Morality vs. medicine: Stem cell research

ORLANDO, Fla. - The use of embryonic stem cell research to find a cure for diseases like Parkinson's has been hotly debated for years.

Most people agree that using adult stem cells in research does not create a moral dilemma, but scientists said adult stem cells are limited in their use and do not offer the same possibilities as embryonic stem cells.

The controversy has even those who would benefit from the research arguing both sides of the issue.

David Pins has been living with Parkinson's for eight years and he supports the controversial research.

"It would give me a much more meaningful and productive life and let me enjoy my retirement," Pins said.

Ruth Porch's husband died of Parkinson's, but she said he did not support the use of stem cell research.

"My husband said, 'No way for just a few more years of my life. I do not want to take the life of another child,'" Porch said.

Although both Porch and Pins know the pain of Parkinson's, they share different and strong opinions of the use of embryonic stem cell research to find a cure.

"I am totally against it and under no circumstances would I ever want anything like that today, even for myself," Porch said.

"I would urge everyone to get behind this and move it ahead and see what can actually be done to improve people," Pins said. "On a daily basis it is very difficult in the morning to get out of bed because of stiffness and pain and there is definitely a slowness in movement."

Pins said he has seen his health get progressively worse, so he is hoping embryonic stem cell research will be the answer for him and many others suffering from Parkinson's disease.

The issue is not as cut and dried for everyone else. Many see it as a decision between medicine and morality.

Richard Carmona is the 17th surgeon general of the United States and spoke at a conference at the Florida Hospital in March. He discusses several topics, including the struggle to avoid linking stem cell research with abortion issues.

"This is a very tough issue," Carmona said. "There is no scientific definition for life, really. We all see it differently based on our upbringing, our cultures, our religion."

Dr. Joel Hunter is an evangelical pastor at Northland Church in Longwood. He is also part of a White House advisory panel that will guide the president on several issues, including poverty, abortion reduction and interfaith relations.

Hunter admitted he faces a moral dilemma when it comes to stem cell research.

"We have so many people that have diseases that could be helped with the proper use of stem cells, so I am as much wanting their healing as I am wanting to watch that we do not treat life irreverently."

Hunter argued that federal tax dollars should only support some of the research.

"Our tax dollars should never go to the creation or destruction of human embryos," Hunter said.

Others said the argument depends on when people think life begins.

"Again, you have a struggle between traditions and medicine," said Rollins College Assistant Professor of religion Dr. Creston Davis.

Davis said that for most Americans, opinions on stem cell research come down to how people understand religion and the universe.

"For the progressive side, they see the greater good coming out of this helping humans who have severe diseases and this research can really help humans and as a result we should support it. The church should support that," Davis said. "On the more conservative side, they understand this human embryo as being a human being right at the very moment of conception and as a result of that, you cannot justify doing stem cell research."

"I don?t know how they can really wake up in the morning and know that they have a few extra years to live, that they have taken the life of someone else. I cannot do that," Porch said.

"If embryonic stem cells are not used for fertilization they are usually discarded and those embryonic stem cells do nobody any good, and my plea then would be to give us the use for them and let us do some good with this," Pins said.

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