The principal argument for embryonic stem cell research is the potential benefit of using human embryonic cells to examine or treat diseases as opposed to somatic (adult) stem cells.
The utilitarian approach chooses potential benefits of stem cell research over the physical lives of embryos without regard to the rights an embryo possesses.
Advocates of embryonic stem cell research claim this will cure diseases but there is a gap in literature that confirms how many diseases these cells can actually cure or treat, what diseases, and how many people will actually benefit.
However, since the “zygote is genetically identical to the embryo,” which is also genetically identical to the fetus, and, by extension, identical to the baby, inquiring the beginning of personhood can lead to an occurrence of the Sorites paradox, also acknowledged as “the paradox of the heap.” The paradox of the heap arises from vague predicates in philosophy.
If there is a heap of sand and a grain is taken away from that heap one by one, at what point will it no longer be considered a heap – what classifies it as a heap? When, in the development of a human being, is an embryo considered a person with moral standing?
They further support their argument by noting that stem cell research uses embryonic tissue before its implantation into the uterine wall.
Researchers invent the term “pre-embryo” to distinguish a pre-implantation state in which the developing cell mass does not have the full respects of an embryo in later stages of embryogenesis to further support embryonic stem cell research.
Human embryonic cells possess the ability to become stem cells, which are used in medical research due to two significant features.
First, they are unspecialized cells, meaning they can undergo cell division and renew themselves even with long periods of inactivity.
Based on this reductionist view of life and personhood, utilitarian advocates argue that the result of the destruction of human embryos to harvest stem cells does not extinguish a life.
Further, scientists state that any harm done is outweighed by the potential alleviation of the suffering enduring by tremendous numbers of people with varying diseases.