As long as stem cells have been known to be found in human embryos, there has been controversy over whether or not to use them in the world of scientific research. To properly debate on this topic a basic understanding of embryonic stem cells is required. An embryonic stem cell is a type of stem cell that is found in early stage embryos. The cell has the ability to grow any of two hundred different types of tissues in the body. This topic is so controversial because of the fact that to obtain the stem cells it usually requires an embryo be destroyed (The New York Times 1).
One of the many arguments of opposers to embryonic stem cell research is the idea that, in order to obtain the stem cells, a human life is being destroyed. Most people with this belief feel human life begins from the exact moment of conception. Any stage between that time and the delivery of the baby is considered to be a human being with rights. Many of those who are con-embryonic stem cell research feel that it should be considered murder when the embryo is destroyed to obtain the stem cells (Cowen 1335). A growing fear of the use of these embryos for stem cells is that it will create a market for human embryos. Many people argue that promoting embryonic stem cell research will encourage people to create embryos just to destroy them.
Another less popularized argument against embryonic stem cell research is the effect that these specific stem cells had on the laboratory mice that were first tested using the embryonic stem cells. Mice treated for Parkinson's disease with embryonic stem cells have died from brain tumors in as much as 20% of cases. Embryonic stem cells stored for extended periods of time have been shown to create the type of chromosomal anomalies that create cancer cells. Although scientists claim these stem cells could result in cures for many illnesses, this research shows that they are just as likely to cause other serious illnesses such as cancers.
The third reason people oppose embryonic stem cell research is the fear of the possibility of human cloning. The idea has been raised to create new life from fertilizing an egg to harvest stem cells (Dobson 1). This means that scientists will be trying to clone a human by using a fertilized female egg so that the embryo that is formed can be used to obtain stem cells.
Overall, the three main reasons why people oppose embryonic stem cell research are: the fear that it will promote and allow the cloning of humans, it will actually cause more harm to the recipients of the cells than do good, and, most of all, that it will create a market for human life. The question facing many in the medical world is, is this a market for cures to diseases or a market for human embryos?
Cowen and Others, C.A. "Derivation of Human Stem-Cell Lines from Human Blastocysts." New England Journal of Medicine (2004): 1355-356. All About Popular Issues. 2002-2009. 12 Mar.
Dobson, Patrick. "Stem Cell Dilemma." 18 June 2004. 12 Mar. 2009.
"Q & A: what are embryonic stem cells?" The New York Times [New York] 23 Jan. 2009, Health sec.: 1.