Thoughts on Stem Cell Research
The results of stem cell research up to this point make it very tempting to continue: we can move forward more quickly with diagnostics and cures and even generate organs for transplantation. I use the word "tempting" as the idea of faster discovery of cures and organ transplants to save lives and improve the health and welfare of lives matters greatly to me. I am ill at ease with the methodology of stem cell research, however, and as for the government funding such research, I am decidedly clear that government money has no reason being involved in this issue whatsoever.
I do believe that the majority of Americans are of the opinion that faster discoveries and cures for horrific diseases are great. I too desire the cures and discoveries, but at what cost? For many, stem cell research comes down to the questions of ethical science: "Is an embryo a life?" and, "Is it okay to take a life to discover cures and save other lives?" I am clear on the first question (yes) and find the second question extremely daunting.
The country is much divided on both these questions. For some the answer to these questions may be based on religious beliefs; for others, it is just a belief regardless of any dictums of religion. But let us be clear: these are not wholly religious issues and not everyone formulates their opinion to these questions based on their religion.
I also believe that in formulating a governmental policy where the concept of taking a life (or not a life) is at stake, policy makers need to think long and hard about how to honor American freedoms and choice. "When life begins" and "taking one life for others" is personal and should be responded to according to personal beliefs. It should not be federally funded.
The government may have legalized abortion, but it does not fund abortion. In the same vein, the government can legalize stem cell research, but it just shouldn't fund it as there is not overwhelming consensus by the American public.
What I would like to see is the government removed from the equation of providing monies for stem cell research from embryos and get some of the private corporations to put their money on the table. Many companies spend millions and millions of dollars on research for medication for disease. What about the idea of prevention? Or would that cut into profits?
The good news coming out this year is that stem cell research may not need to come from embryonic cells. This is a scientific discovery of grand proportions when it comes to this issue. In the past year, two scientists were able to utilize adult or children's cells and reverse the forward motion aging process programmed into the cell and alter it to revert the cell into a stem cell (a cell capable of dividing, developing and maturing into any of the body's 200 cell types). What is currently occurring in the scientific community are ways and means to reverse the development of cells from skin and bone humans into stem cells for research purposes for organ transplant and diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Of note is that these discoveries of the last year would not have been possible without the previous research done on embryonic stem cells. Further, the process of "anti-aging" such a cell back to stem cell stage is still in-process and is not at the raw and pure stage of the original embryonic cells heretofore studied; however, there are many in the field who do believe this is more than promising and may mean the future for research study of stem cells. Personally, I prefer this approach a lot more.
 Alice Park, "The Year In Medicine From A to Z" Time December 3, 2007