Despite stem cell researchers receiving the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent, stem cell research is still controversial in bio-medical debates. Stem cells have undoubted medical potential in areas such as repairing aging and injured tissues and organs, but stem-cell research involves the creation, use, and destruction of human embryos. That leads to the question of whether embryonic stem cells have moral status and what it means to be human.
This essay explores how new stem cell technology will drastically change the way we define humans and human relationships. We will need to ask what a human being is, what personhood is, what marriage is, and what reproduction is. At the same time, regenerative medicine that depends on the availability of appropriate cells and cell lines gives rise to questions of who “owns” human material and its derived products, and the “rights” of cell donors. The commercial benefits from regenerative medicine will also create black markets such that in China. The essay concludes that stem cell research must be controlled and limited, and its ethical impacts and implications must be taken seriously.