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Social benefits of funding stem cell research

Illustration by: Israel Gonzalez | Staff Illustrator

A study done by Chinese researchers successfully created mouse sperm cells out of stem cells. This is a huge success in stem cell research, and an important breakthrough for the 48.5 million infertile couples around the world.

Stem cell research has recently become a very real possibility to help many people. However, as with anything related to human embryos, a large controversy has surrounded funding and research. This controversy is tightly wound up in the abortion debate, because of how stem cells are researched in relation to humans.

The process in which stem cells are turned into sperms cells is called in vitro fertilization, which requires scientists to take out the inner-cell mass from the fertilized egg also called blastocysts. These blastocysts are taken from an IVF facility, and are generally in excess and donated by couples who have been treated for infertility. Embryos that have been fertilized inside of a woman’s body, however, are not used. This distinction is what makes the difference in the ethics of stem cell research.

These blastocysts are where the controversy begins. As with abortion, people believe life begins at conception, and as a result fetuses begin having rights before being born. These people believe the moment fertilization happens, the embryo now has rights like any other person, which means experimenting or taking cells without “consent” is illegal and immoral. This is neither a logical nor a realistic way to look at the entire situation.

The blastocysts given to scientists are generally in excess as well as donated for the purposes of research or they end up discarded if not used for science purposes. In other words, the blastocysts are thrown in the trash if not used to better society.

This is not morally superior than using blastocysts to help living people bring children into the world. These blastocysts are being used to further medical research to help treat health problems affecting millions of people. This research will allow people to form families who would not otherwise be able to.

There is only good being done by this research. No one is being hurt by the use of embryos to create life, or by other health benefits which come from stem cell research. To tell another person they are not allowed to have the same happiness others enjoy on the basis of a close-minded perspective is wrong and cruel.

Imposing beliefs on another person is antithetical to American values. The United States was founded on freedom for all people.