Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate

Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues

Kristen Renwick Monroe
Ronald B. Miller
Jerome S. Tobis
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 226
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppbgc
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate
    Book Description:

    Few recent advances in science have generated as much excitement and controversy as human embryonic stem cells. The potential of these cells to replace diseased or damaged cells in virtually every tissue of the body heralds the advent of an extraordinary new field of medicine. Controversy arises, however, because current techniques required to harvest stem cells involve the destruction of the human blastocyst. This even-handed, lucidly written volume is an essential tool for understanding the complex issues—scientific, religious, ethical, and political—that currently fuel public debate about stem cell research. One of the few books to provide a comprehensive overview for a wide audience, the volume brings together leading scientists, ethicists, political scientists, and doctors to explain this new scientific development and explore its ramifications.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94099-4
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: Framing the Controversy
    (pp. 1-9)
    Kristen Renwick Monroe, Ronald B. Miller and Jerome S. Tobis

    Few advances in science have generated as much excitement and public debate as the discovery of human embryonic stem cells. The potential of these cells to replace diseased or damaged cells in virtually every tissue of the body heralds the advent of an extraordinary new field of medicine that promises cures for diseases until now thought incurable. These remarkable cells, therefore, have captured the imagination of scientists and clinicians alike and have given patients a renewed sense of hope.

    Controversy exists, however, because the current technique to harvest these cells involves destruction of the human blastocyst, a pre-embryo, whether obtained...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Stem Cells
    (pp. 10-36)
    Peter J. Bryant and Philip H. Schwartz

    Stem cells are undifferentiated cells found in the embryos and the later life stages of animals, including humans. They are recognized by their dualistic nature: they either can expand their numbers (self-renew) while remaining undifferentiated or can differentiate and contribute to the development or repair of tissues of the body. Some authors have added other criteria to the definition, including the ability to produce cells differentiating in different ways (multipotency); the ability of a single cell to proliferate into a population of similar cells (clone-forming ability); and the ability to keep dividing indefinitely (unlimited proliferative capacity)—the latter property distinguishing...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Therapeutic Uses of Stem Cells
    (pp. 37-61)
    Philip H. Schwartz and Peter J. Bryant

    It has been estimated that over 100 million patients in the United States might benefit from stem cell–based therapies. The most numerous of these patients are those affected by cardiovascular disease (79.4 million, American Heart Association 2007), autoimmune diseases (14.7 to 23.5 million, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 2005), type 1 and type 2 diabetes (20.8 million, American Diabetes Association 2007), osteoporosis (10 million, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases 2007), cancer (10.5 million, National Cancer Institute 2006), Alzheimer’s disease (4.5 million, Alzheimer’s Association 2005), and Parkinson’s disease (1.5 million, American Parkinson’s Disease Association...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Ethical Issues in Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    (pp. 62-78)
    Philip J. Nickel

    As a moral philosopher, the perspective I will take in this chapter is one of argumentation and informed judgment about two main questions: whether individuals should ever choose to conduct human embryonic stem cell research and whether the law should permit this type of research. I will also touch upon a secondary question, that of whether the government ought to pay for this type of research. I will discuss some of the main arguments at stake and explain how the ethical conflict over these questions differs from the political conflict over them. I will be guided throughout by the assumption...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Religious Perspectives on Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    (pp. 79-94)
    Mahtab Jafari, Fanny Elahi, Saba Ozyurt and Ted Wrigley

    Human embryonic stem cells derive from the inner cell mass within an early-stage embryo called a blastocyst, which forms five to six days after conception and approximates a hollow ball of roughly one hundred cells. As development continues, cells of the inner cell mass grow and differentiate, ultimately assuming the specialized characteristics of the major organ systems. Many scientists believe that these pluripotential embryonic stem cells have the potential to improve the knowledge and treatment of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and heart diseases. However, the use of these cells for...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Political Issues in the Stem Cell Debate: The View from California
    (pp. 95-107)
    Lawrence S. B. Goldstein

    This volume is about the intersection of ethics, politics, and policy with science. It is not focused on ethical issues surrounding the use of cells derived from early human embryos (hES cells) in research and treatment of disease. Thus I will not discuss the various issues in the ethical debate other than somewhat peripherally. I will, however, state that I am somewhat biased on these issues, as I do have a personal opinion about the ethical issues and how they affect the more controversial aspects of this work. In this regard, I am a basic biomedical scientist who is interested...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Roots and Branches of the U.S. National Debate on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    (pp. 108-133)
    Lee L. Zwanziger

    I was asked to offer a view of the U.S. national debate about human embryonic stem cell research (hESCR) at a conference, organized by the editors of this volume, entitled “Stem Cells: Science, Ethics, and Politics in Dialogue.” The conference took place in California, in the spring of 2004, surrounded by hot debate about Proposition 71. Proposition 71 was to provide funds through bonds for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a state institute for stem cell research, especially research that would not be eligible for federal funding under the current federal policy. Other participants have commented on California’s situation...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Stem Cell Politics: The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good
    (pp. 134-145)
    Sidney H. Golub

    My first real-life exposure to the aphorism, sometimes attributed to Voltaire, that the perfect is the enemy of the good occurred soon after my arrival in the national capital area in 1999. I was the newly appointed Executive Director of FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology), and I was undergoing my education by immersion into the politics of “advocacy.” Veteran Washingtonians explained to me that becoming too enamored with the perfect solution to a problem was one of the most common pitfalls for a political process that functions best when common ground can be found among divergent political...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Ethical Issues in Stem Cell Research, Therapy, and Public Policy
    (pp. 146-196)
    Ronald B. Miller

    Stem cell research, therapy, and public policy engender issues that are heatedly debated and variably regulated in the United States. Today’s ethical issues are likely to determine tomorrow’s public policy (legislation and regulation) even if widespread consensus is not achieved. Let me begin, then, by defining how I will use the termsethicsandmorality, even though later in the discussion we may find it enlightening to understand the terms as defined differently by Stanford philosopher Ernle W. D. Young. The adjectivesethicalandmoralare commonly used as if they were synonymous, but the nouns are not. Although neither...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 197-202)
    Kristen Renwick Monroe and Ted Wrigley

    It is difficult to write a “last word” on an area in which scientific and political events are occurring so rapidly, particularly one such as embryonic stem cell research, which raises difficult ethical issues that may extend beyond the normal philosophical purview of medicine, law, and religion. Experts and lay people alike are understandably confused and unsure about policy that touches on some of their most deeply help ethical and religious concerns, yet holds tremendous potential for scientific breakthroughs and medical improvements in the quality of life for countless individuals, as laid out by Bryant and Schwartz in chapter I.¹...

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 203-206)
  14. Index
    (pp. 207-218)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-219)