Is it Ethical to Use Fetal Tissue for Medical Research?

[ By on March 16, 2016 ]

The subject of whether or not it is ethical to use aborted fetal tissue for medical research is a controversial and sensitive one. Many people believe that the use of this tissue is unethical for similar reasons to why one may believe abortion to be unethical; that a fetus is a human life. Moreover, videos of Planned Parenthood selling aborted fetal tissue to biomedical research groups has sparked outrage. Many believe that it is unethical to sell fetal tissue, for it puts a monetary value on human life, thereby devaluing it.

However, the way in which fetal tissue is used in medical research is so beneficial to human subsistence that the argument that the tissue came from a “human life” is irrelevant. Through research on fetal tissue, we can make and have made immense progress in cancer research and treatment, as well as the research and treatment of brain disorders, such as Alzheimers, among many other uses. If anything, people with pro-life beliefs should be in support of research on fetal tissue, for the following reasons. For one, the abortion did not take place in order for the tissue to be used for research. The pregnancy would have been terminated even if this research were illegal. Moreover, if it is one’s belief that a fetus counts as a life, then research on fetal tissue provides life saving discoveries for many others, thereby putting the aborted fetus to wonderful use, rather than it having been a complete waste of a “life”. If anti-abortion groups and individuals were really “Pr0-Life,” and had full knowledge of the advantage of using fetal tissue in medical research, they would be in favor of it.

Another controversy lies in recent evidence found that Planned Parenthood has had a history of selling the fetal tissue in order for it to be researched on, rather than just donating it. Many people, even some people who are pro-choice and pro-use of fetal tissue in medical research believe this to be unethical, for it puts a monetary value on human tissue, whether or not it is one’s belief that the tissue contained a life. While this is true, it is also true that grown humans may be paid to donate themselves (not through death but through experiments, trials, etc) to medical research, which can even involve their donating some tissue. The conflict lies in that, assuming that the fetus had a life, they could not consent to such research as could a grown person. It is my belief that selling fetal tissue is not unethical, but unnecessary, and actually disadvantageous for groups like Planned Parenthood who are selling the tissue. It is disadvantageous for them because, while it would help subsidize the business, it would be controversial and unethical in the eyes of so many that they would be less likely to render support for their other services which, in my opinion, are essential. Therefore, while I do not believe that it is unethical to sell fetal tissue, it may be best for all groups that the monetization of the tissue not occur. However, I believe that there is no justification for making the use of fetal tissue in medical research illegal, for such research can save many more lives than the supposed life of the fetus that would have been aborted in any case.

 

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One Comment on “Is it Ethical to Use Fetal Tissue for Medical Research?”

  1. sgadigianpadgett

    Kelley Nicholson-Flynn

    [ May 04, 2016 at 1:21 am ]

    Sara, an interesting take on the issue. I don’t know if you saw my post on the issue: https://blogs.riverdale.edu/bioethics/2016/01/03/how-should-we-think-about-the-videos-featuring-planned-parenthood-and-fetal-tissue-research/trackback/

    What might be worth considering is what good could come of the fetal tissue research. It was thought to be a huge “win” at the time for scientists.

    Also, some folks who don’t particularly consider the fetus as having full moral status (like a born human) still consider the embryo and fetus as having some special status, more than just “a clump of cells.” How does that factor into your thinking?

Hi Stranger, reply with your thoughts:

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