Stem cell research is highly debated in fields of bioethics. This project examines the often-overlooked issue of using animal versus human stem cells. Stem cells can either be cultivated from embryonic cells, which are undifferentiated and pluripotent, or they are cultivated from adult stem cells, which normally replace worn out or damaged cells. Regenerative medicine uses stem cells to create new therapies to produce new cells, organs, and tissues with the intention to improve someone’s functioning, being healthier. Most research on stem cells aims to use embryonic stem cells to help create therapies to treat diseases and injuries or use adult stem cells to regenerate a person’s damaged tissue or organ. There is a gap in the literature about the ethics of using animal stem cells for human benefit. This gap raises questions such as whether or not it is ethical to take animal stem cells from nonhuman beings. Peter Singer’s essay, “All Animals are Equal,” explains the moral obligations humans have toward animals. The counterargument to his argument of moral obligations states that if human stem cells can be used for research, then animal stem cells can be used as well. Bonnie Steinbock’s essay “What does ‘Respect for Embryos’ Mean in the Context of Stem Cell Research” argues that if we are not frivolously using embryos then it is morally permissible to use them. The research of Peric et al. (2015) on the rational use of animal models in the evaluation of novel bone regenerative therapies also illuminates how humans can be morally allowed to use animal stem cells. The importance of animal stem cell research is to see how their regeneration process unfolds, that is, to discover how animals naturally restore body parts lost to trauma. I argue that if it is morally permissible to use human stem cells in research, then animal stem cells ought to be morally permissible as well, so long as both animal and human stem cells are treated with equal respect.
The University of Puget Sound
"The Ethics of Using Animal Stem Cells,"
Sound Decisions: An Undergraduate Bioethics Journal: Vol. 2:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://soundideas.pugetsound.edu/sounddecisions/vol2/iss1/5