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Bluefreedom's avatar

President Obama eased restrictions on stem cell research on Monday and I was wondering what people's opinions might be on this.

Asked by Bluefreedom (22800 points ) March 10th, 2009

I’ve talked to friends that have mixed views on this approach to doing medical research and I know the collective here will have good input and opinions on this also. I understand this can and probably will be a contentious issue for many considering it involves human embryos as a viable source for gathering stem cells.

I am in favor of stem cell research and probably for selfish reasons too. My father suffered from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and he was going to receive stem cell therapy to try to fight off his disease. The doctors told us there was a fairly good chance some progress could be made. Just a couple of weeks before his therapy was to start, the lymphoma spread into his stomach and his brain stem and by that time, it was too late to attempt treatments.

As far as myself, I’m a diabetic and I have read that stem cell research may one day be productive in helping to fight or cure diseases such as diabetes and many other ailments so I’m interested for that reason also.

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46 Answers

cookieman's avatar

I think it is about time this decision is being driven by science instead if ideology.

Fact is that unused embryos (from fertility procedures) are stored and eventually discarded. Far better they be used for research that may cure diseases.

To argue that these same embryos are viable life is pointless as they would be discarded anyway.

Harp's avatar

I’ve come to a personal peace with it by considering it in terms of the relief of suffering.

The destruction of the embryo (which has no nervous system, much less awareness, at this stage) entails no suffering on anyone’s part. The potential for relief of suffering through medical advancement, though, is huge.

In a situation like this, where the “suffering” calculus is so unambiguous, I see no reason not to proceed.

dynamicduo's avatar

Stem cell research is one of the most promising scientific endeavours in my lifetime. I am so happy that the barriers towards pursuing and mastering that science are being torn down. It will only benefit humanity as a whole.

cdwccrn's avatar

While the stem cells are potential life, and embryos, especially so, the real possibility for the potential relief of suffering is huge.

fireside's avatar

I know someone who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, spent six years in a wheelchair and was asking to be put in hospice care. His doctor said that there was one more alternative before considering that option.

He had stem cell surgery which repaired the mylar sheathing not only at the base of his spine, but all the way up. It also helped reactivated portions of his brain that had been dead or inactive from all the scarring. In less than a year, he’s now walking around and just got his driver’s license and is driving around as he goes to hospitals and speaks about his experience with the disease, the treatments he underwent and the spiritual journey that led him to the Baha’i faith.

So, there’s one second hand testimonial about the power to reduce suffering. He went from having no value left in his life to gratitude and hopefulness for every new day.

cookieman's avatar

@fireside: Great story.

pekenoe's avatar

I’m for it.

SuperMouse's avatar

One of the most important people in my life is quadriplegic, he has been for almost 19 years. I love the idea that stem cells can help repair spinal cord damage. The thought of him walking again is a miracle and if stem cells can make that happen I’m all for it.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Should have been done long ago. I just hope the research can live up to its potential.

wundayatta's avatar

It is outrageous that some people consider embryos to be human beings. Embryos are tossed out naturally by the droves. Who knows how many fail to attach to the uterine wall?

It seems to me that throwing out embryos is the worst kind of sin. It wastes valuable human lives. We encourage people to give organs away—hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs, etc. Why should we draw the line at stem cells? Death, stem cells? Death? Stem cells? How can there be a controversy?

Just about everybody believes in the sanctity of human life. We’ll do anything to save a life, including using parts from people who no longer have life. People who are against stem cell research are hypocrites of the worst sort. They say they love life, but their actions betray them.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m in favor of what Obama just did.

Mr_M's avatar

I’m not comfortable with the use of embryos. I ask myself, “What if it were a baby?”. Would you sacrifice someone’s baby for the good of others? Not mine.

But I don’t know as much as I want to know. Are embryos, in fact, destroyed? On a daily basis? What?

And are they finding cord blood stem cells are just as good or better? Why do they want to use the stem cells from embryos? DO THEY REALLY HAVE TO?’’

I’d want to hear both sides before I made a decision.

KrystaElyse's avatar

It’s about frickin’ time.

But didn’t scientists also just discover that they could find adult stem cells in mature organs and tissues? I think they should utilize both.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I also am 100% for this, & I also say it’s about time. When I think of all the millions of people who could be helped with this procedure, it way over due. Christopher Reeve could have been helped with this. Michael J. Fox, your dad, Blue, YOU. It’s something that just has to be done. There’s a well of possibilities there to help countless people, & it’s time we dip into it.

wundayatta's avatar

@Mr_M: A lot of embryos are made for in vitro fertilization. When the parents have had enough kids, there may still be a number of embryos in cryo-preservation. If they choose, the parents can donate these embryos to parents who have trouble conceiving. If the parents of the embyo don’t want to do that, and they don’t want any more kids, they embryos are warmed up, and they die, and they they are thrown out with the other biological material.

Rather than throw them out, why not make them available to help other people live? Parents can have a choice about this, just as they might have a choice to donate various parts of a body if they have a child who dies in an accident. If they choose to donate the embryos, it should be allowed.

Mr_M's avatar

What do they have to do to the embryo in order to remove the stem cells from the embryo? Is the embryo alive when they do this?

wundayatta's avatar

@Mr_M: this will sound like I’m dodging the question, but it depends on what you think life is? Cells are alive. The cells in an embryo are alive. The cells in stem cell research are alive. However, the cells that comprise an embryo can not turn into a human being unless they are in a womb. So the embryo is not viable on it’s own, and will die very quickly, even in a petri dish. Is that life? In one way, yes, but it terms of viability, no.

Also, and someone else can correct me if I’m wrong, I believe that all the cells in the embryo are stem cells at this point. Usually they have about eight cells (three cell divisions) when they are frozen. If these eight cells are separated (I’m guessing here), they are each used to generate more stem cells. At this point in an embryo’s life, all the cells are the same. They haven’t turned into arms and legs and lungs and so forth. If you separated each cell, and let them all divide on their own, and then found a womb for them, you could probably have octuplets. Stem cells have all the characteristics needed to create a full human being (I believe—again, I might be wrong).

This is why they are so valuable. They can turn into anything. So, if someone with multiple schlerosis has damage to the spinal cord, and you can’t generate new spinal cord cells, then stem cells can be used to generate a new sheath for the spinal cord.

Cloning happens when you take the nucleus of any cell from an individual, and replace the nucleus of the stem cell with the borrowed nucleus. If the transfer takes, you can grow a twin to the original creature. This is a very difficult process, but it has been accomplished with a number of animals, and who knows? Maybe in some unethical place in the world, it has been accomplished with humans.

Here’s a site on the web saying essentially what I just said, only they do it more concisely, as usual.

Mr_M's avatar

Interestingly, you have a problem with the concept of a LIVE embryo, yet you know when the embryo DIES?

I would respond by saying my definition of the embryo being alive would be for it to be in a state opposite what you think is dead.

Having said that, that is where my discomfort lies and how it’s different from the mother who donates her DEAD child’s organs.

I think there is SO MUCH WORK that needs to be done with stem cells from other sources, that the need to mess with LIVING embryos is NOT there yet.

wundayatta's avatar

@Mr_M: I’m afraid I didn’t understand that.

KrystaElyse's avatar

@Mr_M – As I said above, scientists have already found that they can use adult stem cells from mature organs and tissues, not just embryos.

casheroo's avatar

I think stem cell research is amazing.
I’m not well versed on the subject, but didn’t they find that other stem cells work better than embryo stem cells?? Was the restriciton just on embryo stem cells, or all stem cells?
Either way, we need this research. I’m glad he lifted restrictions.

cookieman's avatar

I would assume all stem cells (regardless of origin) would be on the table for research.

Making embriotic stem cells avaible simply widens the pool available for research.

Harp's avatar

To address @Mr_M ‘s point, I don’t see it in terms of anything being killed here. The cells that formed the embryo simply go about what they’re programmed to do: become human tissue. Nothing dies; the life force of those cells just gets redirected.

I don’t happen to believe in a soul. I do understand how one’s reading on the morality of this issue would change dramatically if a soul has to be considered.

Mr_M's avatar

I’m actually NOT talking from a morality, religious, point of view. In fact, I’m not taking ANY point of view but only asking questions.

I guess the next question I would ask is this: Does taking stem cells from a live embryo leave the embryo intact, and completely “functional”, without any “harm” to the living embryo?

Harp's avatar

By “morality”, I didn’t mean to evoke religion. Anytime we’re talking about whether something’s right or wrong, aren’t we in the realm of morality, whether or not God is involved? Maybe “ethical” would be a less charged word to use.

But no, the embryo would be gone because the word “embryo” implies a specific arrangement of those eight cells, and that arrangement has been undone. Does the life at this point belong to this special arrangement we call the embryo, or does the life belong to the cells that compose it? The cells don’t care whether they do their thing there in that test tube, in a womb, or in the spinal cord of a quadriplegic. Until you’ve actually got a being that cares, that will suffer if things go badly for it, then there is no “harm”.

That’s how I see it, anyway.

wundayatta's avatar

@Harp: I’m not sure you’re correct there. I think that if you artificially split the embryo, you can make twins. In any case, it is standard practice to take one cell, to run a dna check on. Of course, what people usually want to know is the gender of the child, and they decide which embryos to put back depending on what gender child they want. This is more an issue in Asia than it is in the West. Taking one cell does not hurt the viability of the embryo.

Harp's avatar

Good point, @daloon, but certainly at some point in the dismantling process you’d have to consider that you no longer have an embryo (the “pile of sand” problem?). Whatever point that is must surely be crossed in preparing stem cells.

Mr_M's avatar

@Harp , but if Daloon is right, couldn’t you just take ONE cell from one live embryo, another cell from another live embryo, etc., therefor keeping the original embryos “intact”?

wundayatta's avatar

It’s theoretically possible, I think. I’m not sure what the moral point is. Take one cell and using it for stem cell research, while letting the rest of the cells die.

casheroo's avatar

@Mr_M I believe that’s what they did with vaccines, and using fetal tissue. They don’t continually use fetal tissues, just once. (I could be wrong!)

drClaw's avatar

I’m no expert, but from what I do know I believe with 100% certainty that this is a good thing.

Harp's avatar

Here’s an interesting twist, then. There’s some evidence that an individual stem cell can be coaxed back into forming an embryo. If that’s the case, suppose that a stem cell line is established from the cells of an embryo. If some of those cells are used for therapeutic purposes or research, but others are maintained in culture, then that potential human still exists, doesn’t it?

asmonet's avatar

Huzzah!
Though, I’d like to add since my quick skim didn’t pick it up, stem cells can be found in other places than just embryos. In my opinion, we should start there. Get people used to it, and then if we’re all cool with it, let’s dip into those extra baby fixins left over at fertility clinics that are just gonna be chucked anyway.

Even if you do believe that those embryos have a right to life, wouldn’t it be better for their short lives to be put to some purpose? Rather than to be thrown in a dumpster?

Mr_M's avatar

For some (and, admittedly strange) reason, I have no problem with the idea of doing stem cell research on dead embryos, or on live embryos that, nevertheless, remain in tact, but I do have a problem with the stem cell research being the direct cause of the death of the embryo.

Maybe I just have to get used to the idea.

cookieman's avatar

@Mr_M: I can see your point. I don’t share that concern, but I can see where you’re coming from.

@asmonet: Lurve for “extra baby fixins”. Perhaps that could be used in the PR package.

nikipedia's avatar

@Harp and @daloon: “A previous study in mice indicates that it might be possible to generate embryonic stem (ES) cells using a single-cell biopsy similar to that used in preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which does not interfere with the embryo’s developmental potential5. By growing the single blastomere overnight, the resulting cells could be used for both genetic testing and stem cell derivation without affecting the clinical outcome of the procedure.”
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v444/n7118/abs/nature05142.html

janbb's avatar

I think the main point is that the embyronic matter is matter that is going to be discarded so that using it for research to cure disease is, to my mind, solely a good thing. While the embryos have potential to become viable fetuses, I don’t think they are until they are implanted in a womb. I do see it as somewhat analogous to organ donations whereby the creators of the embryos should be able to decide whether any unused embryonic matter can used be for stem-cell research.

To me it’s no contest, and I am delighted that scientific research is re-emerging from the dark ages of the past 8 years.

Harp's avatar

@nikipedia Yeah, I found that too. Interestingly, the Bush administration and the Catholic church, who you might have expected to rejoice at this possibility, both rejected it as an ethical option. Go figure.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I’m 100% for it.

dynamicduo's avatar

As asmonet graciously explains, there are more than one type of stem cell. In fact researchers here in Canada just recently made a breakthrough where stem cells can be grown from a patient’s own skin. It just happened to be that stem cells were easier to find in embryos prior to developing this technology.

Considering that now we can generate stem cells without risking harming or destroying embryos, does anyone’s opinion change?

kelly's avatar

Great, I’m on kidney transplant list. Even with good transplant, the new organ may only last 20–25 years. so hopefully by that time they will have “grown” kidneys in the lab. Good to separate science from politics.

oratio's avatar

They don’t do research on stem cells cause they think it would be fun to poke around and see what happens. They do it to save lives. Besides, now that they found out that you can turn other types of cells into stem cells anyway, why would it be an issue?

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I think it’s the logical course of action and it’s about time we got beyond the religious objections and proceeded with legitimate scientific exploration in which saving lives is the goal.

w2pow2's avatar

Well the research costs money, right? Maybe he’s finally prioritizing the way he should be! YAY!
Fix the economy first and then pursue scientific rsearch.
My faith is almost restored in him. But he has a long ways to go to correct the stuff he’s done.
GO OBAMA GO!

janbb's avatar

I’m delighted.

janbb's avatar

@ Mr M I’m not sure if you’re taking into account that these embryos are ones that are in labs and are never going to be used to create viable life. They are going to be thrown in the trash if they are not used for disease fighting research. I don’t see how using them is any more immoral than throwing them out. They are not fetuses; they have not been implanted in a womb to turn in to a baby. At least, that’s how I’m hearing it.

w2pow2's avatar

I would totally like to publicly apologize for my last comment- I totally misunderstood the question. Or more like the statement that Obama was easing restrictions. I thought it said he was holding back the funds on the research.
Now my conscious is clear. Now I can sleep at night.

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