Fetal Tissue Transplants Essay, Research Paper
Is the transplantation of nueral tissue considered an
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
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
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
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
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.