What do you think about the comparison between embryonic stem cell research and research on adult human beings or children?
Is the comparison a fair one?
What do you think is the moral status of a human embryo – and why?
Some argue that if the research on embryonic stem cells can help treat Parkinson’s, then the end (helping Parkinson’s patients) justifies the means (which involves killing embryos).
This argument clearly takes a utilitarian perspective. What weighs on the other side, however, are the various concerns having to do with the fundamental value of human life. What are your views? Until the 2009 Stem Cell Executive Order, U.S. law forbade research on any stem cell lines created after 2001 (that is the year in which that law was established). Compare the overall utility resulting from the new law with the overall utility that could be expected from the previous law. Is it just to destroy a human embryo for the sake of saving the lives of others? Discuss this question in terms of the justice objection. What do you think of the concern that allowing embryonic stem cell research might devalue our attitudes toward human life?
Recent medical advances indicate that induced pluripotent stem cells – adult stem cells that have been reprogrammed to an embryonic stem-cell-like state – may be able to take on the role that embryonic stem cells have. From a rule utilitarian standpoint, would it be better to experiment with those cells instead? From your point of view, does it make a difference whether adult or embryonic stem cells are used? Imagine you are finishing up your college degree in a medical field (e.g., medical technology), and you are presented with the opportunity to take an internship in one of the labs dedicated to embryonic stem cell research. Would it be ethically justifiable for you to take the job?
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