I’ve written several posts about ethical issues and in this post I want to discuss some more issues associated with stem cell research.

Scientists by nature of their jobs are looking to expand the boundaries of human knowledge and understandably do not want restrictions placed on them by those who have little understanding of science or scientific procedures. However there are ethical dilemmas is in the area of embryonic stem cell research that needs to be considered. Scientists want develop treatments for degenerative diseases and other diseases where the body is not producing the correct chemicals to allow normal function. These types of diseases are not cured through drug treatments because a part of the body has broken down and the only way to fix the problem is to replace the cells that are no longer working correctly. Scientists believe stem cell research will give them this ability.

Embryonic stem cells are created from fertilizing a female egg with a male sperm potentially creating human life. From these cells the scientist extract what they need and discard the remains. Large quantities of these embryonic stem cells are required for research and potentially for treatment. A woman only produces one egg per month and the procedure to obtain this egg is quite invasive. There are drugs which can induce the production of eggs. These drugs are often used in some IVF procedures but they are not without unpleasant and in some cases dangerous side effects. The difficult of obtaining the number of stem cells scientists need is a problem.

It has been suggested that women could be paid for their eggs. Historically organ and blood donations have always been done voluntarily. If medical science start paying for body parts it will inevitable be the poor and disadvantaged who are most likely to agree and there is no guarantee this will improve their standard of living. Furthermore the procedure is known to have side effects and in a small number of cases these can be fatal.

Scientists need firm guidelines as to acceptable protocols in obtaining embryonic stem cells. However writing guidelines which the majority of people will find acceptable is a huge problem.