Embryonic stem cells differentiate into all other types of cells, but lose this ability as the baby or animal matures. They can be made to grow indefinitely in the laboratory, and under suitable conditions can be made to differentiate into a range of cell types.
Many human diseases are due to functional failure of single types of body cells. As well as MND (motor neurones), other examples include Parkinson’s Disease and stroke (brain neurones); type 1 diabetes (pancreatic islet cells); heart attack (cardiac muscle).
Theoretically new healthy cells would reverse the symptoms of these conditions, and cloned embryonic stem cells could be a suitable source. People suffering from permanent paralysis as a result of spinal injuries might also benefit from stem cell therapy.
The actor Christopher Reeve suffered a devastating accident in which his spinal cord was injured at the level of his second cervical vertebra (C2). This meant that he was permanently paralysed from the neck down and could not even breathe without a ventilator. He campaigned very hard to raise money for stem cell research, but he met with a lot of opposition.
This came from those people who did not believe that it was right to create embryos for research. They believe that embryos should have protection as potential human beings in their own right.
Decide which side of the argument you come into. Make a claim for or against the use of embryos in stem cell research and argue your case using as much evidence (data warrants and backing) as you can.
Find someone with the opposite view, either in your group, or via this website. Put your argument to them, and listen to theirs.
Consider if and how your position has changed from both the moral and spiritual points of view.
Ethical issues in stem cell research