The two main sources of stem cells are: adult tissue known as adult stem cells and embryos formed during the early development phase of embryological development, also known as embryonic stem cells.
The root of the controversy is the research involving the development, usage, destruction of human embryos and the moral nature of the process.
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Among the attendees at the Press Conference was former CMO Dr. Patrick Martin . When asked about his view on the stem cell research venture on St.Kitts , the then Chief Medical Officer Dr Patrick Martin said, “Nobody is going to make the kind of investments they are making… without having that locked down; both the ethics, and linked to that the legal instruments.”
“There is a natural tendency to be hesitant about it…when you read about it, you may get the impression that stem cell therapy or regenerative medicine is still experimental; yes, we all remember when heart transplants were experimental. Now, they are run-of-the-mill. We have to get ahead of the curve, if we want to be players in this industry,” said Dr. Martin, speaking at the press conference which was held on March 28, 2015 at the St. Kitts Marriott hotel and attended by several leading internationally-acclaimed stem-cell scientists.
“Science is going to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this therapy is ethical. As a matter of fact we already do stem cells… when we give somebody chemotherapy to fight a cancer, it knocks out their bone marrow and we have to give stem cells back, so it’s not anything new… It’s just that sometimes some of the media reporting can make it sound like you’re back in the days of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen experimenting on gypsies and Jews,” said Dr Martin.
Dr. Martin sees it as a boost for tourism, especially in the area of health tourism.
Persons who are likely to gravitate to this are “persons with deep pockets”, and we can’t have a “one-dimensional tourism package” of just sand, sea and sun,” he added.
Stem cell use in research has been a thorny ethical issue that has time and time again reared its controversial head, this time the issue is being raised on the tiny Caribbean countries of St. Kitts and Nevis that are somewhat far-removed from the ethically heated debates on the issue taking place in developed countries such as the United States of America.
The ethical debate surrounding embryonic stem cell research forces us to choose between two moral principles: one, the duty to prevent or alleviate suffering and two, the duty to respect the value of human life.
But, specifically in the case of embryonic stem cell research, it is impossible to respect both moral principles. To obtain embryonic stem cells, the early embryo has to be destroyed. This means destroying a potential human life. But embryonic stem cell research could lead to the discovery of new medical treatments that would alleviate the suffering of many people. So which moral principle should have the upper hand in this situation? The answer hinges on how we view the embryo. Does it have the status of a person?
However, what is being proposed in St. Kitts with stem cell research has nothing to do with the prevention or alleviation of suffering but rather the use of stem cells for the rejuvenation of beauty using what is known as autologous cell replacement therapy, which is the concept of harvesting stem cells and re-implanting them into one’s own body to regenerate organs and tissues.