Background:The ethical challenges concerning stem cell research and the use of SCNT (Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer), also known as “therapeutic cloning”, have been the subject of heated debates for almost two decades. Besides being of general interest for the public, the stem cell debate has proved to have an impact on legislation, thereby affecting everyone’s chances of receiving potentially curable treatment for a number of diseases.
Problem Statement:The stem-cell debate has been difficult to follow and appears to some extent over-complex. This survey will attempt to summarize the debate and provide an overview of the different ethical positions and arguments used.
Approach:The main method used has been searching ProQuest and other literature databases using various combinations of keywords, and gathering relevant material by reading abstracts from the search results.
Results:After having read and evaluated the material, my own perception of what ethical challenges this technology raises, formed the basis of the proceeding discussion. The major ethical issues covered are the embryo’s moral status, the “slippery slope” argument, donor risks, duty versus benefit, risks of omission, legislative issues and alternative ways of producing stem-cells.
Conclusions:The ethical problems that arise are numerous and pose great challenges. Although one of the outcomes of this debate was that several countries decided to ban therapeutic cloning and research involving fertilized eggs, there are still reasons to be optimistic about the future. The latest trend has been the introduction of techniques which don’t involve destruction of embryos. These technological advances may, however, cause more problems than the technology initially was meant to solve.