Stem cell research has been a highly debated topic in our society this year. A variety of social, political, ethical and religious viewpoints have been brought to our attention. Many religious groups believe stem cell research is a violation of human rights. When Pope John Paul II addressed President Bush on the subject of federal funding of this research, he called it an "assault on innocent human life." According to a release in May 2001 from the "National Institute of Health", many scientists believe stem cell research may eventually lead to therapies that could be used to treat diseases that afflict approximately 128 million Americans. There are many people who agree with the Pope on this issue but there are many people that support the research. Before you form your opinion on this issue, I want you to imagine a beautiful woman laying almost lifeless in a hospital bed. She is just 45 years old. Her hair is shiny, jet-black - not even close to gray yet and her face is very youthful - no wrinkles yet. Imagine you are told she is dying from liver failure and she has days if not hours to live. Now imagine she is your mother. It is nearly impossible for you to understand what this would truly feel like unless you were the person being told your mother had hours to live. I truly understand this since I was the daughter who received this news. I often sit and think about the future and how it will be without my mother. I wonder if the same thing will happen to me. It sure would be nice to know that if this did happen to me that there would be a liver available for me--one of thousands of organs available to all of us as a result of stem cell research.
In order to fully understand the importance of stem cell research, it is absolutely essential to be educated about what exactly stem cells are and what is involved in the research so far. Stem cells are cells that have the ability to divide for indefinite periods in culture and to give rise to specialized cells.