Ethical Issues Related to Fetal Tissue Research

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Ethical Issues Related to Fetal Tissue Research The use of fetal tissue in biomedical research has been a hot topic for debate in social and political forums ever sense the landmark decision in the 1973 case of Roe vs. Wade (Beller & Weir 182). The decision of the Supreme Court to give women the right to abort a fetus without having a medical reason for doing so, sparked controversy which has affected any medical procedure or research dealing with fetuses (Bellar &Weir 182). Supporters of fetal tissue research believe it has too much potential to provide cures for many of the diseases and medical problems that plague today’s society for it to be halted. Opponents of this type of research believe it should be stopped because it is unethical to take the life of one human being in order to preserve the life of another. Until the ruling in Roe vs. Wade experiments involving fetal tissue were conducted without any scrutiny from the public sector (Maynard-Moody 13). The first documented procedure involving the transplant of fetal tissue was carried out by Italian researchers in 1928, doctors transplanted the pancreas of a fetus into a diabetes patient, the patient showed no signs of improvement (Maynard-Moody 11). Research involving fetal tissue didn’t become widespread until the 1960’s. In 1957, a non-habit-forming sleeping pill was released in Europe. The pill was widely used in Europe, but not approved in the United States. A few years after the release of the drug there was a sharp rise in the amount of European babies born with phocomelia or “seal limbs” this increase was traced back to the drug (Maynard-Moody 11). Shortly after this medical disaster, the United States government passed legislation that made pharmaceutical companies prove drugs were not harmful to unborn children before they could be prescribed for pregnant women. The need to test pharmaceuticals prompted an explosive growth in the amount of money and resources used for fetal tissue research (Maynard-Moody 13). During the late 60’s and early 70’s this research was viewed as a new and exciting field of medicine and many important medical advances were made. But after the ruling in Roe vs. Wade fetal tissue research was brought under the scrutiny of pro-life advocates, seeking to protect the rights of unborn children (Maynard-Moody 13).

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