Fetal Tissue Transplants Is the transplantation of nueral tissue considered an ethical procedure? The transplantation of human fetal neural tissue into the brains of humans suffering from progressive neurodegenerative disorders is one of the hottest arguments currently being debated. Fetal neural tissue is being used as a possible treatment for some diseases. The treatment and possible cure for many of these diseases falls upon the successful transplantation of fetal neural tissue from the brain, spinal chord and peripheral nervous system. Some of the possible beneficiaries of these transplants would be those with Parkinson’s disease, a common neurodegenerative disorder of the nervous system. Fetal tissue transplantation involves injecting fetal tissue obtained through electively aborted fetuses into another human being. Because fetal tissue deemed most appropriate and acceptable for transplantation is primarily obtained from elective abortion procedures, many concerns have arisen in the public, political, and scientific communities.
It is because of their unique characteristics that fetal cells are far more ideal for use in tissue transplantation than tissue derived from an adult donor. Fetal tissue grows much faster than tissue obtained from an adult donor, a few fetal cells from a donor have the potential of replacing a large number of host cells. Fetal tissue transplantation is a relatively new procedure that has a rather large history behind it. The first attempts to transplant human fetal tissue into patients took place in the 1920’s. The first major success using fetal tissue to treat a medical condition was in the 1950’s when a vaccine for polio was developed.
There was relatively little public concern about the use of fetal tissue until the late 1980’s when the procedure of fetal tissue transplantation became known. In 1988, researchers in New Mexico reported in The New England Journal of Medicine their results of human fetal neural tissue into the brains of patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. This case later became well known as the La Roza case. In their report on a transplantation of fetal tissue substantia nigra, the tissue was transplanted in the caudate nucleus of a fifty-year old male with a nine year history with Parkinson’s disease. Prior to the transplantation procedure, he was suffering from severe symptoms associated with the latter stages of the Parkinson’s disease, particularly severe muscle rigidity and tremor.
Three months after the transplant there was considerable improvement in his tormenting symptoms. As a result of the procedure, his ridgedness and tremors decreased noticeably. Also, the patient was able to control his remaining symptoms with a much lower dosage of medication then before. In response to the apparent success of the La Roza transplants and initial hints of a possible breakthrough cure for Parkinson’s disease, US medical scientists had decided to join the race to cure this terribly debilitating ailment through fetal neuro-tissue transplants. They realized, however, that any truly legitimate effort would require federal funding.
It was the request from the National Institute of Health (NIH) for funding for human fetal tissue transplantation research that ignited intense researches into the procedure of fetal tissue transplantation in the United States. With this tremendous breakthrough in biomedical science that may someday relieve the suffering of millions of people with various neurological inflections came great controversy. Intense moral and ethical debates surround the use of fetal tissue for research and transplantation procedures. Debates began soon after the United State Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade and continues to this day with debate in congress concerning the passage of the Morris K.
Udall Bill, which upon passage will provide one-hundred million dollars a year for Parkinson’s disease research. In March 1988, Robert Windom, a strong Right to Life supporter, rejected the NIH’s funding request and issued a moratorium on federal funding for research on fetal tissue obtained through induced abortions. This effectively stopped all research on fetal tissue in federally funded laboratories. Even though the moratorium only applied to federal funding, in reality it stopped all legitimate research involving fetal tissue because of the enormous costs associated with a single operation easily exceeding $50,000. Private researchers were discouraged and unwilling to take a chance on such expensive experiments without the likelihood of being reimbursed for their time and expense. In support of the moratorium, President Bush stated that the ban was not an absolute ban on fetal tissue research, nor was it banning federal funding of all types of fetal tissue research.
He reiterated that the moratorium was only applicable to federal funding of fetal tissue research obtained from induced abortions. Federal funding could still be obtained for research using tissue from spontaneous abortions (miscarriages), ectopic pregnancies and stillbirths. In conclusion, President Bush stated that the Nation’s best interest would not be served through granting federal funds for research that was promoting and legitimizing abortion and which is deemed morally repugnant to many Americans. In May 1992, in an attempt to appear sympathetic to the needs of medical science while not alienating its close ties with the anti-abortion groups, President Bush’s administration agreed to establish a fetal tissue bank. The bank would collect tissue from miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies and distribute fetal tissue to medical researchers. However, for a variety of reasons, the establishment of a fetal tissue bank would not be able to provide the quality or quantity of tissue necessary for most transplantation purposes.
One of Bill Clinton’s first official duties as President of the United States was the rescission of the moratorium involving fetal tissue transplantation research. Using his executive authority, President Clinton enacted a previously vetoed provision concerning fetal tissue research. His movement forever removed administrative discretion from pursuing a policy of not supporting or denying funding for fetal tissue research. As a result, research involving fetal tissue from induced abortions are now permitted under federal law. Fetal tissue transplants affect many people. Anyone with a neurodegenerative disorder is affected by the procedure.
The transplants are used to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s. Tremors, ridgedness, and hypokentetics are some of the symptoms that are being cured by fetal tissue transplants. The transplants have even been proven to regain use of damaged brain tissue. Most of the people who obtain the procedure are years into their diagnosis of the disease. Anyone can obtain Parkinson’s disease, but the older the victim the more susceptible.
In order for us to better analyze the topic of fetal tissue transplants we must ask and answer some ethics based questions. What makes right acts right? If the process of fetal tissue transplantation is to be considered right it must be further questioned. For something to be right it must serve good, or not serve evil. According to this definition fetal tissue transplants would be considered wrong, because in order to do good to one human, another one must be killed. To whom is a moral duty owed? In this case, moral duty is owed in several different places. For one, the parent child relationship is a major one at hand. If fetal tissue transplants would be allowed, in many cases there would be no parent child relationship because the child was murdered in a attempt to save another human being. The person to God aspect is also at hand. Abortion, which is a heavy sin in most major religions would be taking place and would be accepted by society.
Also todays’ generation and the next generation comparison would also be harmed. By accepting abortion and murder into society, moral values would be lost. What kind of acts are right? The reasoning of what makes right acts right is based on normative ethics. Truth telling, confidentiality, justice, maximized benefits and the lack of harm are the main impacts involved. Even though some of these do not apply to fetal tissue transplantation the ones that do, lead to the process of fetal tissue transplantation being wrong.
Justice could not possibly be served if one live is exchanged for another. Maximized benefits would also be unsatisfied. The only benefit would be that the disease would be treated and less severe, at the cost of human lives. The lack of harm is also interrupted. The fetus is killed, which may also lead to emotional pain within the mother.
How do rules apply to specific situations? As stated earlier, there have been many laws and prohibitions against the process of fetal tissue transplants for many reasons. Rules state that it is not legal to kill another human being. In this case, abortion is being justified and the murder of fetus’ will take place. Moral rules and beliefs also come into play. It is not morally right for someone to hurt someone else in order to make themselves feel better.
Society does not allow these laws or beliefs to take place nor should we. What ought to be done in specific cases? In every situation the facts are different. In the case of fetal tissue transplantation, the facts are as follows. Innocent fetus’ are being killed to undergo research in a possible attempt to treat or possibly cure nuerodegenerative disorders. This is not the right thing to do. Further research for this study should be banned along with any attempts to sell ones fetal tissues to an undercover market.
In conclusion, although fetal tissue transplants may deem to be a very helpful procedure in the treatment for many diseases it should be outlawed and banned. I say this because in order for one life to survive a new life must be taken away. Not only does this serve as a problem, but if this procedure is accepted it will lead the society to believe that this procedure is encouraged when it really is not. Also, if the procedure is accepted by society it would lead to an eventual black market of tissues and organs that could only increase the rate of abortion. These possible problems all have the snowball affect on one another. In order to play the matter safely where no harm is to be done would be to outlaw fetal tissue transplantation.