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BENEFITS OF EMBRYO RESEARCH. The benefits of embryo research come mainly from stem cell usage it is hoped that stem cells can be stimulated to develop any tissue or organ of the human body.

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benefits of embryo research
BENEFITS OF EMBRYO RESEARCH
  • The benefits of embryo research come mainly from stem cell usage
  • it is hoped that stem cells can be stimulated to develop any tissue or organ of the human body.
  • A cure for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's may be possible in the near future as a result of embryo research.
issues
ISSUES
  • The main issues that arise with embryo research are;
  • personhood; whether or not an embryo can be considered as a person with rights
  • the right to life; the extent to which an embryo has the right to life and the morality of discarding it for research.
act utilitarianism
ACT UTILITARIANISM
  • Bentham maintained that his hedonic calculations should only be applied to those who can suffer.
  • Embryos and this early stage in development do not have the capacity to feel pain, and thus cannot be measured by Bentham’s Hedonic Calculus.
  • Therefore, the use of embryos for testing purposes is morally valid.
slide4
mill
  • Mill defines a person as someone who has the ability to exercise their freedom. An embryo has no autonomy and therefore is not a person.
  • For this reason it cannot feature in the higher and lower pleasure argument.
  • An embryo may (if possible) suffer a lower pleasure but because it is not intellectually developed it cannot suffer emotional or psychological pain.
  • Therefore, we can justify the use of embryo research because the amount of higher pleasure it will produce outweighs the lower pleasure.
utilitarianism
utilitarianism
  • However, the benefits of embryo research are justifiable in Utilitarian terms.
  • The intensity of pain caused by diseases is great, the duration of which is lifelong (e.g. Parkinson's, Alzheimer's).
  • The pleasure derived form the provision of cures for degenerative diseases thus outweigh the costs of embryo research.
rule utilitarianism
RULE UTILITARIANISM
  • Rule Utilitarianism starts with general principles from which specific acts can be prohibited without exception to the rule. It follows rules that promote the greatest happiness, for example the rule:
  • Human life should be preserved
  • This rule can be seen as promoting the greatest net utility. But does this apply to an embryo in an early stage of development?
  • Again, this raises the issue of personhood.
  • If the embryo is accepted as a form of human life then it should be preserved, but it may not be considered a person with rights at this early stage.
slide7
Utilitarian ethics views genetic engineering in a positive way.
  • The prevention of disease is seen as a social good in terms of the greatest good for the greatest number.
  • The maximization of welfare means the minimization of pain.
  • Richard Ryder argues that genetic engineering has positive effects by minimizing pain in society.
  • The eradication of disease and disabilities that cause pain is a good thing.
slide8
However there are some utilitarians, e.g. Karl Popper, who argue that genetic engineering will in the long term create a desire for ‘super people’.
  • This may have the consequence of making the majority, who are not blessed with superior athleticism and intelligence, feel inadequate.
  • There is the potential, therefore, for the general welfare of society to be badly affected.
slide9
So, there is a balance to be considered in Utilitarianism.
  • Genetic engineering has the potential to maximize the happiness or welfare of the maximal number of people. But it also has the potential to do the reverse.
slide10
Utilitarianism only works if it is possible to assess fully the results of genetic engineering and embryo research.
  • In practice this is difficult, as we cannot predict all the consequences.
  • However, it is still possible to say, from a utilitarian point of view, that it is better to save many lives in the future by embryo research at the cost of a few embryos now.
slide11
Bentham’s Hedonic Calculus can only be applied to those who suffer.
  • Early embryos do not have the capacity to feel pain and so cannot be measured according to the Hedonic Calculus.
  • However, the benefits of genetic engineering and embryo research are justifiable – the pleasures brought about by cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s outweigh the cost to the embryos.
  • Costs to the Health Service also need to be considered and the likelihood of success taken into account.
exam questions
Exam Questions
  • What are the key principles of uutilitarian ethics? 4KU
  • Explain Utilitarian views on the uses of human embryos 4AE
what are the key principles of utilitarian ethics 4ku
What are the key principles of utilitarian ethics? 4KU
  • Marking Instructions: No marks for simply writing a list. Each point about Utilitarian Ethics should be accompanied by an explanation to gain a mark.
  • Suggested areas covered in answers:
  •  Consequentialist ethical system
  •  Actions are good if they have good consequences
  •  Pleasure and pain
  •  Based on the principle of the greatest good
  •  Act Utilitarianism – principles applied to a particular situation
  • Rule Utilitarianism – principles applied as general rules based on past experience.
explain utilitarian views on the uses of human embryos 4ae
Explain Utilitarian views on the uses of human embryos 4AE
  • Suggested areas covered in answers:
  •  Application of The Greatest Happiness Principle
  •  The embryo does not suffer
  •  Stem cells are used to find cures for diseases
  •  More pleasure created than pain?