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The Case Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research: An Interview with Yuval Levin

This article is a part of the guide:

❶Preference utilitarians define utility as the satisfaction of individual preferences. But what exactly are the ethical arguments and why are they so tricky to resolve?

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The ‘potentiality’ problem
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If the Practice of In Vitro Fertilization Is Not Unlawful, Then Why Should hESC Research Be?

It forces us to choose between two moral principles:. In the case of embryonic stem cell research, it is impossible to respect both moral principles. To obtain embryonic stem cells, the early embryo has to be destroyed. This means destroying a potential human life. But embryonic stem cell research could lead to the discovery of new medical treatments that would alleviate the suffering of many people.

So which moral principle should have the upper hand in this situation? The answer hinges on how we view the embryo. Does it have the status of a person? Chapter 1 of this film introduces some of the key ethical arguments. The moral status of the embryo is a controversial and complex issue. The main viewpoints are outlined below.

The embryo has full moral status from fertilization onwards Either the embryo is viewed as a person whilst it is still an embryo, or it is seen as a potential person. Development from a fertilized egg into to baby is a continuous process and any attempt to pinpoint when personhood begins is arbitrary.

A human embryo is a human being in the embryonic stage, just as an infant is a human being in the infant stage. Although an embryo does not currently have the characteristics of a person, it will become a person and should be given the respect and dignity of a person.

An early embryo that has not yet been implanted into the uterus does not have the psychological, emotional or physical properties that we associate with being a person.

It therefore does not have any interests to be protected and we can use it for the benefit of patients who ARE persons. It needs external help to develop. Even then, the probability that embryos used for in vitro fertilization will develop into full-term successful births is low. Something that could potentially become a person should not be treated as if it actually were a person.

A candidate for president is a potential president, but he or she does not have the rights of a president and should not be treated as a president. There is a cut-off point at 14 days after fertilization Some people argue that a human embryo deserves special protection from around day 14 after fertilization because:.

The embryo has increasing status as it develops An embryo deserves some protection from the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg, and its moral status increases as it becomes more human-like. Implantation of the embryo into the uterus wall around six days after fertilization.

Appearance of the primitive streak — the beginnings of the nervous system — at around 14 days. The phase when the baby could survive if born prematurely. If a life is lost, we tend to feel differently about it depending on the stage of the lost life. The main argument for ES cell research is that it will reduce human suffering and promote human well being, or the common good, by curing or eliminating many illnesses.

ES cell research is touted by many to be the most probable and quickest way to attain these therapies due to the undifferentiated nature of the stem cells as well as the ability of ES cells to overcome immunological concerns.

Thus, it is research with ES cells versus adult cells which should be pursued. Any harms caused by the destruction of human embryos will be outweighed by the goods attained in the relief of human suffering.

However, social utility is not always a sufficient grounding to justify actions. Except for hard-line, classical utilitarians, most agree that there are some moral constraints on the promotion of the common good. Issues such as justice, human rights, or respect for persons often mitigate social utility. The main argument against ES cell research is that embryos should never be destroyed based on the principle of respect for life.

Upon conception embryos are alive and have the unequivocal right to maintain that life. In effect, those arguing against ES cell research are saying that embryos have the moral status of persons and so should not be killed regardless of the extent of human benefit. But even for objectors to ES cell research it does seem that closely held values are at times over-ridden in the name of other closely held values.

As regards valuing life, we certainly risk life in the pursuit of ending human rights atrocities. This is, however, not the vein in which the opponents of ES cell research are using this principle. The pitfalls of this type of move will become more evident in the next section as we look closer at approaches to moral status. This question of respect for the embryo is an important one to address if we hope to find common ground in this debate. How much respect is due the embryo? If the embryo is due respect, how can we most appropriately demonstrate this?

The notion of moral status represents an approach of specifying those things towards which we believe we have moral obligations and identifying some of what we believe those obligations to be. Any theory of moral status cannot be expected to answer all relevant questions about obligations since many of our obligations are based on contributing factors which are situational or contextual.

However, a theory of moral status that can be accepted and agreed upon by a diverse audience will take us a long way towards practical decision making. Relative to the moral status of the human embryo there three positions of which two are commonly held and one is somewhat revisionist:. The embryo as property view, can only be held if no moral status is attributed to the embryo.

The most obvious avenue to reaching this view is one that Singer or Hare might take within a preference satisfaction utilitarian framework. Here the claim would be that since the embryo has no preferences or interests, it has no claim to moral status.

However, our common-sense tells us that there is something about the embryo which instills it with value. This is not to say we must resort to speciesism following Singer, i. In fact opponents of ES cell research draw our attention to our disposition to protect the vulnerable who may not yet have developed.

The embryo seems both developing and vulnerable. Singer says it is not vulnerable because no harm can be done to it. But the harms many are concerned with are the harms to justice and human rights which a strict utilitarianism seems unable to account for. One of the greatest advantages of the account of moral status I plan to offer is its ability to take a fundamental preference satisfying ethical framework and still compensate for fundamental human rights.

Obligations to Persons and Other Living Things. The embryo as person view can also be classified in this manner as it likewise relies on a strict adherence to a uni-criterial notion of moral status. The approach taken in the embryo as person view is that since the embryo is alive, and life is the singular necessary and sufficient condition for the attribution of moral status, then the embryo has full moral status. Warren discusses three uni-criterial approaches, each of which focuses on a certain intrinsic property: Many philosophers have argued for one or another of these properties to be necessary and sufficient for the attribution of full moral status.

Warren argues that each represents a notion which is sufficient for some moral status, but will fail as a sole criterion for full moral status. The underlying utilitarian belief that some humans need to be sacrificed for the betterment of others is morally and ethically wrong.

The rationale used to justify the destruction of embryos for the advancements in medical research and development is the same used to justify the syphilis experiments conducted on African-Americans in Tuskeegee, Alabama?

We do not have the license to engage in lethal experimentation, just as we may not experiment on death row prisoners or harvest their organs without their consent.

Many philosophers, as far back as Locke, would claim that a human being has rights, but that being human is not a necessary and sufficient condition for having personhood. Being human is a biological condition, being a human being or, more to use more exacting language, having personhood is a normative condition. The questions then becomes: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for moral status and how do they apply to the human embryo? I will address these questions in the subsequent sections of this paper.

Within this debate on ES cell research, a great deal of time and energy is spent among scientists and philosophers debating the biological issues of the embryo such as numerical continutiy and many arguments are made both for and against designating the embryo as a person in the name of science.

While I suggest that the issues which will aid our progression to consensus on this topic do not lie in biology, science can aid our normative attribution of moral status for the embryo. Some ES cell research proponents, including myself, use scientific information to suggest that it is appropriate to wait until at least fourteen days after conception to claim numerical continuity, since it is only then that totipotency has been lost.

Additionally, it is only sometime after fourteen days from conception that the development of the primitive streak which marks the development of neural receptors signals the development of any potential for sentience.

This is a position which I believe is tenable, but we should acknowledge that it is a normative decision we are making and not a scientific decision. Furthermore, if we are to hold such a position, we must be clear as to how sentience and its attainment effect our attributions of moral status. I will address these issues in the next section. If the embryo is not property and the embryo is not a person, then it must be something else. To understand this approach, we must understand how she establishes each level of her criteria for moral status and why any one of the three standard intrinsic properties fail as the singular criterion for establishing moral status.

It is important to note that Warren acknowledges that this approach is a common-sense morality. This is because life is the ultimate, absolute value which all organisms share equally.

However, application of this strict and absolute principle quickly wanes to absurdity when we realize that many of our normal daily functions cannot occur without some destruction of life; e.

While some including the Concerned Women for America have tried to re-shape the Sanctity of Life principle by saying it is only relevant to human life, those seeking to hold this general principle of life as ultimate and absolute have some vicious obstacles to overcome. In order to be true to the sanctity of life principle, one may be forced to accept that any attempt to make such qualifications as only human life matters could result in the untenable outcome of allowing other qualifications.

Thus, one objection to such a qualifier is that to allow only human life to be absolute causes us to allow the principle to be denigrated such that some life is not worth living. Though this is just the point of the CWA and others, the problem is that this could be the case whether the living creature is an animal, a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. Such denigration of the value of life is unacceptable even to the proponents of the Sanctity of Life principle.

As Schweitzer claims, there can be no qualifiers to the type of life we are talking about. Another problem with this is the charge, made by Singer, of speciesism referenced above. Fundamentally, the objection is that it seems problematic as humans to claim our humanness as the qualifier to attain full moral status.

It is common for people hold that animals have some rights and those rights are defined by the nature of our obligations which are based on some level of moral status. Thus, the sanctity of human life as a uni-criterial principle is not a sufficient ground for establishing either partial or full moral status. Thus, all living entities are given some moral status, but not full moral status. This principle treats all harms done to living things as undesirable, other things being equal, and imputes no wrongdoing to those who harm living things when there are morally sound reasons for doing so.

However, Warren recognizes, as do some Sanctity of Life proponents, that no right is absolute and that the right to life can be overridden with sufficient justification.

This notion re-iterates problem with the uni-criterial Sanctity of Life position in that such justifications i. Next, Warren analyzes the principle of sentience as a uni-criterial approach to moral status. To do this, Warren launches an attack on one of her own mentors, Peter Singer, himself a preference utilitarian. However, Warren effectively demonstrates how this notion of sentience is unacceptable as the singular criterion in the establishment of moral status.

If we view our own pain as objectively bad, then logical consistency requires that we apply this principle to others. The latter holds that within the limits of their own capacities, human beings who are capable of sentience but not of moral agency have the same moral rights as do moral agents. I believe these last moves by Warren offer a methodology with which a utilitarian framework can be created.

The greatest objection I have always had towards utilitarianism has been its inability to account for human rights. But how, you may ask, can a utilitarian model account for moral rights such as liberty, justice, and equality when practical necessity dictates otherwise or the expected gain in the greatest happiness is sacrificed?

Thus, there are utilitarian reasons for adopting a non-classical utilitarian principle. It must be remembered that moral rights are not absolute in that they may be overridden at times. Take self-defense or war as examples. Whatever the justification is, it is still a justification to override the principle. Thankfully, Warren is not so resistant.

Building upon her theory, Warren borrows from such figures as the environmental ethicist, J. Baird Callicott and feminist ethicist, Nel Noddings, to introduce two relational rather than intrinsic properties: Since , the second point, concerns about the methods involved, has been less debated, because of scientific developments such as iPS.

As you will most probably notice, the following arguments are not exclusively in use when talking about stem cell research. Stem cell research can potentially help treat a range of medical problems. It could lead humanity closer to better treatment and possibly cure a number of diseases:. Better treatment of these diseases could also give significant social benefits for individuals and economic gains for society. The controversy regarding the method involved was much tenser when researchers used Embryonic Stem Cells as their main method for stem cell research.

These points are based on the old debate about the methods of stem cells research, from before Since then, scientists have moved on to use more ethical methods for stem cell research, such as iPS. This section serves as an illustration of the difficult evaluations researchers may have to analyze. The stem cell-research is an example of the, sometimes difficult, cost-benefit analysis in ethics which scientists need to do. Even though many issues regarding the ethics of stem cell research have now been solved, it serves as a valuable example of ethical cost-benefit analysis.

The previously heated debate seems to have lead to new solutions which makes both sides happier. Stem Cell pros and cons had to be valued carefully, for a number of reasons.

When you are planning a research project, ethics must always be considered. If you cannot defend a study ethically, you should not and will not be allowed to conduct it. You cannot defend a study ethically unless the presumed cost is lower than expected benefits. Why was the debate regarding the stem cell research so intense? First, it was a matter of life - something impossible to measure.

And in this case, researchers had to do exactly that: Both an abortion and someone dying, suffering from a possible curable disease, is a tragedy.

Which have the highest value? Does a big breakthrough in the research justify the use of the method in the present? Would the benefits of studying abortions outweigh the costs? The choice was subjective: Nobody knows all the risks or all the possible outcomes, so we had to value it with our perception of the outcome.

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The final arguments against stem cell research deal with the actual cost of such treatments is simply too high to be implemented on a large scale. Stem cell research pros and cons have gained a lot of attention lately due to President Obama lifting a ban on stem cell research.

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Having examined the arguments put forth by those in favour of stem cell research (link to arguments in favour of STR), what are the arguments stated by its opponents? The ‘potentiality’ problem As outlined in the Personhood tutorial, people differ tremendously in their view as to what an ‘embryo’ means to them.

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Aug 09,  · The Case Against Stem Cell Research. Opponents of research on embryonic cells, including many religious and anti-abortion groups, contend that embryos are human beings with the same rights — and thus entitled to the same protections against abuse — as anyone else. Sep 05,  · Scientists largely agree that stem cells may hold a key to the treatment, and even cure, of many serious medical conditions. But while the use of adult stem cells is widely accepted, many religious groups and others oppose stem cell research involving the use and destruction of .

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A lot of people don’t realize there are other sportwallpaper.tknic stem cell research, unlike the others, in order to utilize a stem cell derived from a human embryo, it requires the destruction of that embryo – the destruction of life. Home > Stem Cells > Arguments Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Arguments Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research 1) Embryos are lives. An embryo is actually a human; it should be valued as highly as a human life.