My stimulus is the above picture of an embryo.I am going to be looking at the pros and cons of embryonic stem cell research through different philosophical perspectives and deciding on whether I think stem cell research is ethical. ———————————–Stem cell research is the process of investigating cells which make organisms. The cells are generated artificially in laboratories where experiments and investigations occur.
The use of stem cells can be made very specific as they take undifferentiated cells and make them differentiated to carry out specific functions and can be grown into tissue and regenerative medicine. My stimulus is a picture of an embryo, embryonic stem cell research is a highly controversial as researchers take eggs from a consenting donor and fertilize them and use them for research. Some people think this is unethical and isn’t justified.Stem cell research can be a highly controversial subject as many people have different views on the matter.
Due to the fact that stem cell research often uses embryos some people find this unethical for multiple reasons however human embryonic stem cell research provides a chance to alleviate some of the suffering on humans brought on by disease. The strengths of the research and benefits given by it provide strong justification for the research. There are two main stances in moral philosophy, the first being the deontological approach; Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative is the idea that people should be seen as and treated as an ends rather than a means. According to Kant our actions should be governed by reason rather than consideration to the outcome or consequences. The idea is constrained by universalizability, Kant believes that things may only be justified if it can be applied universally and still be justified.
For example, in this hypothetical situation a homeless mother steals food from a supermarket in order to feed her two young children to keep them alive. Kant would view this as an unjustified action due to the fact that if it was universalized and everyone started stealing there would be mayhem and outbreaks of violence and riots in the world. Kant characterized the Categorical imperative as an objective, rationally necessary and unconditional principle that we must always abide to ignoring any natural desires or needs we may have to the contrary. All specific moral obligations, according to Kant, are justified by this principle, which means that all immoral actions are irrational because they violate the Categorical imperative. This supports the idea that we as humans have rights given to us or in other words a human’s life should not be sacrificed for the greater good. A factor which is said to make us human is our consciousness, so we have to look at embryonic stem cell research and decide at which point an embryo becomes a human life and at which point this action becomes a murder.
It has been observed that even once born, babies aren’t conscious of their own existence and they see themselves as an extension of their parent. If the embryo isn’t conscious people may not consider the embryo to be a life, thus justifying the act of obtaining the embryo for stem cell research. On the other hand, many people consider the embryo as valuable as a life and do in fact consider the process murder due to the fact the embryo potentially has a life ahead of it. The idea that embryos cannot give consent is a huge factor in the ethics argument behind stem cell research. We can compare the killing of embryos to the killing of small life forms, for example bees. Bees cannot give consent for us to kill them but if everyone started killing them the ecosystem would start to fail. Kant wouldn’t justify the action of a person killing a bee in order to save one person from getting stung because if everyone followed these morals there would be negative affects.
We can link this analogy back to embryos, Kant wouldn’t justify killing one embryo to possibly help medical research due to concept of universalization. If everyone in the world killed embryos the world wouldn’t repopulate and human existence would slowly die out. However, Kant’s categorical imperative faces critics. One problem with Kantian ethics is that is completely disregards the idea of human emotion as a factor in decision making for example, compassion, sympathy and remorse as appropriate motives for action.
This could cause problems in the case of embryonic stem cell research as emotion and attachment to living humans is far stronger than to merely formed embryos. People’s morality and empathy to living humans would be a factor in deciding whether to prioritise living people who are ill or embryos which are not yet conscious. Jeremy Bentham and John stuart Mill were both utilitarians in the 19th century, Utilitarianism is the doctrine that all actions can be justified on the basis that they cause the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Jeremy Bentham argued that the hedonistic value of any human decision or action can be easily calculated or justified by deciding how much positivity and please comes from it and how long that pleasure lasts and how certainly and how quickly it occurs after the actual performance of the action, and how likely it is to produce collateral benefits and avoid collateral harms. By doing this with each action we make, we can decide the value of the action and decide whether it is worth its outcomes. Bentham and Mill were also known as consequentialists, a consequentialist, unlike Kant would make judgement on an action with the consequence solely in mind, rather than the action being governed by the reason it is governed by the outcome. From this we can infer that a consequentialist would weigh up the pros and cons of Human embryonic stem cell research, and look for the good coming from the situation, rather than picking out the cons and being against the research practice. A consequentialist like Mill would see embryonic stem cell research and think of the thousands of lives potentially saved by the research enabled by extracting embryonic stem cells rather than the invaluable lives of the embryos.
The research is thought by scientists to hold the answers and cures to spinal cord injuries, parkinson’s disease ,cancer, and alzheimer’s disease along with many other conditions and diseases which cause thousands of deaths every year. However is the number of deaths potentially saved worth the death of a young embryo.Unfortunately there are common criticisms that occur when talking about utilitarianism, One being that it is impossible to apply to real life situations when sentiment is involved. For example you were in a crowded public place with your mother who is in a wheelchair and a bomb was about to go off you only have 1 minute til it goes off, do you run away with your mother and save her, or use the minute to save everyone else and your mother won’t survive as she is unable to walk on her own. Most people would find this decision hard to make as sentiment is involved.
A utilitarian would not, they would save everyone else and let their mother die due to the fact it benefits the greater good of the people. Another common criticism is that we can’t measure happiness, there is no measure for happiness or ‘greater good’. Although in everyday life we use comparison words like ‘happier’ and ‘happiest’ there is no quantitative measure of happiness which makes it impossible to decide which action causes the greatest good.In relation to the stimulus, It is impossible to measure the good or happiness in the people potentially saved from the research similarly we can’t measure the good or happiness in human embryos, making the decision whether it is justified even harder. Classic utilitarians are opposed to deontologist views as they deny that moral rightness depends purely on reason rather than consequences.
If we wanted to distinguish between deontologists and consequentialists we can look at how they think. A consequentialist or Utilitarian would think about which action would be the action that consequences in the most good for the most amount of people. Whereas a Deontologist would think what is the ‘right’ action to do but doesn’t think about the consequences. If the action is morally right they will proceed with it even if the consequences cause harm.
In conclusion , it is hard to make a decision about which form of life should be prioritised, the already living conscious people or the unborn embryos. However by looking at the subject from two opposing philosophical views we can make judgement. From the obvious principles of utilitarianism it is clear that a utilitarian would not be disputing the practise of obtaining human embryonic stem cells in order to conduct research and potential cures for life threatening diseases. This is due to the fact their actions are governed by the consequences they cause, in this case the lives of many people may be saved in the future, which to a utilitarian would be a more beneficial outcome than saving the embryos.
On the other hand a deontologist like Immanuel Kant would use the categorical imperative theory to decide whether an action is just. A deontologist would not think that human embryonic stem cell research is justified by the virtue of reason rather than consequences. In my opinion I think that human embryonic stem cell research is justified as long as it causes the greater good of the people, I am a utilitarian and believe that the lives of embryo’s aren’t as valuable as humans who have formed attachments, memories, loves and have families. The death of one embryo affects one embryo. However the death of one person affects many more than one thus meaning that using embryos to help cure diseases is justified as it saves unhappiness for the most amount of people.I don’t agree that we should use reason to govern our actions due to the fact our reason may be relevant to us however may not be relevant to other people , and may not benefit the greater good of the people but may benefit us. Therefore I don’t believe we should complete actions that don’t cause good for the majority of people involved.