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Lets begin with some definitions. The term biotechnology refers to the use of organic material to
develop technology, and the term technology refers to the application of scientific knowledge with the intent of improving human life in some way.
There are many areas of biological research and biotechnology, such as those that focus on medicine, food production, and efficient sources of energy. To see the moral implications of
biotechnology, let’s consider the controversial topic of embryonic stem cell research, sometimes referred to as therapeutic cloning.
Embryonic Stem Cell Research I
First, let’s distinguish between therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning is a
procedure in which a body cell (such as a skin cell) is taken from a human patient and inserted into a fertilized human egg, thereby putting the patient’s genetic material into the egg.
The egg is then stimulated for cell division.
The result of this process is the formation of a blastocyst.
A blastocyst is an aggregate of cells that forms during the development of a human embryo.
The aggregate contains an inner and an outer layer of cells.
The inner layer contains stem cells that can be used to help repair tissues in the patient who provided the genetic material.
Reproductive human cloning is the process of planting the blastocyst into the uterus of an adult
human female to create a new human being. This idea differs from therapeutic cloning. Embryonic Stem Cell Research Il
The difference between the processes concerns two factors: a) what happens to embryo, and b) the purpose of the process.
Therapeutic cloning is done for the purpose of medical research and application; the embryo is
Reproductive cloning is the idea of reproducing a human clone; the embryo is implanted into an adult female. Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ill Therapeutic cloning is morally controversial because of the question about the status of embryonic stem cells. Isolating the embryonic stem cell from the inner cell layer results in destruction of the embryo. This raises questions about whether embryos are potential human persons and, if so, do they have moral rights, including the right to life. For many people, the debate about therapeutic cloning focuses on these questions: is the fertilized embryo a potential human person with moral rights, or is destroying a human embryo justified in order to potentially help people with diseases?
Argument FOR Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Lets look at the arguments for stem cell research. First, stem cells are pluripotent cells, which means that they are broadly procreative. They can produce almost any cell in the human body.
Second, if used properly, they can produce new and healthy cells for a broad range of human body tissues and parts. As such, stem cells are thought to
be useful in curing human diseases.
What are the objections to these arguments? Opponents of stem cell research argue that the
process is expensive and unreliable. It appears promising, but we don’t know enough about it yet. Moreover, what if embryonic stem cell research leads to a mass market of embryonic stem cells
produced for a profit motive? Arguments AGAINST Embryonic Stem Cell Research Now let’s look at the arguments against stem cell research. First, embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of the human embryo. Second, the human embryo is a potential human person. We ought to respect the moral rights of potential persons, including the right to live. And Third, these potential persons are vulnerable and require our protection. What are the objections to these arguments? proponents of stem cell research argue that embryos are not potential persons. Or, if they are, potential persons do not have moral rights. And even if potential persons do have moral rights, from a consequentialist view, the end of helping many persons justifies the means of destroying relatively few potential persons.
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