Stem Cell Argumentative Essay
Stem Cell Research in the United States
We are living in an extraordinary time of human existence, especially in regards to the leaps and bounds that the medical community has contributed in the last few decades. The vaccine, heart transplants, pacemakers, mechanical heart valves, and even the accidental discovery of penicillin are just but a few. The latest and greatest medical find has been the discovery of human stem cells. Breakthrough discoveries are being unearthed all around the world, except in the United States where controversy has overshadowed and hindered its research. The United States needs to finally adopt stem cell research as a whole, significantly increase available funds for its research, and to reunite the United States which now possesses contradictory laws, regulations, and procedures. We are falling behind in research that brings hope and promises to “treat a myriad of diseases, conditions and disabilities including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stoke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis” (United).
Quite simply, stem cells are life’s building blocks. They help create and repair all living multi-cellular organisms. They are blank cells with the amazing potential to become many other of the body‘s cell types. As they divide and multiply, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become a more specialized cell it is neighboring, such as a red blood cell, a muscle tissue cell, or even a brain cell. Scientists have classified this amazing cells into two main categories: embryonic, and adult.
Although we possess adult stem cells within our bone marrow and surrounding tissues, theoretically, embryonic stem cells are superior for research. As an embryonic stem cell divides and multiplies it is pluripotent, meaning it has unlimited potential. An embryonic stem cell has the ability to help create and maintain any part of the body. Additionally, they can be easily be cultivated and stored in the laboratory from blastocysts, five-day-old fertilized human embryos.
Unfortunately, the only accomplishment of embryonic stem cells, thus far, has been controversy. Blastocysts are destroyed while extracting the stem cells. This inspired an ethical debate still in progress. Pro Life members believe that life begins the moment the egg is fertilized, not when the heart begins to beat, as per abortion cases, and that scientists are killing human beings who have rights. Scientists’ strongest rebuttal is that they are not creating human life to destroy it, and have vowed to never do so. The fertilized embryos they utilize are donated by abortion and fertility clinics that are destined to be destroyed whether or not the stem cells are harvested. Hundreds of thousands are being frozen and stored in hopes of changing and improving existing life, instead of being slated to a meaningless death.
While this embryonic stem cell controversy has been in the headlines, the supposedly inferior adult stem cells have been making all the breakthroughs. Adult stem cells are actually quite limited on what cells they can become, require a costly medical process of removing the stem cells from the body, and require hours of lab work isolating and purify before research and testing can even begin. Despite all this, adult stem cell has one outstanding benefit that the embryonic stem cells are unable to match. The body is much less likely to reject its own DNA, allowing heart valves, organs, and tissue to be grown and transplanted successfully.
The controversy itself has survived a decade now, kindled by indecision, callowness, and confusion. Our politicians even seem a bit bewildered. Senator John Carrey once asked “ What if we had a president who believes in science, so we can unleash the wonders of discovery — like stem cell research — and treat illness for millions of lives [sic]” (Appelbaum)? During a Democratic convention, our next possible presidential candidate, Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton said, “We also — we also need to lift the ban on stem cell research — (cheers, applause) and find cures that will help millions of Americans. (applause continues) [sic]” (Applebaum). However, their speeches do nothing but lead the American people to believe that stem cell research is banned, or that President Bush is to blame. There is no ban on stem cell research in the United States, and it was President Bush who first allowed Congress to allot federal funds, $28.4 million, to embryonic stem cell research. The only restrictions on stem cells is that no federal funds may not be applied to any research which involves death or destruction of a human embryo, however, it has not been deemed illegal for private companies to do so (Applebaum).
With no federal laws, guidelines, or infrastructure the burden of answering the ethical questions of embryonic stem cell research was placed individual on each state’s shoulders. Most states are in agreement with President Bush and have restricted embryonic testing. On the other hand, some states have not only encouraged private companies to develop and test both adult and embryonic stem cells, but they have also have decided to help fund it (Moreno). The epitome of such is California, whose residents have voted to allow $200 million dollars annually of its own states budget towards research (Flakes). Additionally, this division amongst the states is “Allowing states to drive stem cell research also means that each state will develop its own research standards, potentially leading to a patch work quilt of regulations that is needed to advance the field” (Moreno).
There has always been a simple compromise at our fingertips, a new bill that supports all stem cell research, significantly increases the available budget, but continues to prohibit the loss of new life. Incredibly, the United States has procrastinated this moral and ethical dilemma so long that this compromise isn’t even a compromise any longer. Scientists have discovered how to extract new stem cell lines without taking life and existing lines of stem cells can now be cultivated indefinitely providing an infinite supply. Stem cell banks have even been discretely created to store and moderate the purified cells. Embryonic stem cells have also been found abundant elsewhere, such as in the amniotic and menstruation fluids (Ford). Scientists in the UK have grown ten livers from embryonic stem cells taken from an umbilical cord, to hopefully eliminate the need for testing new drugs on animals (Nordquvist). Additionally, thanks to a large U.S. government grant tunneled by the National Institute of Heath, scientists have now learned how to deprogram a skin cell back to a stem cell (United). Preliminarily testing of this new technique has already cured Parkinson’s disease in infected mice (Mozes).
The time to act is now, and humanity is suffering from this indecision. The United States needs to accept stem cell research, provide adequate funding, and implement a unified infrastructure. Ethical ways are now present. People are in pain, and our loved ones are being lost to diseases that may easily be treatable or even cured. Our country is also currently in an economic slum, both our unemployment and homelessness rates are increasing, and our gross domestic product is dwindling (Stem). Now more than ever, we to take advantage of this opportunity to catch back up with the globe, to find more cures, save more lives, increase our quality and quantity of life, create more specialized jobs with additional global revenue, and to reunite the United States.
Good news may be on the horizon, Congress has just written a new bill, which will be scheduled for vote next session. Unfortunately, the new stem cell bill is an exact copy of the last, which was of course, vetoed by our President.
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Ford, Liz. US ‘Falling Behind’ on Stem Cell Research. 1 June 2006. 30 Mar. 2008
Mozes, Alan. Therapeutic Cloning Works in Mice With Parkinson’s. 24 Mar. 2008
Nordqvist, Christian. Parts Of Liver Created Using Umbilical Cord Stem Cells. 31 Oct. 2006. 10
Rosenbaum, Jason. “Hulshof, Steelman Share Views on Stem Cells.” Columbia Daily Tribune (MO) 11 Feb. 2008. Newspaper Source. EBSCOhost. Pueblo Community Coll. Lib., Pueblo CO. 19 Mar. 2008
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