Intention and consequences in stem cell research
Olson, Justin S.
University of Wisconsin--Stout. Research Services
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With the increasing use of stem cells in research, discussion surrounding the use of embryos for the derivation of stem cells has often been the cause of heated debates. After defining stem cells and exploring methods to obtain them, support for their use in research is shown through both Kantian and utilitarian ethical theories. Under the Kantian perspective, egg donation for stem cell research is done autonomously, with informed consent, and the embryo is not considered a rational being that we have a duty to protect. Stem cell research represents the imperfect duty of beneficence, to use embryos that would otherwise go unused in order to help others, and the imperfect duty to develop our talents, as stem cell scientists push forward the frontiers of developmental biology and regenerative medicine. The utilitarian perspective generally argues for maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering. Here, the small investment in the use of embryos proves appropriate given the absence of suffering on the part of the embryo and the vast potential gain in happiness and wellbeing that may be attained directly through stem cell research. A limiting factor in this situation is a lack of viable eggs, caused by public policy that prohibits egg donor compensation beyond incurred expenses. The resulting failure to fairly compensate egg donors for this strenuous and time-consuming procedure makes it challenging to find willing donors. We can resolve this issue by altering policy to allow for egg donor compensation equal to that which egg donors receive in fertility clinics.