure the decisions to abort fetuses or discard IVF embryos is separate and distinct from decision to donate to ES cell research. This policy reflects a shared goal to ensure that abortion or destruction will not be increased solely as a result of the opportunity to do some good with the donation of fetal tissue or IVF embryos. It aims at not legitimizing the acts solely through such subsequent actions.
Any decision to abort a viable fetus should be neither induced or coerced by the possibility of benefit in donation. Require the review by a national oversight body of research protocols whether the research is publicly or privately funded.
This body should also be given the flexibility to adapt to future findings so as to avoid the bureaucratic delays that come in constantly refining legislation through the Congress. Disallow the commercialization of spare IVF embryos, fetal tissue, or created embryos. This action will not only protect the status of our respect for life in general, but it will, importantly, guard against the exploitation of poor women who see donation of ova, embryos, or fetal tissue as a means to financial reward.
Prohibition of donation of fetal tissue to a specified recipient while allowing the donation of IVF embryos to a specified recipient. Such a measure further demonstrates the enhanced moral status of the developing fetus to that of the pre day old embryo. A clear and common understanding of the language we use and of our attributions of moral status will be of the highest importance to the success of our search for a common ground in this ES cell research debate.
While I believe the moral imperative of compassion drives ES cell research, there are multiple values and goals which I recommend we appeal to in our deliberations. To unnecessarily prevent or delay such a valuable line of research is to act unethically. Wildes, Kevin WM, S. Columbia University Press, , pg. Generally, these arguments attempt to establish the ethical permissibility of such measures based on the lack of complicity in the destruction of the fetus or embryo.
While John Robertson makes sound arguments for the weakness of this complicity in the destruction of embryos when using fetal tissue or spare IVF embryos, the fundamental question remains as to the moral status of the embryo. I will not address in the issue of adult stem cells and cord blood stem cells as alternatives to ES cells. The reason is that these sources have not been shown to offer commensurate potentiality with ES cells.
Nevertheless, there are still scientists working with adult stem cells who are reporting a greater ability for the cells to differentiate than was once thought possible. Adult stem cells have demonstrated the ability to become several cell types. Unfortunately, there is no scientific agreement on the potential of adult stem cells and most evidence suggests that diverse clinical applications using adult stem cells will not only take much longer to develop, but are also much less likely to ever occur at all.
The bottom line is that it is too early to make any definitive claims on this issue.
The final arguments against stem cell research deal with the actual cost of such treatments is simply too high to be implemented on a large scale. Stem cell research pros and cons have gained a lot of attention lately due to President Obama lifting a ban on stem cell research.
Having examined the arguments put forth by those in favour of stem cell research (link to arguments in favour of STR), what are the arguments stated by its opponents? The ‘potentiality’ problem As outlined in the Personhood tutorial, people differ tremendously in their view as to what an ‘embryo’ means to them.
Aug 09, · The Case Against Stem Cell Research. Opponents of research on embryonic cells, including many religious and anti-abortion groups, contend that embryos are human beings with the same rights — and thus entitled to the same protections against abuse — as anyone else. Sep 05, · Scientists largely agree that stem cells may hold a key to the treatment, and even cure, of many serious medical conditions. But while the use of adult stem cells is widely accepted, many religious groups and others oppose stem cell research involving the use and destruction of .
A lot of people don’t realize there are other fashionlosdaeroh.cfnic stem cell research, unlike the others, in order to utilize a stem cell derived from a human embryo, it requires the destruction of that embryo – the destruction of life. Home > Stem Cells > Arguments Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Arguments Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research 1) Embryos are lives. An embryo is actually a human; it should be valued as highly as a human life.