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On Stem Cell Legislation and the Related Legal Issues - Research Paper Example

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The isolation of human embryonic stem cells by Dr. James A. Thomson and its potential use in treating various diseases marked the beginning of the widely debated issue about stem cell research. Stem cells are totipotent in nature by which they have the ability to differentiate into any kind of human body cell such as blood cells to skin cells…
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Research Paper on Stem Cell Research Legislation and the Related Legal Issues
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Download file to see previous pages Embryo research in the United States has for long been linked with abortion as the Congress believed that promoting such research will encourage women to undergo abortions (Wertz, 2002). The human embryonic stem cells are the master cells of the body which have the potential to develop into any cell of the human body. These cells were first isolated in the year 1998 by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, under the guidance of Dr. Thomson, from the inner cell mass of the human embryo. Ever since researchers have focused on the ability of these stem cells to treat dysfunctional tissues by generation of new cells. With these cells scientists believe that several diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Multiple sclerosis and other nervous and metabolic conditions can be treated. This work by Dr. Thomson and his colleagues was not funded by the federal government’s primary sponsor for biomedical research, National Institute of Health (NIH) as the Congress had placed a ban on NIH- funded research on human embryo in the year 1995 and until 2001 there was no public funding for human embryo research. The ban prevented both the creation and the destruction of human embryos for research purposes. However, considering the potential of the discovery in 1998, the NIH appealed to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the funding for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. In 1999, the HHS concluded that public funding could be allowed for hESC research provided the derivation of these cells was carried out with private funds (Duffy, 2002). The moral and ethical issues associated with hESC research are related to the beginning of life following fertilization. While the people opposing the research believe that human life begins immediately after fertilization and not ant any specific stage of development and that the use of the human embryo is against the moral code (AAAS Policy Research, 2010). This also applies to the thousands of unused embryos in fertility clinics which are likely to be discarded. It is considered to possess an intrinsic value irrespective of whether it gives rise to a baby or not (Wertz, 2002). Those favoring the research have argued that only those embryos which implant in the uterus can be considered to be capable of giving rise to a human being. Using embryos which fail to implant or the excess embryos which are created in fertility clinics and left unused for research purposes would be morally fair rather than discarding them (AAAS Policy Research, 2010). The cultural factors that differentiate the views on embryo research between the United States and European nations includes: the government is answerable to the majority religiously fervent population as nearly 40% of the population attend church services, the politically active anti-abortion laws in the US and the inability to control the free enterprise of embryo research companies who are left to pursue their own goals (Wertz, 2002). The NIH draft guidelines released in 1999, during the Clinton presidency, allowed research on hESC from unused or leftover embryos in fertility clinics and those which were donated with the consent of the donor. The guidelines, which came into effect in 2000, faced ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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