Ethical Issues Related to Fetal Tissue Research
The use of fetal tissue in biomedical research has been a hot topic for debate in social and political forums ever sense the landmark decision in the 1973 case of Roe vs. Wade (Beller & Weir 182). The decision of the Supreme Court to give women the right to abort a fetus without having a medical reason for doing so, sparked controversy which has affected any medical procedure or research dealing with fetuses (Bellar &Weir 182). Supporters of fetal tissue research believe it has too much potential to provide cures for many of the diseases and medical problems that plague today’s society for it to be halted. Opponents of this type ...view middle of the document...
During the late 60’s and early 70’s this research was viewed as a new and exciting field of medicine and many important medical advances were made. But after the ruling in Roe vs. Wade fetal tissue research was brought under the scrutiny of pro-life advocates, seeking to protect the rights of unborn children (Maynard-Moody 13). This development eventually led to a political movement that cut government funding for fetal tissue research and placed tight restrictions on the sell of fetal tissue and compensation for women who chose to donate fetuses to science after an abortion (Howell & Sale 458).
Pro-life advocates were able to muster strong political support by exposing some of the grotesque results of experiments that had taken place during the late 60’s and early 70’s (Maynard-Moody 15). In one of the experiments fetuses were decapitated and hooked to special equipment that monitored the effects of starvation on the brain of the fetus (Maynard-Moody 14). When experiments such as this one were exposed to the public, fetal tissue research became highly controversial. This political movement was made even stronger by the fact that until 1993, when Clinton took office, all of the presidents were considered to be pro-lifers (Steinbock 170). Previous presidents had placed tight restrictions on the research and cut government funding, President Bush even went so far as to place a ban on research involving the use of fetal tissue from abortions (an act which was rescinded by Clinton in 1993)(Steinbock 170-71).
Supporters of fetal tissue research believe not using the tissue is an immoral act because it denies medical treatment to patients who could benefit from it, and it wastes a valuable resource that could be put to practical use (O’Neil 149). “It is socially and morally reprehensible to destroy cadaver tissue which can be used towards perhaps saving millions of lives”(Steinbock 184). Many people believe that if the government bans fetal tissue research on moral grounds then it must be willing to step up and take responsibility for the millions of people who die from diseases such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s every year. All of these people may have benefited from research conducted on fetal tissue (Steinbock 184). Advocates for research believe that even if one doesn’t approve of the practice of abortion, he or she should at least be willing to salvage some kind of good from the situation (Maynard-Moody 108).
Opponents of the use of aborted fetal tissue in research argue that allowing the tissue to be used will cause an erosion in the value placed on human life and will open the door to unspeakable atrocities. Many have compared the research conducted on fetuses to some of the experiments that German scientists conducted on prisoners in concentration camps during World War II (Stinbock 182). These people believe that this research is a slippery slope and once we start down its path, it will undoubtedly lead to evil.