The harvesting of embryonic stem cells has long been a heated debate. Is it ethical? Some believe it involves the taking of the life of an unborn baby. Others believe the blastocyst, from which cells are taken, never have the opportunity to become a baby, hence making it an ethical practice.

I believe the harvesting of embryonic stem cells is an ethical practice because of other factors. The harvesting of embryonic stem cells contributes to medical research and the study of pluripotent cells, and it utilizes embryos from in vitro fertilization that were not implanted and were then donated by the embryos’ parents.

The most common misperception that fuels the ethical debate about the harvesting of embryonic stem cells is the belief that the stem cells come from aborted babies. This makes the act of harvesting embryonic stem cells seem horrific. In reality, the stem cells come from an embryo not implanted during in vitro fertilization and donated by the parents of the embryo. This therefore means that the embryo was given by the parents and was only three to five days old and made of about 150 cells when it was harvested. This makes the harvesting of embryonic stem cells seem far less horrific.

The ethical debate continues because some say the harvesting of embryonic stem cells kills human life, even if the embryo is only three to five days old.

I happen to sympathize with Dr. Maureen Condic's argument. She said, “Human life (beginning) at sperm-egg fusion is uncontested, objective, based on the universally accepted scientific method of distinguishing different cell types from each other, and on ample scientific evidence.” She concluded that it is unknown when human life begins due to the lack of evidence and data, as well as the fact that stem cells are undifferentiated and can become almost anything.

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That lack of evidence allows everyone to be right in their opinion, so I happen to believe it is not the killing of a life. The fact that stem cells harvested have the potential to become anything makes me believe they have limitless potential.

The limitless potential of embryonic stem cells promise a whole world of new medical treatments and other possibilities. Many people assume stem cells are just used to grow new organs or replace damaged cells. While they are not wrong, there is still so much more to which embryonic stem cells contribute.

According to Mayo Clinic staff, stem cells can be used for “increasing the understanding of how diseases occur,” “generating healthy cells to replace diseased cells,” and “testing new drugs.” These are just a few of the numerous ways embryonic stem cells can be of use. The endless possibilities stem cells hold for the future offer more reason to believe that harvesting them is an ethical practice.

Harvesting embryonic stem cells is an ethical practice that I believe has been misrepresented. The stem cells harvested from the embryos are being donated for the development of medical research that could be potentially groundbreaking. There needs to be a spread of awareness around embryonic stem cells and how they are being harvested and utilized so everyone can be rightfully opinionated. Until evidence proves that a life is being taken with the harvesting of embryonic stem cells, I will stand by other factors that help define it as an ethical practice.

I believe others should stand by those factors as well.

McKenzie Cole researched and wrote this originally as part of an assignment for her English class at Grand Rapids High School.