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Abstract

Controversy regarding Human embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) research is evident in the medical and scientific community, legislative, judicial, and executive branches of the government, private companies, religious affiliations, special interest groups, and among the general American public. Stem cells are derived from adult stem cell resources, which are termed non-embryonic or from the cells of immature blastocysts termed embryonic stem cells. Non-embryonic cells do not have the ability to differentiate into other specialized tissues, whereas embryonic cells are capable of differentiating into almost any type of tissue. hESC research, which is the focus of this paper, includes the direct creation and therapeutic cloning of human embryos, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) during the blastocyst-stage of development, the use of surplus embryos from in vitro fertilization, and from tissue derived from extracted embryos through abortion. The purpose of hESC research is threefold: (1) to advance science and medicine, (2) prevent disease, and (3) cure certain diseases. hESC research is an ethical dilemma facing the United States of America. Opponents of hESC often cite the rights of the embryo and define the embryo at conception. Supporters of hESC research include the scientific and medical community, and private hESC research companies. The unique political system of the United States has allowed for a dichotomous policy to arise, where federal funding of hESC is prohibited, but private companies and individual states are able to legally forge a path in hESC research. The prohibition of federal funds has created an abyss between states who choose to fund hESC research and those who prohibit it. It has also set the stage for yet another private corporation to advance in hESC and place profit above the American public. The embryo is the only silent member of this debate.

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