Two humans are trapped in a burning building.

One is a sweet child; the other, a mass of cells on a petri dish. Who ought to be saved? Such is the conundrum of embryonic stem cell research: these remarkable cells can save countless lives, yet their acquisition necessitates the destruction of an embryo. While purporting to protect inviolable life, repudiating embryonic stem cell research effectively condemns millions to misery and demise for the sake of these cells. America cannot continue to deny its citizens the potential miracles of embryonic stem cells. Therefore, federal funding restrictions for embryonic stem cell research on new cell lines should be lifted in the United States. The opposition’s thesis is that research violates an embryo’s right to life. But the mere potential for life does not automatically equate to actual life, especially the life of a suffering patient. As Renee Saenger, writer for the Columbia Spectator, argues, “the majority of Americans will favor a cure for heart disease for a man whom they can identify with over a clump of cells that […] lack the experiences that define that which they know as life.”1 Moreover, ascribing the 400,000 discarded embryos of in vitro fertilization2 the same status as walking, breathing persons is a fallacy: these amalgams at best remain indefinitely in suspended animation, their chances of growing into an infant infinitesimal. At worst, an embryo joins the 8,000 to 10,000 that are destroyed annually.3 Prohibiting embryonic research, then throwing embryos down the drain is grotesquely reprehensible. As a pluralistic democracy, America must provide for its citizens’ well-being, not enforce dogma. Ronald Green, member of the NIH Guidelines committee and director of the Dartmouth Ethics Institute concurs:
Erin P. George, “The Stem Cell Debate: The Legal, Political, and Ethical Issues Surrounding Federal Funding of Scientific Research on Human Embryos,” Albany Law Journal of Science and Technology 2002: 796, LexisNexis Academic, LexisNexis, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, 17 Dec. 2007 <http://lexis.com>. Marcia Clemmitt, “Stem Cell Research,” CQ Researcher 1 Sept. 2006: 699, 18 Dec. 2007 <http://library.cqpress.com>.
3 2 1

Clemmitt 713.

Tang 2 [A] pluralistic democracy committed to protecting and improving the health of its citizens cannot justly exclude one area from its research support merely because that area is objected to by some of its citizens on the basis of their personal religious and moral beliefs. Unless these […] objections can be grounded in concerns relevant to a pluralistic democracy—and this means […] public health and safety—they must be set aside.4 Hence, objections to embryonic stem cell research are fundamentally grounded in personal beliefs—opinions that cannot justly belong in public policy. Therefore, our obligation to ameliorate the pains of suffering people outweigh any tenacious ties to mere clumps of cells— cells that almost certainly will never see the light of day. Adult stem cell research will not eliminate the necessity of embryonic stem cell research because the two play complementary roles. Claims that adult stem cell research holds greater promise are false because the two cannot be competitively compared. Adult cells have undergone twenty fervent years of research while embryonic cells were only discovered in 1998 and research has been crippled by misguided ethics and laws throughout.5 Thus, our knowledge is simply inadequate to responsibly conclude that adult cells are pragmatically superior. The American Society of Cell Biology and all other major scientific societies concur that both must be researched.6 Further, unique properties of embryonic stem cells make substitution impossible. Adult stem cells are available only for a limited repertoire of tissue; embryonic stem cells are still required for a genuine answer to the onslaught of disease.7 Embryonic cells allow
4

qtd. in George 794. Clemmitt 704.

5

George Daley, “Embryonic Stem Cell Research,” CQ Congressional Testimony 29 Sept. 2004: n.pag. LexisNexis Academic, LexisNexis, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, 17 Dec. 2007 <http://lexis.com>.
7

6

Daley n.pag.

2

Tang 3 researchers to study disease development as cells mature into tissue, providing novel insight for prevention and cure.8 Finally, studying embryonic cells may unlock the enigma of pluripotency, that is, the means by which an embryonic stem cell can develop into the plethora of bodily cells. Consequently, by studying embryonic cells, it may be possible to revert adult stem cells back into embryo-like cells, eliminating the future need to destroy embryos.9 The restrictions on embryonic stem cell research that tie researchers’ hands behind their backs are chains that must be broken. For the millions suffering from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injury, AIDS, heart disease, and a plethora of other diseases, the stem cell is a bastion of hope.10 By developing into any cell as needed, pluripotent embryonic stem cells rejuvenate dead, damaged, or diseased tissue, combating and reversing the ravages of practically any degenerative disease.11 By developing into organs, stem cells offer hope for the 70,000 who await a transplant each year in the U.S., according to Dr. Niklason, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Yale University.12 These cells may fool the body into thinking transplanted tissue is native, thereby solving the problem of organ rejection.13 Altogether, over 128 million in the U.S. may directly benefit from embryonic stem cell research.14 The history of fetal tissue research, including such miracles as vaccines for Polio and measles, demonstrates all the reason to believe cures will be

8

Clemmitt 704. Clemmitt 704. Goldstein 235. Goldstein 232-3. qtd. in Goldstein 257. Goldstein 235. George 792.

9

10

11

12

13

14

3

Tang 4 found with embryonic stem cells.15 Yet despite alluring promise, current efforts are still elementary: scientists are still determining which stimuli lead to which cells.16 Many stretches of uncharted terrain remain before clinical treatments can be devised. Therefore, it is imperative that the government fund embryonic stem cell research in order to secure the well-being of almost half the U.S. population. Only federal funding can support the research to find cures. The hundreds of cell types derived from stem cells would require thousands of projects and a sum “far exceeding the resources of the biotechnology industry.”17 Piecemeal funding wastes resources because separately funded studies often cannot share equipment or specimens.18 Federal funding can eliminate such waste. Worse is the moral vacuum of private research in which federal oversight is nil and ethical guidelines few.19 The lack of appropriate federal funding compounded by a forprofit paradigm creates the incentive for a fetal tissue black market that guidelines under federal funding would eliminate.20 Corporations engender destructive competition instead of scholarly collaboration; their objective is not cure but capital. Already, Preventative Medical Center in Rotterdam has offered deceitful stem cell treatments.21 In a race to maximize profit, suffering patients lose. However, the rigorous National Institutes of Health Guidelines provide numerous
15

Goldstein 257. Goldstein 232.

16

Michael D. West, “Embryonic Stem Cell Research is Ethical,” Testimony before U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Washington, D.C. 18 Jul. 2001, rpt. in The Ethics of Genetic Engineering, ed. Maurya Siedler, At Issue (Detroit: Greenhaven-Gale, 2005) 104.
18

17

Clemmitt 706. Campbell 70.

19

20 Jason H. Casell, “Lengthening the Stem: Allowing Federally Funded Researchers to Derive Human Pluripotent Stem Cells from Embryos,” University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform Spring 2001: 556, LexisNexis Academic, LexisNexis, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, 17 Dec. 2007 <http://lexis.com>. 21

Clemmitt 700.

4

Tang 5 ethical checks; for instance, only discarded IVF embryos or aborted fetuses may be used, and donations must provided free of compensation.22 But the unregulated private sector into which embryonic stem cell research is being forced makes such checks moot. Society needs oversight through federal funding in order to make a moral process out of bourgeois madness. America’s medical and economical prowess is doomed without embryonic stem cell research. The European Union has funded stem cell research since 2006.23 Asia is aggressively seizing the opportunity to overtake the West. Lu Guangxiu, a Chinese researcher, declares, “We’re not that far behind the West anymore”; many American researchers would agree.
24

Japan’s new Centre for Developmental Biology has attracted the two Americans researchers who first cloned a human embryo.25 With liberal policies and impressive facilities, many more American scientists may be lured overseas. As Michael Manganiello, vice president of the Christopher Reeve Foundation articulates, “Scientists are interesting folks. These guys just want to work, and I don’t think they really care where […]. If they can do it in Singapore […], England […], Israel, South Korea, or Sweden, they’ll go and do it there.”26 Thus, the benefits of the research of American scientists will still be realized—but not here. Exacerbating this concern is the chilling effect on younger scientists: the lack of funding tells them to pursue another field,27 while continued controversy portrays embryonic stem cell research as something far too dangerous in which to stake their careers.28 President Bush’s de-facto ban is forcing
22

George 779. Clemmitt 699-700.

23

qtd. in Scott Anderson, “The Big Chill: Politics vs. the Science of Stem Cell Research,” Capitalism Magazine Aug. 2002, rpt. in New Science, ed. Rachel Bean et al., Pro/Con (Danbury: Grolier, 2004) 120-1.
25 26

24

Campbell 69. McCarthy 868. Clemmitt 706. Anderson 120.

27

28

5

Tang 6 scientists overseas and suppressing an aspiring generation; other nations will see miracles while America falters. Embryos will be used for research regardless of whether the American government funds embryonic stem cell research. Patients should not be forced to fly to Europe or Asia—if such an exorbitant proposition is even affordable—for treatment devised by an expatriate American when the same treatment could be had here. Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is therefore imperative for the United States to survive in the global marketplace. America can no longer deny the promise of embryonic stem cells. When a fellow human is in pain, compassion dictates their aid—not the futile preservation of that which may almost never live. Potential benefits cannot be denied; through numerous vaccines, fetal tissue has proven its ability to save lives. Adult cells cannot match the efficacy of embryonic cells because the two are fundamentally different. Nor is private or state-funded research appropriate, for lacking rigorous NIH Guidelines, such research can hope to be neither efficient nor ethical. Thus, no alternative can supplant embryonic research. As former President Bill Clinton articulated, “[W]e cannot walk away from the potential to save lives and improve lives, to help people literally get up and walk, to do all kinds of things we could never have imagined.”29 The fundamental duty of a government is to protect its people. As a pluralistic democracy, the United States has the moral obligation to obviate the suffering of its people; the United States has the moral obligation to fund embryonic stem cell research.

29

qtd. in George 791.

6

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