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Ethical Scenario 21
In the current age of Medicine, should stem cell research be supported?
The stem cell research debate centres around embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are obtained from early-stage embryos that are three to five days old. The embryos are fertilised outside the womb, and in turn destroyed.
So the debate centres around two moral principles: the duty to alleviate suffering and the duty to respect the value of human life. Through acquiring embryonic stem cells, a potential human life is destroyed. Yet, there could be immeasurable benefits to humankind.
This is a personal question. The key is whether an embryo constitutes a human life; it could be said to have full moral status from fertilisation as development is a continuous process, or it could be labelled less than human, due to not having the psychological, emotional or physical properties that would class it as ‘human.’ - without being implanted into a uterus, the embryo cannot develop into a baby of its own accord.
In the UK, research is only permitted if it satisfies certain conditions, like promoting treatment of infertility, increasing knowledge of how miscarriages work, etc. This position makes sense to me - I don’t believe an unfertilised embryo to have the same rights as a human, and therefore see this as carefully taking the course of the most benefit to humanity.