Ethics in Stem Cell Research

Research on stem cells continues to attract a lot of interest from various disciplines, especially medicine. This is due to the impacts that breakthroughs in stem cell research have had on the study of human body cells and the treatment of various diseases. Stem cell research relates to either embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells or pluripotent stem cells. Different stem cells have different sources with the main source of embryonic stem cells being fertilized eggs in the pre-implantation stage, while the adult stems cells originate from developed human tissue such as the bone marrow. The source of pluripotent stem cells is adult cells that have undergone programming to give properties similar to embryonic stem cells. While the sources of adult stem cells and pluripotent stem cells have not had significant controversies, the manner of obtaining embryonic stem cells has triggered numerous controversies concerning aspects of professional ethics and the protection of human rights. Although research on embryonic stem cells illustrates their applicability in various therapies within hospitals, there are concerns that an embryo possesses the basic characteristic of a living being and thus using embryos in stem cells research is disregard to the value of human life (Humber & Almeder, 2004). The persistence of the stalemate concerning embryonic stem cell research has been due to the fact scientists have not yet identified other means of obtaining embryonic stem cells without destroying an embryo.

The embryo forms the initial stages of human development and eventually produces a human being if it remains in favorable conditions. This implies the fact if someone destroys an embryo that has undergone implantation in the uterus he or she terminates an early pregnancy is guilty of committing an abortion. Since every individual and organization has the moral ethical responsibility to protect human life, scientists should desist from destroying stem embryonic cells for research purposes. Furthermore, the Code of Ethics for Nurses as described by the American Nurses Association requires nurses to adhere to ethical principles at all times by ensuring that they do not harm patients by using technology in acts meant to extend life or engaging patients in tests and experiments that have not undergone proper testing and certification (Marquis & Huston, 2009). ANA expects nurses to protect the welfare of patients even in conditions that warrant acts of compassion as enshrined in the principles of patient advocacy. On the other hand, there is a high possibility of developing medical treatments for various ailments that currently have no cure if scientists continue with the research on embryonic stem cells. Along this line of argument, the society has moral and ethical responsibility to alleviate the suffering of people with various ailments. Furthermore, the embryos used in stem cell research differ from the embryos implanted in the uterus in the sense that the latter has not developed psychological, emotional and physical characteristics associated with a human being and thus is not eligible for the considerations regarding the protection of the human life (Holland, et al., 2001). In addition, an embryo develops into a child only if it is in the uterus. Otherwise, it cannot develop externally into a human being. In fact, there is a higher ethical responsibility in the attempt to preserve the life of patients with ailments such as cancer using therapies developed thought embryonic stem cell research.

An evaluation of the ANA provisions of nursing ethics applies to patients who as human beings meet all the characteristics requiring the protection of human life. Embryos used in stem cell research constitute only a small fraction of the features of a human being. In this regard, nurses do not have an ethical responsibility that presents them as in violation of nursing ethics by not taking measures against embryonic stem cell research.

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