General Question

JLeslie's avatar

If you are against embryonic cell research for moral reasons, but we discover the cure for a disease you or your family member comes down with, will you use the treatment?

Asked by JLeslie (61643points) July 26th, 2009

I asked this once on facebook, and I only had about 5 people answer, but they all said yes. So, I am wondering if the flutherites against it feel the same way? And, I want to know what your reasoning is behind a yes answer, why are you ok with it if you find the research immoral? Also, if you are for the research what do you think about people against being fine with using the treatment?

All I can think is that maybe the people against the research feel as though the “blood is not on their hands” so to speak? And, once the embryo is “dead” already, might as well use the treatment. But, maybe I am wrong, maybe there are other reasons you feel ok about it.

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42 Answers

girlofscience's avatar

I think people opposed to embryonic cell research are ignorant. I think that people who say “yes” to your question but continue to oppose the research in general are selfish, hypocritical, and clueless.

fireinthepriory's avatar

This whole debate is sort of defunct. We can make pluripotent cells out of any sort of cells now, they don’t need to be derived from embryos. (It’s sure as hell easier to get them that way, but not necessary in the least.) They’re called induced pluripotent stem cell.

Edited to add that despite this, I’d be fine with using the millions of embryos that are sitting frozen and unused in fertility clinics for stem cell research. They’ve already been created, but they’re never going to be used… Why not try to cure some diseases using them?

Zendo's avatar

Hell Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I want to live!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I’m with @fireinthepriory, I understand that the stem cells that come from fertility clinics to be used are the ones that are going to be discarded anyway. So these people who are morally against stem cell research think that it’s immoral to use embryos to create stem cells to cure disease, but it’s just fine to throw them in the garbage. What the f*ck is wrong with that logic? Is there something I’m not seeing here?

giltesque's avatar

No I would not. Of course it’s easy to say things like that when not in the crisis itself but to my best ability, I do not contradict the values I hold so dearly. As for girlofscience-(ironic name) considering her own ignorance of the subject. Fire is informed and to choose a more “difficult” process and stay true to a belief is honorable. Adult stem cells are improving remarkably for the exact research embryonic were sought after for. Girloflittle science- Making fun of others without facts is “ignorant”. My family member died of ALS and we have been in scenarios most will never comprehend the weightiness of choices needing to be made and how intertwined they are with the sanctity of life, quality of life, ends justify the means, means justify the ends…..I fear for the person that has no convictions and faces trials, they will collapse and must feel so feeble wavering about like a leaf in a storm.

Grisaille's avatar

@JLeslie You asked this on FB? I totally missed that one. Btw, what happened to that funny note on how us Blue states were going to break away and form a glorious nation?

atlantis's avatar

Technically speaking, the embryo is called a zygote when the sperm and egg cells combine. An embryo has clearly identifiiable human features like a face with nose, ears, eyes; and at that stage, it is too late to harvest anything anyways. So yes, I will resort to established, certified treatment for a disease if it was done with stem cell research.

It’s not like they’re aborting babies, they’re just mixing eggs and sperm in the lab

OpryLeigh's avatar

I have often asked animal rights activists a similar question (ie: if you or a family member came needed to be treated with a life saving drug that had been tested on animals how would you feel?)

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

My nephew was saved by a heart saving treatment that was first tried on animals. Without that breakthrough, he’d never have survived. You can probably guess where my sentiments lie on that particular question.

DrBill's avatar

Yes,I support the research,
Yes, I would use it.

casheroo's avatar

I’m not against embryonic cell research. I would use the treatment reached from the research.

cwilbur's avatar

I’m not against embryonic cell research, so I’d definitely use the treatment.

I am reminded of a study I read about a few months back that showed that people who were strongly anti-abortion—to the point of participating in picketing abortion clinics and similar activist acts—had abortions themselves at a rate comparable to the public at large. And yes, I think the word for people like that is “hypocrite.”

whitenoise's avatar

I would have a hard time envisioning myself against embryonic stem cell research. But if I were, I feel I should at least feel morally torn up before accepting a treatment based on the research.

I have filled a full donor card and if I die, my organs are up to save people. It is a similar dilemma: what to think of people unwilling to be a donor but still asking access to the donor bank?

I feel many people that are being opposed, are being that based on a dogmatic notion that has not been thoroughly thought through. Being in need of an organ or a cure would make them think, though.

Even more interesting (maybe), do you think people would accept such a treatment / organ and could then still be opposed to the research / donation, afterwards?

JLeslie's avatar

@whitenoise After the response I got on facebook, I think you can take the treatment and still be opposed. I really was SHOCKED that so many people responded with a big YES that they would take the treatment. One person actually said he probably would not even be aware how the treatment was developed so how would he even know to reject it. That’s not the point obviously, but it seems they are able to rationalize it somehow. I was thinking they look at it like, I would never kill someone for their kidney, but once they are dead, I’ll take it. But the FB thread died down…you know FB is more flighty. That’s why I was interested in posting it here, because flutherites will be spend more time explaining their position.

I actually respect @giltesque for her consistency and thought in her answer. The Catholic church is against it, which is consistant, soul enters at conception, so they are against abortion, embryonic research, AND in-vitro fertilization (IVF). A lot of groups are against abortion and embryonic stem cell, but for IVF, that makes no sense at all.

casheroo's avatar

@giltesque I don’t even understand your arguement against @girlofscience. “I fear for the person that has no convictions and faces trials,” What does that even mean?

JLeslie's avatar

@giltesque I agree with casheroo on that…I should have reread the whole statement…what did you mean? @girlofscience is probably how must people for embryonic research feel, that it is hypocritical to take the cure that resules from the research if you tink it is immoral. You started by saying that you wouldn’t, becasue you are against it. I’m glad you wrote that @casheroo

girlofscience's avatar

@giltesque: Fail. That drivel is incomprehensible. Try again.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

First of all, I don’t know why we’d have to use embryos when there are other options. Secondly, no matter your convictions, nobody really knows what they’d do until they get put in the situation.

JLeslie's avatar

@BBSDTfamily granted you don’t always know what you will do unless you are in a situation, but you know now what you think you might do, and if you are against the research morally, but already know you would use it if you are sick, then why are you against it? I feel the same way about abortions, (not directed only at @BBSDTfamily, because I don’t know where you stand on abortion) ESPECIALLY late term abortion. I personally know a young couple who thought they were pro-life. Whole family votes that way, they are catholic, have had discussions about being pro0life in the past, etc. The couple had trouble getting pregnant; finally did, and then found out there was something terribly wrong and the baby would never make it to term. The wife immediately wanted to abort, because she did not want to be pregnant with a dying baby, and wanted to have a baby. As long as she was pregnant, she could not get pregnant. The thing is, in Memphis you can’t get an abortion after 14 weeks. Soooo, she had to drive over 2 hours to Little Rock for the two day procedure, staying overnight (which luckily she had relatives there who also were very understand of their situation, but also pro-life. The husband, who is the person I know, said they were afraid to tell their family and were surprised how supportive everyone was of their decision). She was actually in her 4th month I think at the time of the procedure, so 2nd trimester.

WTF! That drives me crazy. If you know all of the things that can go wrong during pregnancy, and you are going to speak out on an issue, whether it embryonic research, abortion, whatever, at least know the science, and take a minute to think about the, “there but for the grace of God go I” possibility, Don’t just have a knee jerk reaction. If you listen to all sides of an issue, and talk to people who have been through it you can start to know how you might react. I think this is true of all of the big social issues we have today, gay marriage, abortion, and more.

If it is true that you can get the same stem cell material from adult cells, I am interested in that, not sure why scientists are still fighting to use embryo’s then? Does anyone know?

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@JLeslie Why do you assume I’m against anything? I never said that. I am not going to discuss something with someone who off the bat put words in my mouth?! You made a lot of assumptions there about how I feel about the situation when ALL I did was say that nobody really knows how they’ll react in a tough situation until they get put in it, and stated the fact that there are other ways besides embryos so I don’t see the relevancy of the question.

JLeslie's avatar

I said it was NOT directed at you in parenthesis, because I don’t know where you stand begining my third line down from the top.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@BBSDTfamily granted you don’t always know what you will do unless you are in a situation, but you know now what you think you might do, and if you are against the research morally, but already know you would use it if you are sick, then why are you against it?

This is what you said before you said you weren’t directing stuff at me… maybe I misread it? Starting from your first sentence that was directed toward me, you were making assumptions about where I stand.

JLeslie's avatar

@BBSDTfamily I see the confusion now. I was disagreeing; rather questioning, the statement that you can’t know unless you are in a situation. I am not saying I know where you stand on the research or anything else I might have talked about below, I am saying that before someone decides how they would feel, I think if they take the time to learn about something they might more accurately be able to predict how they will feel. So, I am adding onto what you said, not arguing with it.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@JLeslie Ok I see now and I understand you point. I guess I am the minority then, or maybe I feel that I wouldn’t really know because that has happened to me before where I’ve considered something that I disagree with because I was the one in the hot seat… didn’t make any different decision than I thought I would but the thought of me considering it surprised me. If we pretend that without exception there is no way to get the needed cells without embryo tissue, then I would think my answer would be no I wouldn’t agree with it because I am very pro-life and I don’t believe in taking one life to save another. On the other hand, if my mother were laying there dying I think I would see which outweighed which…. It is a tough question for someone who feels strongly about both sides with conflicting outcomes. But, like I said I believe there are other options and I am all for helping someone dying in any way possible. It seems like the umbilical cord tissue would have everything someone would need to get the needed cells, so I don’t know why we would have to use an actual embryo. Or maybe by embryo cells you are talking about leftover tissue after a birth?

JLeslie's avatar

@BBSDTfamily I used “you” as in the third person you, not you BBSTDTfamily. I could have used one, a person, that is all I meant by “you.”

JLeslie's avatar

@BBSDTfamily I had been under the impression that embryo’s (I do mean the actual embryo) rather as someone pointed out zygotes might be more accurate, because it is at a stage that all cells are still undifferentiated, were still the most promising way for some of the research being done. As I stated above I am interested to know if science is now saying that cells from adults and placentas are just as promising. I have only heard this from pro-life people (I actually don’t know if fireinthepriory is pro-life or not?) don’t take this the wrong way. I am willing to admit that scientists who have started embryonic research might be reluctant to admit the need for embryonic research is obsolete, because their research dollars are for the research they are working on. Moreover, it might be that both ways are equal, and to someone who sees the embryo as a bunch of cells they would not see any ethical harm in continuuing their research. So, I just am seeking the facts on that.

I do appreciate you opinion on this. Fluther tends to be very liberal, and I know the liberal point-of-view pretty well, because I tend to be liberal myself on social issues, but I want to understand the other side. I think we don’t get to “talk to each other” often. We are constantly watching in the media people talking AT each other.

I do find it interesting that you admit you had not thought about, what if it were me or my family? Very honest of you. My gut feeling was that many people follow their church and family on these matters and don’t consider the what if’s. But, I wanted to take the time to check my assumption, to understand the views of the other side. Even if it is not hapenning to your family it is happening to someone’s family.

I find these ethical questions very difficult. I respect your position on life.

Part of the reason I went down the road of that abortion example is that all of the years that woman’s family has been voting pro-life, wanting row v. wade reversed, if they had succeded, their daughter, niece, wife would have had no medical control over her body. But, they had never thought that maybe a pregnancy might go wrong? They do all of the time. And, my guess that among their community of friends they will not admit or tell that a family member had an abortion, so as long as those events are kept a secret within their community, they are sheltered from the realties. I am slightly off subject here, but I think this is true with so many social issues where the conflict in our society seems to be based on religion. I don’t want it to come out like I am attacking religion, I am just saying that when a religious person takes a stand I hope they have thought about more than just agreeing with their church, but also what they would want if in the same situation. Because it seems like these things lead to laws.

I also wonder if many people against embryonic research think it is a little fetus/baby that they are killing and pulling cells from, and not a group of perfectly identical cells in an embryo/zygote. I know that many people simply believe that the soul enters at conception, that is entirely different, and I can’t argue with that, if someone strongly believes it.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah I agree with you, I’d want to know more facts about embryonic cell research than I currently do to really say for sure where I’d stand. And hey, what’s the point of discussing things if we’re not being as honest as we can be? I know there are people who stand by their convictions so strongly that maybe they could let their own loved one die if they believed the research went against their beliefs. I’m just saying that honestly, I don’t know I could. But, I don’t even know enough about it to know if I even would be against it in the first place. Someone needs to come in here and give us all the info on this!!

fireinthepriory's avatar

@BBSDTfamily and @JLeslie, I have some of the scientific goods for ya! And because you were wondering, I’m pro-choice, but think that I probably wouldn’t have an abortion myself. Luckily, I’m gay, so accidental pregnancy probably won’t be an issue for me! :)

Embryonic stem cells are derived from the stage called the blastocyst. The inner cells are not differentiated. They’re the cells that will become the embryo, and can therefore become any kind of cell in the human body (are “pluripotent”). The outer cells will become the placenta and outer membranes and aren’t used for research. Here’s a cartoon that might help visualize what a blastocyst is.

It is 100% possible to get pleuripotent cells from adult cells. These are the induced pluripotent stem cells I mentioned above. Here is an article talking about some guys who cured mice of sickle cell anemia using this technique. The technology is new. There are a few kinks that have to be worked out before it can be applied to humans (they talk about this in the article) and embryonic cells are still the only proven method in other areas of stem cell research, but it’s clearly coming along. Most of the pro-stem cell research arguments you’ll hear don’t take this new technology into account at all, even though many of these people are scientists who certainly know that it exists. The reason? Their research will be faster and cheaper if they use embryonic sources of stem cells. Scientists do not want to miss out on making discoveries because they’re using the slow or expensive method.

JLeslie's avatar

@fireinthepriory So, kind of a mix of what I was thinking and what otehr mentioned. I know scientists love to be the ones to make the DISCOVERY. I remember during the HIV initial research days (my mom worked at NIH at the time where the research was being done) there was a French scientist and one of ours, maybe it was Broder, can’t remember, who wanted to claim the discover of HTLV3, I think they came to some backroom decision between them finally. So, I can see why they don’t want to wait for other methods to come along, and it sounds like the other way is not there yet.

It will be great if they can perfect the method from adult cells, because then the ethical question will go away.

@BBSDTfamily since you are pro-life, if the cells are taken from an embryo the first 5 days from conception, when cells are not differentiated yet, are you ok with it? Or, do you believe from conception those cells are to be protected? I have a close friend who is not ok with any of it. She is against IVF, and everything that might be connected to “creating life” outside of the body. She stays close to the Catholic churches view on these things. But, I find that pro-life people vary on different issues.

galileogirl's avatar

Lots of people don;t have medical procedures because of personal or religious beliefs. The difference is those who are against stem cell research want to impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@fireinthepriory Very informative, thanks for shedding light on all of this for us!

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@JLeslie You are right there is a big variety of arguments in the pro-life group, and I’ve even heard various arguments in the pro-choice groups! It’s a subject that has so many different angles. I think everyone places their own constraints on what they agree with and don’t agree with, and then you just have to choose if it falls into pro-life or pro-choice category. There are so many perspectives out there that there really should be more than just 2 categories in my opinion.

As for my feelings on the subject, I don’t really know where I stand with how many days into a pregnancy an embryo could be taken. If we can get them from adult cells like @fireinthepriory then I would rather do that, because I am pro-life. The reason I don’t say for certain when I believe a soul enters is because I haven’t done enough research to know what I’m talking about, and I don’t like to make judgements about things that I dont’ have the facts on. Basically where I stand with abortion is just I believe that the decision of life or death for an unborn baby isn’t up to a human to decide, because I’m a Christian. I would never have one no matter the circumstances, even if my own life was in danger. But, the one instance that I can show compassion for someone choosing an abortion is if their life is in danger if they continued the pregnancy.

Please tell me more about your friend with regards to being against IVF. I don’t know a lot about what takes place exactly, and I understand it that no eggs are destroyed in the process, so I don’t understand the pro-life reason against it, but maybe the religious reason for being against it is they believe it is a Holy act that God should control. I had to take Clomid in order to get pregnant (currently pregnant w/ our first child) and I have no regrets with having to take matters into my own hands because it wasn’t happening naturally. My only big issue is I believe in God, and I believe deciding on death for someone else is playing God. I hope I explained it well enough to make sense!

nikipedia's avatar

Let me speak a little bit more about the science behind this.

Inducing pluripotency in cells does not produce pluripotent cells that are identical to the ones derived from embryonic stem cells. It’s kind of like the difference between a heart and a pacemaker: they’re capable of performing the same function, but they’re not the same thing. And we don’t know all the ways these cells are different (yet).

The first time pluripotent cells were created, scientists took skin cells and used retroviruses to manipulate four genes to get them to return to a state of pluripotency. Unfortunately, one of the genes they manipulated was one that is often used to make normal cells into cancer cells. So if you tried to use these induced pluripotent cells, they would very often cause cancer. Not such a great side-effect, huh?

Since that initial breakthrough, scientists have been working to find a way to get around this problem by using recombinent proteins and by using adenoviruses. The adenoviruses appear to be able to circumvent the cancer problem, but are 1/100th as efficient as the other viral transfection agents. Also, this has only been accomplished in mouse cells, so far—no human cells have been returned to pluripotency using these methods (yet).

So the reasons scientists would still like to be able to use embryonic stem cells are because:
1. They are better. They are the real deal. They don’t have side-effects like causing cancer, or other side-effects that we don’t even know about yet that could impact the outcome of studies that use induced pluripotent cells.
2. They are cheaper. Scientists have to pay for this kind of research by asking the government and private companies for money. If you can’t raise enough money, you can’t do your experiments. (And this is not about scientists getting rich—they don’t get to keep the leftover money.)
3. They are more efficient. If you are using Technique A, and your buddy down the hall uses Technique B which is 100x faster, guess which one of you is going to be the first to use these cells to cure a disease?

So to answer the initial question: I am unequivocally in favor of using discarded embryonic stem cells for research as I see no ethical issues with it whatsoever, and as such I have no ethical problems with using any treatments that may eventually be derived from research using them.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@nikipedia What do you mean by discarded embryonic cells exactly? Are they harvested from the mother, are they cells discarded after a miscarriage or abortion? I don’t understand.

JLeslie's avatar

@BBSDTfamily I don’t know the Catholic Churches “official” reasoning for being against IVF, but I can guess, and it kind of makes sense to me, not that I agree, but it seems logical. IVF is in-vitro, not to be confused with other fertility aids like artificial insemination, or clomid. In-vitro has about a 25% success rate. Usually you will get 8–10 embryos, but this varies that you create in a dish outside of the woman, they let them go to day 5 (many times a few have died off by then frequently for genetic anomolies), and then put back 2–3 of the best ones into the woman’s uteris, the rest are frozen or disgarded at the discretion of the couple. If you believe the soul enters at conception, which the Catholics do, I can’t imagine how you can be ok with freezing or creating “life” assuming there is a soul, or knowing that the odds are against the embryo for survival at the time of creation (although you could argue that in nature 1 in 4 pregnancies fail anyway, but now I am talking about how I view it). So if you never unfreeze the embryos the soul is trapped in a sort of nothingness? Or, I guess you could rationalize that maybe God knows to take the soul out when it is frozen? Since I don’t believe there is a soul I am not sure how people who do think about it.

nikipedia's avatar

@BBSDTfamily: Let me refer you to the NIH’s page on stem cells:

Embryonic stem cells, as their name suggests, are derived from embryos. Most embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro—in an in vitro fertilization clinic—and then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors. They are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman’s body. The embryos from which human embryonic stem cells are derived are typically four or five days old and are a hollow microscopic ball of cells called the blastocyst.

I want to point out that practically speaking, taking cells from a miscarried or aborted fetus would be virtually worthless unless:
1. You became aware of the pregnancy within the first four to five days after fertilization
2. You miscarried or aborted within that timeframe
3. Scientists were given access to the aborted or miscarried tissue within that timeframe
4. The cells were successfully harvested, plated, and placed in an incubator within that timeframe.

The only reason this kind of cell is valuable is because it is so young and therefore capable of turning into any cell in the body. By the time most pregnancies are terminated (voluntarily or not) the cells are already so differentiated that they’re effectively useless.

casheroo's avatar

@nikipedia I think your latest post clears it up for people. I think people think abortion clinics take all they can get and use the discarded embryos or what not…which was never the case. I think people have wild imaginations when it comes to this.

JLeslie's avatar

@casheroo @nikipedia That was why I was wondering if people against it are actually thinking it is a little fetus, and not just a group of undifferentiated cells, I think I said it above somewhere? Not sure if it is on this thread? I wonder how they are “picturing” it, and if they know the science. When I see pro-life ads against abortion or embryonic research they feature photos of either a fullsize birthed baby or a fetus that is blown up to at least a quarter page, but a 7 week fetus (date from last period) is about a centimeter big. Again, I know pro-life people who do know all of the science and are still against it, that is their choice, just have accurate information before making a decision. Thanks for further clarification.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@nikipedia Thank you, you do so well at explaining.

@JLeslie Now that I know that cells that are going to be discarded anyway can be used to help save someone’s life down the road…. 100% for it.

Darbio16's avatar

If a child dies of natural causes I see no problem with finding a cure for disease. For the government to spend money on abortion for this cause is wrong. If you had a miscarriage you would no doubt be sad. They would remove the dead fetus from you so that It can be shipped to Israel for research. Our society has definitely become one where any means justifies any end. Moral or not.

JLeslie's avatar

@Darbio16 I’m not sure I got your full meaning? No one is aborting babies for embryonic cell research. They are using embryos that otherwise would be discarded. The cells are not differentiated yet, it is not a baby.

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