The Debate Concerning Stem Cell Research

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"Stem cell research is the key to developing cures for degenerative conditions like Parkinson's and motor neuron disease from which I and many others suffer." -- Stephen Hawking

As college students, it is important that we know and care about the issue of stem cell research. Stem cell research is currently legal in most countries. The United States, normally a leader in new frontiers, is one of the last to explore this territory. As it is slowly being pushed forward, we are going to have to know about it. If it keeps progressing, we as citizens will have to vote on it. It affects most of our lives in a personal way. Most of you know at least one person with diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s. Perhaps even you will face one of these illnesses at some point in your life. It is important to know about issues like stem cell research, which can help many people in our society.

Stem cell research is becoming an issue that is one of the most profound of our time. The issue of research involving stem cells derived from human embryos is increasingly the subject of dinner table discussions and a national debate. The issue is confronted every day in laboratories as scientists ponder the ethical consequences of their work. It is agonized over by parents and many couples as they try to have children, or save children already born. The issue is debated within the church, with people of different faiths, even many of the same faith coming to different conclusions. Many people are finding that the more they know about stem cell research, the less certain they are about the right ethical and moral conclusions.

What is stem cell research? It starts with an embryo. An embryo is created when a male sperm and a female egg are joined. A large number of embryos already exist outside the natural environment. They are the product of a process called in vitro fertilization, which helps many couples conceive children. When doctors match sperm and egg to create life outside the womb, they usually produce more embryos than are planted in the mother. Once a couple successfully has children, or if they are unsuccessful, the additional embryos remain frozen in laboratories. Some will not survive during long storage; others are destroyed. A number have been donated to science and used to create privately funded stem cell lines.

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