STEM Cell Therapy: A moral predicament
Written by: Emaan Usman
STEM cells are the fundamental structures for all multicellular organisms in terms of growth, development, and regeneration. These cells carry out mitosis (cell division) wherein they may remain STEM Cells or form specialised cells required to carry out significant bodily processes. In the body of an adult, the diversification of these cells is limited; for example, STEM cells in the bone marrow can only vary into blood cells (Red Blood Cells, Neutrophils, Lymphocytes, and Monocytes). This is called multipotency.
With the integral role of STEM cells in the body, researchers indulged in extensive research to ascertain more efficient or targeted applications of these cells. This research led them to STEM Cell Therapy. This treatment has multiple variations however I will be discussing the most beneficial although, paradoxically, controversial form. STEM Cell Therapy can be used for the effective treatment of liquid-state cancers, the likes of which are Leukemia and Multiple Myeloma.
These otherwise fatal and problematic cancers are first battled with High dosages of radiation or chemotherapy where cancer cells in the bone marrow are eradicated alongside healthy blood-forming cells. The patient’s blood is then injected with healthy STEM cells.
Once in the bloodstream, these cells are able to move to the bone marrow and eventually resume normal blood cell production.
Here the question arises: If the procedure is so effective and straightforward, what ignites debate?
The STEM cells used in the research and applications of this particular stream of treatment are embryonic STEM cells; i.e., these STEM cells are derived from aborted or miscarried fetuses. Occasionally this may also include IVF fetuses grown and incubated for the sole
purpose of derivation and use. Consequently, the contention that surrounds research and treatment with STEM cells is not simply an ethical dilemma but it transgresses into supposed religious infractions in particular with the Monotheistic demographic.
The negative debate that arises is accompanied by accusations of murder and violation of human rights. This further usurps the pro-life narrative and propels it to a higher pedestal where the opposition argues that by extracting fetuses and using embryonic cells for research and treatment, not only are there ‘innocent lives being taken, but those ‘human children’ are further being violated. The right-wing asserts that the use of living beings that don’t have the power to consent to such medical infractions is highly unethical.
We cannot immediately resolve this question of morality without reflecting upon our socio-religious values. In a fast-paced, progressive world it is easy to re-calibrate traditions and cultures when faced with technology and enterprises that were undiscovered before, however, in the face of faith and propriety it is one’s individual deliberation that can allow them to either accept or reject this progressive technology.
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