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Blog, Paper 2

Stem Cells: The Great Debate

When I originally applied to Bucknell it was through the biology program. I grew up with a mom that worked as a nurse and a dad that worked with pharmaceutical companies, so I always heard a lot about healthcare. One of the studies that my dad frequently talked about was stem cell research. He would always say how amazing it was, and how many lives it could save, but I did not know the extent of this or about the ethical dilemmas behind it until recently.

For anyone that does not know, stem cells are cells found in organisms that divide and differentiate into specialized cell types. They can self-renew to produce more stem cells as well. These stem cells can be extracted from bone marrow, lipid cells, or blood. By extracting these cells from the donor and inserting them into another person, scientists have found that they can act as a repair system for the body and fight diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Sounds great, right?

Stem cell research has raised ethical, legal, religious, and policy questions. The main reason is the derivation of embryonic stem cells from early human embryos and embryonic germ cells from aborted fetal tissues. Furthermore, the general concept of the potential of generating human organs is another debate.

The following video tells a true success story of stem cells:

On the ABI/INFORM search engine I found a report produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Institute for Civil Society that performed a study to contribute to the public discussion related to stem cell research and its applications. The document, which is 51 pages long, is their study in which they propose recommendations for conducting stem cell research. This report was from 1999, but I figure the history of the debate will be important to take a look at.

One of the recommendations provided by the report was,

“Embryonic stem cells should be obtained from embryos remaining from infertility procedures after the embryo’s progenitors have made a decision that they do not wish to preserve them. This decision should be explicitly renewed prior to securing the progenitors’ consent to use the embryos in ES cell research.”

I thought this recommendation clearly added to the ethical debate surrounding stem cell research, because much of what is up for discussion is the actual process of gaining consent from the donors. This recommendation provides a basis for the process by which a couple should be addressed that is considering embryo donation, consent for research donation, or consent for destruction of the embryos. The report made it clear that only after the couple has definitely decided not to have the child that they should be approached a second time to discuss the use of embryos in ES cell research.

Obviously this is a huge ethical issue today, and there are many more details that I still do not know about stem cell research. I do think, however, that this report gave me the perfect understanding and potential solutions to the dilemma that I would need to write about this ethical dilemma.


About alyssakinell

I am a senior Management and Spanish major at Bucknell University. I am originally from East Lyme, Connecticut and I hope to live in a big city after I graduate. If I could be anywhere, I would be on a mountain with fresh powder and hot chocolate. I am incapable of eating a meal without finishing it off with something sweet (generally ice cream).


7 thoughts on “Stem Cells: The Great Debate

  1. After doing some more research using the cited reference search engines, I realized that both Kant and Mill’s work could be related to this topic. I used Google Scholar to see what I could find, and ended up finding an article titled, “On the Ethics of Therapeutic Cloning”. This article addresses the questions proposed by both of these ethical theories. For example, one question that is addressed is “Is it right to use human embryos, which may hold the potential for human life, with no regard for that potential?” On the utilitarian side the question is “Are we obligated to do whatever we can to alleviate the suffering of millions of people?” I can see that both of these questions will be crucial in examining my topic, and perhaps I will be able to compare and contrast the two theories in relation to the ethical debate for paper two. I will need to find a way to get access to the whole article, as I was only able to see an abstract from it.

    Posted by alyssakinell | March 27, 2012, 5:07 pm
  2. Stem cells have always been the source of a great debate and is sometimes equated with abortion. From your post, I too was able to learn more facts concerning stem cells. From the outside it does seem harmless but I think there is much more to this controversial practice. For me, procreation and a human life is a very sacred thing that is a blessing and a gift. The idea of scientists dissecting a human embryo for these stem cells does not sit right with me. I do see that it is able to possibly help in terms of curing diseases and the like, but it still does not seem right. This will be a winding ethical road for you to go down Alyssa.

    Posted by Patrick | March 27, 2012, 9:58 pm
  3. Alyssa, this is a really cool topic since it is so controversial and relevant today. Like you said, there are many reasons for the controversy. Unlike Patrick, I am in favor of stem cell research because of the wealth of information that can be extracted and used to find potential cures for diseases (such cancers, Alzheimers, ect.) …it just goes to show that it’s a topic that is split even among people coming from similar backgrounds and demographics.

    Posted by Lauren Daley | March 28, 2012, 11:21 am
  4. I think we should put more money into stem cell research. Like Lauren said, we can gain so much information to find potential cures for diseases. For example, with the treatment of cancer, chemotherapy kills both healthy and unhealthy cells. However, stem cells can replace these healthy cells that are destroyed by chemotherapy. This is only one example, but I believe that putting more money into stem cell research will vastly improve the quality of life for the most amount of people. I’ve never considered myself a utilitarian, believing in the greatest good for the most amount of people, but here I really think that stem cell research has way more pros than cons. Nevertheless, I do understand the position of the people on the other end of the spectrum, and I respect their beliefs as well.

    Posted by Jenna | March 28, 2012, 2:03 pm


  1. Pingback: Vatican Cancels Stem-Cell Conference « This Day – One Day - March 31, 2012

  2. Pingback: Stem Cell Ethical Issues | Stem Cell News - April 17, 2012

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