Embryonic stem cell research is scientific research which utilizes embryonic stem cells to research how the embryonic stem cells, harvested from human embryos called pluripotent stem cells, can be used for regenerative or reparative medicine. The embryonic stem cells spe- cifically come from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst or egg fertilized four days after conception. At this stage of development the blastocyst has only about 150 cells. Pluripotent stem cells have the potential to differentiate into almost any cell inside the human body. The differentiated pluripo- tent cells can be used to repair damaged or degenerated organs. The ethical dilemma surrounding embryonic stem cell research is mainly focused on the moral standing of stem cells induced by human embryos rather than the research itself.
In vitro fertilization involves the combination of an unfertilized egg and sperm. Eggs can be fertilized in vitro and then incubated to become an embryo. The embryos can then be inserted into the uterus and can result in a pregnancy. However if the embryo is not placed in a uterus, it will not survive. Therefore, in vitro fertilization provides not only a clinical approach to fertility but a method to harvest stem cells with embryos that will not be harvested from pregnant women, but instead a lab. These cells will not survive without being inserted into a uterus and have not developed an axis to grow on, a spinal cord, brain, heart, or gastrointestinal tract. No body systems develop until four days. Therefore, in vitro embryos have not started fetal develop- ment yet and do not have any mental or physical capacity. Thus they do not have the capacity to feel pain or move. Furthermore, embryos that have not been induced via in vitro fertilization have the same growth as in vitro fertilization and do not have capacity to feel pain or move. In addition, if embryos are used for research to cure diseases and degeneration, then the sacrifice of embryos outweigh the potential death of many humans due to disease and degeneration. Therefore according to the principles of utilitarianism, the consequences of using embryonic stem cells hold moral importance and are ethical because of the maximum utility or health benefits achieved.
Using empirical evidence, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have determined a method of deriving stem cells from skin cells, without an embryo, proving that there are ways to induce stem cells. In research involving stem cells, multiple trials are run to assure accuracy. Furthermore, the validity of the results is examined by other research teams. The accurate empirical information is based on evidence. Stem cell research has and can lead to stem cell treatments which can allow us to treat a multitude of previously untreatable diseases such as nerve damage or degeneration disorders such as Alzheimers, MS, and paralysis. In addition organ damage and burns can be treated because when stem cells are placed around specific cells, then they will differentiate into that specific cell. For example, if an adult is in a car accident and the nerve cells in his spinal column are severed, then if stem cells are placed at the site of breakage, they would become new cells and can heal the spinal column.
Embryonic stem cell research is ethically justified because it has a signifi- cant clinical application or specific goal. The banning of stem cell research and treatment would hinder the progression of better healthcare, and will leave us unable to easily cure many diseases and degenerative disorders. Therefore the ben- efits outweigh the consequences because without this research, healthcare will not improve. Currently, embryonic stem cells have been successfully used by patients with spinal cord injuries and blindness. In addition, embryonic stem cell research has been successful in therapeutic cloning, organ regeneration and hair loss.