Stem Cell Research: The Key to the Country’s Success

June 10, 2011
By , Excelsior, MN
President Obama is a busy man. On a daily basis, he must brainstorm ideas for policies that could help improve the country’s financial situation; deal with foreign leaders and their current issues; decide what actions the army should take next in Iraq; and symbolize and represent America. He must also make decisions that he believes will benefit all Americans today and in the future. In order to choose what is best for the country, President Obama must consider the opinions of the citizens as well as the resulting benefits of his decisions.
Scientists also have a great number of tasks and assignments. Many spend their days searching for pieces of information that could lead to the discovery of a cure for one of the diseases affecting millions of humans, like cancer and diabetes. In the past decade, scientists have performed many experiments that predict that stem cells—especially embryonic stem cells, which are much more versatile and available than adult stem cells—are the key to these discoveries (Stem Cell Information). With the ability to develop into any type of cell in the body, stem cells offer the potential to supply information about how diseases appear, as well as generate new cells and tissues that could then be transplanted into patients with injuries or diseases. However, embryonic stem cells must be taken from blastocysts, or fertilized eggs that have not yet begun to form embryos, and the harvesting destroys them. Therefore, this research sparks a lot controversy. Supporters believe that, since the egg is not yet an embryo, harvesting the cells does not take a human life. But opponents claim that, because embryos would eventually grow into human beings, “it is unethical to do anything to an embryo that could not be done to a person” (Usdin). These conflicting opinions have consumed the country, and the issue of stem cell research has grown into one of our largest controversies.
Because this issue affects so much of the country’s population, whether it be the people who suffer from the diseases embryonic stem cells could potentially cure, the people who take care of those with disease, or those who merely have strong opinions on the matter, many presidents have spent lots of time and energy trying to find an answer that will please everyone. Since stem cell experiments began in the 1990s, there have been many presidential fluctuations concerning the accessibility scientists have of studying and creating these cells. President George H.W. Bush was the first to face the issue in 1990, and immediately banned the research. Then, President Clinton lifted the ban, but reinstalled it the next year due to “public outcry” (History..). Five years later, Clinton created a policy that allowed “funding of research on cells derived from aborted human fetuses, but not from embryonic cells” (History..). Another year later, President George W. Bush decided to allow federal funding only on previously existing stem cell lines. This policy once again made embryonic stem cell research nearly impossible because there were only 64 existing stem cell lines in the entire world.
Most recently, in March 2009, President Obama passed a bill repealing George W. Bush’s previous stem cell research policy, allowing more federal funds to be used on creating new stem cell lines, which can then be studied and observed. Two days later, however, Obama signed the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009. Included in this bill is the “Dickey-Wicker” provision—which was also included in Bush’s policy—that “bans federal funding of research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.” Although this bill still allows scientists to improve upon existing stem cell lines with private or state-level funding, it once again prohibits the use of federal funding in developing new lines that could be vital to discovering medical cures.
All this fluctuation has been “intensely…confusing to many people” (Herold). I think it’s time for President Obama and the rest of the nation to really consider how important embryonic stem cell research could be to the medical world and how many lives could be improved and saved. He should review all of the facts and finally take a firm stand on the issue.
Because I have been living with type I diabetes for twelve years, I admit that I am a little biased when it comes to this topic. I would love for scientists to find the cure for this disease that so greatly affects my life, and I know that embryonic stem cells could enhance and speed up the process towards this end. Type I diabetes is a disease in which “the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing (aka islet) cells of the pancreas” (Type I Diabetes). It usually affects children and young adults, making them “dependent on injected or pumped insulin for life” (Type I Diabetes). By using embryonic stem cells to grow new islet cells, scientists can transplant them into people with type I diabetes, ultimately freeing them from strict carbohydrate-counting, blood glucose-testing, and life-threatening complications. Though I am very personally attached to this worldwide issue, I have also researched a great deal, weighed both sides, and after reviewing what I have learned, still believe that the President should reverse his policy and allow federal funding for this study.
People who are against this type of research argue that all embryonic stem cell research requires the termination of a human embryo that could have developed into a child. They condemn scientists for even considering the idea of ending an innocent life before it has a chance to begin. However, they don’t think twice about the fact that women all over the country use the help of fertility clinics to become pregnant. In reality, “fertility clinics destroy far more human embryos than stem-cell research ever would” (Kinsley). The clinics must create “multiple embryos in the laboratory, transferring two or three [into the woman] and hoping that at least one will make it through to birth” (Kinsley). In many cases, only one, if any, of those embryos survives, and the rest die. Then there are the embryos that never get transferred into a woman. What happens to those? “They get destroyed or frozen indefinitely” (Kinsley).
Despite the huge numbers of destroyed embryos coming out of fertility clinics, there is no controversy surrounding their operations. Instead of going crazy over one topic and completely ignoring the other, I think that President Obama should combine the two, granting federal funds to scientists to buy the left over embryos in order to extract their stem cells. This would not only resolve the issue of destroying embryos purely for scientific means, but it would also provide a use for the embryos going to waste in fertility clinics.
Opponents to embryonic stem cell research also insist that it is unfair to take a potential human’s life for the improvement of an already existing one’s. But is it fair to look at an embryo that is unable to be seen with the naked eye in the same light as an adult suffering from a life threatening disease? (Fetal Development...). At the time when scientists would terminate the embryo in order to extract stem cells, that’s all it would be—a few cells without the capacity for emotion or feeling, including pain. According to many studies, “all available evidence shows that even though [pain] sensors develop early in pregnancy, human embryos cannot actually sense pain” (Can an embryo..). Therefore, I feel that when weighing between an unconscious embryo and a living, breathing, suffering human being, the choice should be clear. In order to improve the lives of millions of people, President Obama should rethink his policy with the knowledge that the embryo feels no pain, while the human suffers.
When looking at the benefits of stem cell research in financial terms, it is unbelievable that none of the presidents have done anything to improve the research conditions. Every year on average, the country spends $228 billion on cancer treatments, $174 billion on diabetes treatments, $148 billion on Alzheimer’s disease treatments, and $5.6 million on Parkinson’s disease treatments (ACS) (ADA) (ALZ) (Parkinson’s). And that is the price of only four major diseases affecting our citizens. In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, President Obama must be searching desperately to find a suitable and creative solution for the country. Well, here it is. By using embryonic stem cell research to find cures for many of these diseases, we can greatly reduce the astronomical prices we are paying for them. The cures will also decrease the number of people on the healthcare system and the number of people who are unable to work because of disease, and ultimately lead to a huge savings. Maybe even one big enough to solve our current financial crisis.
It is the president’s duty to take into consideration the opinions of the citizens as well as the resulting benefits of his decisions and then choose what actions to take. In the case of embryonic stem cell research, it seems clear that President Obama should change his policy. From an efficiency standpoint, using federal money to buy left over embryos from fertility clinics seems like a good idea. From a human improvement standpoint, using embryos to better the lives of the millions of people suffering from disease seems like a good idea. And from a financial standpoint, using embryos to greatly reduce the national amount of money spent per year on disease seems like a good idea. I believe that President Obama should review his current policy on embryonic stem cell research, taking into consideration all of these factors, and match them against the criticisms being poured forth. I think he will find that the resulting benefits significantly out-weigh the objections.

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