Newspaper articles embryonic stem cell research

It is not unlikely that this case will end up in the Supreme Court. Opponents of hESC research contend that even though spare embryos are thrown away, they should be entitled to the same moral status as children or adult human beings and should not be used for research purposes. We would not congratulate ourselves upon a policy that proposed to use those classes of human subjects…for research purposes. Ronald A.

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Lindsay, in his book Future Bioethics , extensively discusses the flaws in entitling embryos to the same moral status as children or adult human beings, but I will only mention a few. First of all, spare embryos are destined to die because they have been created by means of IVF to provide backup in case pregnancy is not successful.

The creators of the spare embryos know that these embryos will be destroyed.

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If the embryos possessed the same moral status as children or adults, the creators would be charged with murder or as accomplices to murder. Secondly, embryos require a placenta and a uterus in order to develop as a fetus. If spare embryos were simply stored in perpetuity but possessed the same moral status as children, then the creators would be charged with unlawful imprisonment. Third, the decision to either discard or store embryos in perpetuity completely eliminates the potential for the embryos to develop into people. Clearly, the law does not punish those who perform IVF or who store or discard spare embryos, essentially because the law does not consider embryos to be people.

If we accept the legitimacy and the moral basis for practicing IVF, then we should accept the legitimacy and the moral basis for conducting stem cell research on embryos that were created as backups for IVF fertility treatment but are no longer needed following a successful pregnancy.

Such therapies would be applicable for the treatment of conditions such as spinal cord injury, heart disease, liver disease, and Alzheimer disease. To argue that we can obviate this dispute by focusing solely on adult stem cell research implies that we already know that the results of such research, without further advancements in hESC research, will lead to cures of otherwise intractable diseases.

Indeed, the knowledge base required for working with adult stem cells, otherwise known as induced pluripotent stem cells iPSC , has depended on previous hESC research, and further advances in iPSC research will undoubtedly depend on continuing advances in hESC research. Moreover, as Ewen Callaway explained in the December 9, , issue of Nature , recipes for making iPSC currently depend on virus-mediated introduction of one to four foreign genes into the adult cells.

Potential side effects from implanting the resulting stem cells into patients might include the development of tumors. Reducing the number of foreign genes inserted from four to one requires the addition of other factors such as proteins, RNA, or small molecules. Potential side effects from adding these other factors might include unintended reprogramming of the target cells, triggering of immune responses, and unintended targeting of molecular receptors.

Leslie Glick, Ph.


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Log in to leave a comment. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Eliminating U. Sales, Commercial Jobs. The debate on stem cell research has predominantly been framed as a moral matter. Opponents stress that embryos are human life and scientists should not be allowed to play God, while proponents emphasize the societal and therapeutic benefits of stem cell research [ 9 ]. Nonetheless, scientists considering a career in embryonic stem cell biology have been warned that they will face uncertainty and sustainability issues within this touchy research field, in addition to the vigorous and extended public debate between supporters who sensationalize the research and opponents who demonize it [ 12 ].

Some even expected the debate to disappear after the use of human embryos through direct cell reprogramming was declared safe for use in patients and new opportunities were created by the development of pluripotent iPS cells from individual skin cells. However, the therapies for heart, neurological, and other diseases still pose huge challenges [ 14 ]. Nevertheless, since the transplant of such cells into a woman with eye disease, hopes attached to the use of iPS cells to repair damaged or diseased tissues have been increasing [ 15 ].

Today, such iPS cell usage is seen as a new route to research implementing human embryonic stem cells [ 16 ], and a recent survey of 26 hospital patients indicated a generally positive and supportive attitude towards donation of biological material for iPS research [ 17 ]. Now, therefore, the field is well past the Bush era and in what its leading scientists refer to as a turning point or renaissance [ 12 ]. Nevertheless, a new debate has recently emerged over embryo gene editing after some researchers expressed concern that it could be a slippery slope towards unethical or unsafe non-medical uses.

Others counter-argued that its application to human embryos could answer basic scientific questions beyond clinical functions [ 18 ], a claim that has raised new policy concerns [ 19 ]. Without doubt, the moral and ethical dimensions of the controversy suggest that it will not disappear any time soon, meaning that the actions and opinions of all parties involved should be investigated to better understand the debate. Yet the existing empirical literature still relies heavily on studying general public attitudes [ 9 ] rather than the actual behaviour of individuals.

For example, one common attitudinal question asks how much the respondent is in favour of or opposed to medical research that uses stem cells from human embryos [ 9 ], p. One answer to this query was expressed in the U.

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After that vote, five other states set up stem-cell research agencies [ 20 ]. One petition signed by 1. House of Representatives are carried out through an electronic voting system, and the parliamentary services make public all individual votes registered by the system. Individual votes can thus be compared with citizen votes for or against the status quo on identical legislative proposals [ 22 ].

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Senate , in contrast, has no electronic voting system and did not even introduce camera recording until the winter of [ 23 ]. In , Switzerland held a referendum on whether to accept a liberal new bill regulating stem cell research, which was proposed by the Federal Council and a parliamentary majority.


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An opposing committee was against the new bill and in favour of a ban on embryonic stem cell research. The overall voting outcome reveals substantial heterogeneity among the Swiss cantons even though all accepted the new liberal bill Fig 1. Cantons in central Switzerland were less likely to approve the proposal, while the French and Italian speaking cantons were more likely to approve it.

Our main dependent variable measures whether individuals either the National Council members or the citizens polled accepted the proposed legislation on stem cell research. We perform a logit analysis of the probability to accept the proposal. Descriptive statistics and descriptions for all covariates are given in appendix S1 Table. The analytical results, reported in Table 1 , reveal that politicians were less likely than citizens to accept the bill, indicating that the general population was more open to embryonic stem cell research than its representatives.

Specifically, being a member of the National Council reduced the probability of favouring the new law by All our estimates include constituency fixed effects to take account of the possibility that the structure of the economy or the social fabric may be different across constituencies, i. Nevertheless, when citizens and politicians were analysed separately Table 2 , columns 1—3 and 4—6, respectively with additional factors controlled for, the gender effect was no longer statistically significant for politicians but marginally significant for citizens.

For politicians, the number of years on the National Council did not matter, but party affiliation was of notable import. We introduce party affiliations with a dummy coding of categorical variables for parties. The Christian democrats serve as the control group reference category and all other mutually exclusive party affiliations are included as dummies.

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The results show that Liberals and politicians from the Conservative right being more in favour of the liberal bill than Christian democrats. The coefficient of the Social democrats is not statistically different to the reference category controlling for other party affiliations. Green party politicians were opposed to the bill in comparison to the Christian democrats. This result is in direct contrast to a U. No other politician characteristics were statistically significant. Among voters, church attendance was negatively linked to bill acceptance Table 2 , columns 2 and 3 , which increased support by over Religious denomination, however i.

For voters party affiliation mattered too with Liberals and Social democrats supporters being The different results for party affiliations for voters and politicians point to deviations between the two groups. Citizens who believed that stem cell research is important for Switzerland were also more likely to vote in favour of the bill on a scale from 1 to In fact, an increase from the first to the third quartile for this variable increased the probability of a yes vote by We found no difference, however, between low and high income voters.

All results remained qualitatively identical when we estimated a multilevel logistic model with random effects for cantons. To explore factors which explain deviations between voters and politicians we analyze the sample of politicians but change the dependent variable to whether the majority of voters in a constituency voted in line with the politicians representing the constituency in Table 2 , columns 7—8.

This pattern of results is consistent with the effects found when analysing samples of politicians and citizens separately. Because of the high level of direct democracy in Switzerland, its citizens are generally well informed about upcoming referenda through intense public discourse and official booklets. These latter, which include the exact text of the legislative paragraphs to be modified or introduced into the law or constitution, provide objective information on the referendum issue.

Counter-committees that have collected signatures may also provide outlines of their arguments, and parliament itself usually declares its position.

Human Embryonic Stem Cell

Thus, citizens are provided a complete picture not only of the referendum content but also of the different perspectives. The opportunity to vote then encourages citizens to be informed about and discuss the entire issue. According to our findings, in this environment, citizens are more likely than politicians to favour embryonic stem cell research, suggesting that social discussion may help bring about agreement on shared principles, professional norms, and procedural conditions related to stem cell research. Citizen involvement through direct democracy might thus provide a way to bridge polarization in the stem cell debate.

Citizens care whether scientists are trustworthy, act transparently, and serve the public interest. Even scientists themselves have requested that journal editors and funding agencies adhere to the guidelines of the International Society for Stem Cell Research to encourage compliance [ 27 ]. Meanwhile, however, the monitoring function is being taken over by institutional and ethics review boards or committees. Ultimately, however, research involving embryonic stem cells is likely to remain controversial and dependent on citizen values.


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  4. The bioethics of stem cell research and therapy.
  5. Direct involvement of citizens in the decision process and the resulting public discussion on stem cell research may engender beneficial effects and more broadly acceptable policy outcomes. Conceptualization: DS BT. Data curation: DS BT. Formal analysis: DS BT. Funding acquisition: BT DS.

    Investigation: DS BT. Methodology: DS BT. Project administration: DS BT. Supervision: DS BT. Validation: BT DS. Visualization: DS BT. Writing — original draft: BT DS. Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Abstract As the public debate over stem cell research continues, the observable voting behaviour in Switzerland offers a unique opportunity to compare the voting behaviour of politicians with that of voters.

    Introduction Although stem-cell research has experienced an explosion of activity since the isolation of human embryonic stem cells [ 1 ], such research has been accompanied by a heated and bitter public debate around which the media have structured their coverage of the issue [ 2 ].