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Stem Cell Ethics

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Essay title: Stem Cell Ethics

Kristy Lindsay

Student ID # 0524436

28 April 2008

Introduction to Sociology


Human stem cells were successfully grown in the laboratory for the first time in 1998. As objects for study and manipulation by researchers, stem cells hold great promise for two reasons: they may be able to renew themselves indefinitely, and, under the right conditions, they can develop into mature cells of many -- and possibly all -- different types, such as nerve cells, skin cells, pancreas cells, etc. So far, scientists have had some success in experiments using stem cells to restore lost function in animals, but the ability to transplant stem cells into humans to replace diseased tissues is not yet assured.

Despite hopes that human stem cell research will lead to medical breakthroughs, there are controversial ethical and legal questions concerning how these cells are derived. Many people are opposed to using stem cells derived from human embryos because the removal of the cells results in the death of the embryos. For many, causing the death of an embryo is equivalent to taking the life of a human being.

In August 2001, President George W. Bush ruled that the federal government would fund research only on existing stem cell lines derived from human embryos. This ruling prohibits federal support for developing new lines that would require more embryos to be created and destroyed. This ruling does not prevent research on stem cells derived from adults, nor does it apply to privately funded research.

This view is supported by the conflict theory since it emphasizes the role of coercion and power, a person's or group's ability to exercise influence and control over others, in producing social order. It states that a society or organization functions so that each individual participant and its groups struggle to maximize their benefits, which inevitably contributes to social change such as changes in politics and revolutions.

Diane Beeson, a medical sociologist and Professor Emerita of Sociology at California State University, emphasizes that she is a life-long supporter of women’s abortion rights and supports embryonic stem cell research using embryos left over from IVF treatments. However, in 2004 when the California Stem Cell Initiative was placed on the ballot asking voters to authorize $3 billion in state bonds for research that prioritized the development of human cloning technologies, she decided to speak publicly about her concerns and became a founder of the Pro-Choice Alliance Against Proposition 71. A process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT creates great demand for human eggs needed in experimental cloning. Specifically, the concerns are related to the exploitation of women necessary

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