Stem cells must be utilized

It is hard to deny the promise of stem cells. From a human embryo just days old, there comes the potential to save and extend people’s lives. The possibility exists that stem cells could counteract a myriad of diseases, provide viable replacement parts for a body and generally improve quality of life. When it comes to federal funding for such research, however, President George W. Bush has been hesitant. For the past few months, he has moralized about the destruction of embryos that must occur to harvest stem cells. If Bush is truly interested in exploring ways to reduce suffering and extend the bounds of knowledge, he should pursue the government’s full and active involvement in stem cell research.

This is one issue that should firmly remain in the realm of science and not politics. Stem cells have the potential to do good, and the Bush administration should acknowledge this possibility. Then it will be up to the scientists to discover and explore exactly what stem cells can and cannot do. If stem cells have no prospects to improve the quality of life, researchers will discover this and eventually lose interest. However, research could just as easily go the other way, and it is unconscionable to restrict the possibilities before they have been fully explored.

In regard to stem cell legislation, compromise is not a viable alternative. If religious conservatives who oppose the research have their way, not only would the government not be involved, but research would likely be banned, even in the private sector. Indeed, recent reports indicate companies have created stem cell lines and are exploring cloning options. Though this may fuel the hysteria of conservatives, in actuality, it gives more reasons for the government to be involved. With government oversight, all avenues of study could be explored. This is preferable to research being driven by companies looking out for the bottom line, or research that serves an owner’s narrow interests.

One of the largest objections to stem cell research comes from religious conservatives who use old arguments about the beginnings of life. The pro-life community, which mostly is opposed to the research, has a heavy burden of proof to meet. They still must explain how clusters of cells are morally equivalent to humans. Indeed, in the light of so much suffering that goes on, even some pro-life politicians have taken the reasonable stance on stem cell research and want the opportunity for scientists to make what inroads they can.

Some also claim a distinction between embryos created in vitro and those created for research. For them, it would be permissible to use embryos created in vitro that now sit unused in fertility clinics, while they take issue with using embryos specifically created for research. However, it is questionable how it can be morally acceptable to use stem cells from embryos created with the intent of having a child, yet it be wrong to create embryos specifically for their stem cells. The differences between the two types of embryos come only with their intended usage and both should be utilized for stem cell research if scientists so require.

This area of study is relatively new, and it is too soon to allow anyone to curtail or cut off money from these projects. America cannot fall behind in this area of research or we risk losing scientists to other nations. The ethical mandate exists to stop suffering, and the tools now exist to make it possible. It is to the president’s political detriment – and the real life physical detriment of millions of people – if he does not allow the government to pursue the promise stem cells bring. For every day that passes as the president mulls over his decision is another day someone suffers.