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Many people think the new work on embryonic stem cells is a major breakthrough with the same potential to change health care as the discovery of antibiotics more than seventy years ago. They feel that it is acceptable to work with the very early human foetus for the potential benefit to millions of people.
The vast majority of human foetuses never make it beyond the early stages – in both natural conception and in infertility treatment, far more embryos fail to develop than go on to form living babies, so using a small number of early embryos is acceptable in this context.
People who agree with stem cell research suggest that once tissue lines from a relatively small number of willingly donated embryos are established, the need to use further embryos would be reduced. The medical advances which are within our grasp would change medicine as it has been known for many years and give hope of a cure to millions of people for whom there is, at the moment, no hope.
What is more, many supporters of stem cell research feel that adult stem cells do not offer a good alternative as they are much more limited in their scope for forming new and different tissues. They want research funding to be directed mainly at embryonic stem cell work.
There are others who feel that the use of embryonic tissue is wrong and an abuse of human rights.
Some people feel that every early human embryo has the potential to become a living human being and so should be afforded the same human rights as a fully grown adult. Others have strong religious convictions which make them feel that using embryos is killing and therefore wrong. These people feel that no medical advances are worth the moral evil of using embryonic tissue as a source of stem cells. They also feel that the use of adult stem cells offers an exciting and acceptable possible alternative and campaign for research funding to be directed to projects using these ethically less sensitive cells.