The Ethics Of Stem-Cell Research

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Reply Mon 14 Jul, 2008 02:25 am
Dear Friends, I am certain you have heard alot about this topic in the media. I wish to hear the many 'pros' and 'cons'

As a medical practitioner, I'm aware this is a topic that splits my peers as quickly as the termination issue.

Personally I really see the good in this research, however I do not agree with birthing a child to be 'used for spare parts' in genetic illness cases. Even though they have managed to use this research to replicate certain parts alone or on a host, I think it does hold the key to many illness' and conditions.

Scientists are presently studying the effects of re-fusing some bone injuries in rodents with very promising results, aswell as 'growing' a ear on the back of a mouse. I know this all sounds very obscene and frankensteinish, but at the end of the day, if your relative had a near fatal accident or paralysis, wouldn't it be nice to know that modern science could rectify some of the phyical damage?

But I also believe that this is not regulated in the correct fashion. I think that we have to be VERY careful when tampering with some aspects of Dna and preventative therapys in respect to genealogical illness.

I am very AGAISNT 'designer babies' though, and this kind of reserch all goes hand in hand. I would never even want the power to tell a mother carrying multiple pregnancy that one of her children isn't a little girl or boy, or that it doesnt have the blonde hair she wants it to so badly, or whatever else. If there is a biological problem with a baby, then in most cases its good we can know early (Like they do nower days with conditions like downs syndrome) then this empowers the carrier.

But I have very strong feelings in some issues and a very strong scense of being responcible and doing the right thing.

Sadly in some issues I can not divorce my personal feelings from the making a objective decision, thankfully in those hot issues the goverment allows you to either take part in those decisions or not be part of those decisions (Like terminations which take two doctors signatures), I would not think twice if there was a serious reason or if the life of the mother were compromised, but I could never bring myself to effectively sign the death warrent of a perfectly healthy baby just because the 'parents' were drunk, wreckless or just too lazy to use protection. However, in the line of work you do even find the cases inbetween, like children born of rape or incest, these cases do merit special consideration...but its never easy.

So bacially I spend my whole time worrying over the living, the dead and the unborn. Its very difficult. So when people talk about stem cell reserch, please always try to consider the facts, the possible good, the possible abuse.

We should all just push for it to be regulated decently, so that medical advancements could be used for the greater good.

Your thoughts, please.

Reply Mon 14 Jul, 2008 10:25 pm
I've been waiting for a thread on stem cell research. Personally, I see no problem with abortion, because the fetus isn't conscious, no memory is there. I do not like the idea of drunk people getting away with it though. There should be a fine with an abortion. But anyways thats beside the point.

I didn't know about 'designer babies' until now. I do not believe it ethical to kill a baby over some stem cells. In fact if death is required to get stem cells them forget it, its not ethical. And if a mom and dad want the 'perfect' baby forget it. Thats crazy, I mean sure, find ways to eliminate potential disorders like down syndrome if the parents feel it necessary. But if its about blond hair and such trifling measures for perfection then it should be completely off limits. Although I can just see the future being going into the clinic and making a profile for the statistics of the baby. "Will it be single crown or double crown hair? for your child ma'am?". Completely immoral. Way to uniformalize humanity's existence by appearance.

As for using the research for cures to cancer though, I see no problem unless the way of getting stem cells means the death of a conscious being. ( No tricks by putting a conscious person unconscious).

I saw on the news how 'they' were able to make an artificial heart that was able to beat or something. Very good work for those who need a heart.
I like the idea of stem cell research potentially leading to immortality and if immorality is found in a being living for too long then an organ can be genetically programmed to basically um.. kill the being.. I suppose. (assuming the technology will be present) . Actually thats a scary concept.
Reply Tue 15 Jul, 2008 12:51 am
I suppose it all depends on your personal/religious beliefs. If you believe that life begins at birth, then stem cell research shouldn't be an ethical problem. If you believe that it begins at conception, then stem cell research would have to be out of bounds. Then again, does conception in utero differ from conception in vitro? If there is a difference, then adult stem cell research may be an ethical possibility even if you believe that life begins at conception.

Therapeutic cloning is, to the best of my knowledge, significantly different to reproductive cloning, however, I dare say that there would be enough similarities that research in one field would assist the other. I think that there has been some confusion between the 2 in the past, leading to legislation preventing useful adult stem cell research.

So, i guess that there's no single response. It all depends on where you stand in regard to life and when it starts.
Reply Tue 15 Jul, 2008 04:44 pm
Lazarius wrote:
As a medical practitioner, I'm aware this is a topic that splits my peers as quickly as the termination issue.
Lazarius, my own experience in medicine is that my colleagues and peers are vastly more in favor of stem cell research than the general population. This is a bit of a bias, though, because I've spent time at institutions that are international leaders in stem cell technology. That said, you find a lot more journal publications about progress with stem cells than you find opinion pieces expressing opposition.

Try this one on for size -- a few years ago I consulted on a patient with a very rare autosomal recessive primary immunodeficiency disease caused by deficiency of the NEMO gene in the NF-kappa-beta signal transduction pathway. Unable to find a bone marrow donor, his parents decided to have another child in the hopes that it would be a perfect HLA match and be no worse than a heterozygote for the NEMO deficiency mutation.

But there's only a 25% chance that it would be a perfect HLA match and a 75% chance that it would be a heterozygous or homozygous dominant, meaning that there would only be an 18.75% chance that their new baby would be a suitable bone marrow donor.

So they did in vitro fertilization and selected embryos that were #1 perfect HLA matches, #2 did not have homozygous NEMO deficiency, and #3 were female so they could easily identify the engrafted cells. Hence, he got a sister who was a perfect bone marrow donor, and he's done great since then. The sister is adorable as well.

That's not exactly stem cell research, but it's as close as you'll get in clinical practice these days.
Didymos Thomas
Reply Wed 16 Jul, 2008 01:51 pm
Wow, Aedes, what a great story. I've never heard of such a thing, but it sounds wonderful.

I really cannot understand the objections to stem cell research. They all sound like irrelevant quibbles when I look at the potential of stem cell research - or, at least what doctors constantly claim to be the potential.
Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2008 11:16 am
@Didymos Thomas,
DT it may be an argument for the saying "don't count the chicks before it hatch."

I think it is wrong to halt stem cell research for the reason that it may endanger the dignity of life as Pro-Life argument contends. It is still a cell we are dealing with, not an actual human life with its repertoire of life experiences. Besides stem cell can be taken from in vitro fetilized embryo which makes it more ethically neutral (not entirely though according to some views).

The lone potential of finally nipping the Cancer factor in the bud is very appealing. To even hesitate for supporting stem cell research for some moral quibble about the potential of human life in an embryo that may or may not live to see the light of day is beyond me to those actual people dying everyday because of disease that may have been prevented through this research

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