APR-JUN 2007 Vol 3 Issue13



Embryonic Stem Cell Research – Should it be practiced or not?


To begin with I would like to assert that Human Embryonic stem cell research devalues the worth of a potential human being. Human Embryonic stem cell research necessitates the destruction of the embryo.

Human beings are at the top of the food chain. Nothing is of prime importance than a human. All humans have to be treated at par irrespective of any criteria. That stipulates that no human can be given a preferential treatment over another when it comes to the matter of ‘LIFE’.

Embryos are lives and no one has the authority to end a life. Even in case of a criminal, death penalty is being hotly contested. Most of the countries across the world have abolished death penalty. Then why a potential human life should be terminated.

Do we need any kind of a third party advice or intervention into our thought process of evaluating what is wrong and what is right? Are we authorised to take a life to resurrect another life?

If Human Embryonic stem cell research is legalised it will give legal protection to the violation of the most fundamental of all human rights. It is never morally permissible to destroy one human life even if it is done in the hope of benefiting other human beings.

I would also like to take this opportunity to rebut the arguments that the week-old embryo destroyed for stem-cell research only holds the potential for human life and is not actually human. The human embryo is not something other than human. Human stem cells can only be harvested from a human being.

The primary question is whether embryonic stem-cell research can be pursued without harming another human being. The answer to this question is quite clearly 'no’.

Another argument is that the frozen embryos stored in fertility clinics created for in vitro fertilization procedures but not used for that purpose are going to be killed anyway and therefore they should be used for the benefit of others.

A death-row prisoner, a terminally ill comatose patient will die eventually. But that does not entitle another to kill human life at will for the purposes of scientific experimentation.

Add to it the fact that legalised research may result in more doctors consulting their patients to abort and thus obtain an embryo. Woman undecided about abortion may ultimately decided in favour of abortion thinking the aborted foetus could be of service to humanity. This would definitely result in a rise in the number of abortions.

What is the need of a new therapy when alternative therapeutic options like Adult Stem Cells are available? These options have shown considerable promise. However if embryonic stem cell research is legalised and practiced, it will become the de facto standard and these other alternatives will not be able to come to the fore for lack of resources as most of the resources would be channelized towards embryonic research. To add to it Adult stem cells have already been studied for a long time as compared to embryonic stem cells while research in embryonic stem cells started as late as 1998.

Another noteworthy point is the exaggeration of the research potential by people to serve their vested interests. Such group is just creating a hype to maximize the chances of getting the research legalized and thus obtain huge public and private funding. Moreover there are no conclusive proofs of any medical benefits to be achieved from embryonic stem-cell research. They are as yet purely hypothetical.


When Galileo defended heliocentrism he was opposed vehemently, castigated and censured but eventually, now it is a universal truth that the earth revolves around the sun. Similar is the case with the Embryonic Stem Cell research. Like with any path breaking discovery opposition to the research on embryonic stem cells is not something surprising.

Stem Cells have a unique capability to grow into any living tissue. Consider Christopher Reeves, Stephen Hawking, and Mohammad Ali. Advances in Stem Cell research is a ray of hope that their diseases and conditions can be cured.

Stem cells can be used as a therapy for a variety of diseases and conditions. The can grow into nerve cells to repair spinal cord injuries and restore function to paralyzed limbs; they might be used to grow heart muscle cells to replace useless scar tissue after a heart attack. They can grow into brain cells that would eventually help in the treatment and control of Parkinson's disease, or to grow cells that make insulin to create a lifelong treatment for diabetes. Stem cells might be used to grow bone marrow to replace blood-forming organs damaged by radiation or disease, or to make blood cells which are genetically altered to resist a specific disease (such as HIV) to replace diseased blood cells. Diseases like Alzheimer’s might be fully curable. Liver failure, cancer, multiple sclerosis-diseases which are often incurable have an answer in terms of Stem Cells. In fact, nearly any kind of disease may be included under its realm of influence. Organ replacement and donation will be a lore of past if Stem Cell research is furthered.

I would thus like to state that the benefits of stem cell research outweigh the cost in terms of embryonic life.

For those who think and oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research on the basis that Embryos are lives, I assert that the value of an embryo should not be placed on par with the value of a child or adult. Embryos may be of value but not human life. They have just a potential for life. They are not human.

In most of the countries abortions are legal. Whenever an abortion takes place, embryos are being destroyed anyway. Why not use them in the best possible way for the betterment of humanity-in stem cell research.

Also, In vitro fertilization (IVF) generates large numbers of unused embryos. Thousands are stored under refrigeration. Many of these embryos are destroyed eventually. Using them for scientific research utilizes a resource that would otherwise be wasted.

Opponents of the Embryonic Stem Cell Research propose that Adult tem Cells are a better option. A seed possesses tremendous amounts of energy in its germination stage. Similarly embryonic stem cells make up a significant proportion of a developing embryo, while adult stem cells exist as minor populations within a mature individual (e.g. in every 10,000 cells of the bone marrow, only 10 will be usable stem cells). Thus, embryonic stem cells are likely to be easier to isolate and grow rather than adult stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells have higher plasticity and have a faster rate of growth and proliferation than adult stem cells.

Thus it is easier to generate large numbers of cells for therapeutic means as compared to adult stem cells. The baseline is that Embryonic Stem Cells are better than Adult Stem Cells. Had the case been opposite, scientists would have been pressing for Adult stem Cell Therapy instead.

We may have entered into a modern era but still we have not been unable to get rid ourselves of the superstitions of our thinking patterns of the dark ages. Any new idea is viewed as a heresy, any new doctrine treated with suspicion. It is only with time and continued efforts of the believers which transform the idea into a reality that everyone can see. Remember –“Earth revolves around the sun” and perhaps, ET may be a reality-SOMEDAY.

Next topic for Volte-Face

System Shock: Should Big Organizations have their way?


Friday, 13 April 2007

 Microsoft is planning to stop selling the operating system even though surveys show a lukewarm response to Windows Vista among consumers. Microsoft has confirmed that from 31 January 2008 large PC makers, such as Dell, HP and Toshiba, will no longer be able to buy licences for the software so they can install it on new machines.

 Is it a strategy to support the low selling Vista? Should organisations decide what consumers buy or should the product consumption be governed by market forces?


WWW www.mba.iiita.ac.in