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Background of the Study

Describe about the Applied Business Research and Ethics for Corporate Ethics.

Corporate ethics or business ethics is a professional or applied form of ethics that focuses on examining principles of ethics together with morals and/or ethical problems arising in a business workplace environment. Business ethics is tasked with applying all business conduct aspects and is essential and relevant to individuals’ conduct as well as the entire organisation. As such, when individuals think of ethics, they virtually focus on rules distinguishing between wrong and right; the norms and conduct that make a distinction between unacceptable and acceptable behaviour. Ethical norms are acquired at home, in church, at school, or at any other social setting. Ethics can be applied in all aspects of human activities, including their professional practices, research, and business.

Over the recent past, academicians have continually become cautious about conduct research activities that are in-line with the social norms and ethics. More are the dilemmas they face in their academic and research work; researchers in particular are confronted with a myriad array of ethical requirements (Sagan & Singer, 2007). They have to meet professional, institutional and federal standards before conduct research on human subjects. This report, using ABC Company significantly brings to light ethical concerns in research that involve human participants.

ABC Company process a gene therapy technique that has the capacity to reduce microcephaly development in unborn babies of pregnant women infected with the Zika virus. The gene therapy technique is based on stem cells derived from human subjects; the company needs a massive supply of stem cells in order to help treat the community. However, clinical trials results indicate that when adult stem cells are uses, microcephaly is reduced by 15%, stem cells from embryos under 14 days reduces 50% of microcephaly while stem cells from embryos of over 14 days old, 100% results are achieved. Given these results, ABC needs a large supply of stem cells for the gene therapy procedure but they are undecided on the type of cells to be used. Furthermore, they want to acquire the stem cells legally and ethically. In this regard, the company want to know which type of stem cells they should use and thus this report provides exhaustive information that will help the company make the best choice.

The main aim of this study was to address the legal and ethical issues associated with using hESC, the unborn babies, and the pregnant women as study subjects and the potential of further spread of the Zika virus across the world. Accordingly, the study was to provide the basis for conducting further research in stem cells.

Purpose of the Study

Stem cells are considered cells that have not fully developed but have the potential of dividing and giving rise to several similar cells or specialised to create specific cells for specific function in somatic tissues. In a broader perspective, the two stem cells types can be significantly be differentiated: the embryonic stem (ES) cells derived from embryos that are yet to be implanted in the uterus with proven potential of developing into all tissues cells of an adult (Reubinoff, et al., 2000). The adult stem cells are the second type and are located in various tissues of the body of the foetus and after birth and have specific function; tissue repair and replacement. The hESCs are found in the blastocyst’s inner cell mass 5 days after the oocyte’s fertilization (Reubinoff et al., 2000).

Embryonic stem cells have been found to give rise to new therapies essential for treating a wide range of health dilemmas; however, their use in the scientific research is a bitter pill to swallow. Different nations across the world have chosen to control embryonic stem cell research due to ethical dilemmas that comes with it (De Wert & Mummery, 2003). In this regard, the ethical debate is mainly hinged on two moral values; “the duty to prevent or alleviate suffering and the duty to respect human life value.” Research in stem cells that involves the use of human embryos, critiques of scientific research studies argue that the no possibility of respecting moral principles; when obtaining embryonic stem cells, the embryo is destroyed. In this essence, there is total destruction of a potential human life (De Wert & Mummery, 2003). Notwithstanding this, embryonic stem cell studies can result into the creation of new treatment therapies with prospects of alleviating ailments and suffering of a wider populace. In this aspect, determining which moral principle has the upper hand elicits heated debates between ethicists and scientists (Prus et al., 2003). The best resolve under the circumstance is found in the manner in which the embryo is viewed. The big question here is that, has the embryo attained a person status?

With regard to the viewpoints outlined bellow, determining the human embryo’s moral status is a sophisticated and contentious issue.

Under this argument, an embryo produced for reproductive reasons is seen as a probable person or viewed as a person whilst still an embryo; the embryo in its entirety is viewed as a potential child and can develop into a full human (Wilson, 2011). On other hand, the President’s Council of Bioethics (2002) observed that embryos developed for therapeutic purposes are considered tools for achieving scientific objectives.  Accordingly, the embryos produced for therapy and research are created with intend of destroying them (FitzPartrick, 2003). Given this understanding, the criteria for determining the personhood are vastly unclear given the current circumstances.

Embryonic stem cells

It is argued that the growth of fertilised oocyte into a baby is a process that is ongoing and thus any human effort to single out where and when personhood of an individual begins is illogical. In accordance with this argument, an embryo is a person regardless of its stage as an embryo, in a similar way as an infant is a human being in its infant stage (Robertson, 2010). Despite of an embryo not having human beings characteristics, over time it will develop into a person and thus should accorded dignity and respect of a person (Robertson, 2010).

Notwithstanding the above argument, researchers consider the embryo in its early stages; one that has not been implanted into the uterus and has no emotional, psychological, or emotional properties associated with being an individual. In this essence, there is no need or interest to be protected and can be used for research purposes to benefit the patient (Hyun, 2010). In the same line of thought, embryos developed for research purposes cannot develop a person if they are not transferred and implanted into the uterus of a woman. As such it requires help from outside to develop. Similarly, chances of in vitro fertilised embryos developing into successful births are extremely low. Furthermore, treating something that has the potentiality of developing into a person as a person is wrong and should not be treated as such. For instance, a contender for the prize is not the prize winner and thus should not be treated as the prize winner.

14 days cut-off point after fertilisation

It is widely known that human embryos deserve special amount of protection especially 14 days after fertilisation due to the following reasons:

The embryo cannot split to form twins after 14 days; before the end of the 14th day, the embryo can be divided to form more than one baby or even not developing at all.

It is only after 14 days of fertilisation that the central nervous system of a human being starts developing, thus before the embryo is more than 14 days old, then it has no nervous system and hence non senses. For this reason, scientists argue that if they can take organs from patients declared as brain dead to be used as transplants in other people, hundred-cell embryos that don’t have a nervous system can also be used.

Devander (2005) argues that “in the event that all research embryos were included in a lottery in which some of them were donated to individuals for reproductive purposes, all research embryos would have a chance at developing into mature humans.” Under this circumstance, all research embryos are potential children and if they are given an opportunity to, the status of personhood would increase as they last longer (Loser etal., 2010). An embryo thus must be accorded protection from its inception while its moral status increases as it grows. There are several development stages that are critical in enhancing the moral status of an embryo. The embryo’s implantation into the uterine wall is in approximately six days after fertilisation, the manifestation of a primordial streak which is the commencement of the nervous system development begins after 14 days of fertilisation.

The Ethical Concerns of Developing Embryos for Stem Cell Research and Therapy

Proponents of embryonic research argue that it is irrelevant to view embryos as potential individuals when they are created. Similarly, if embryos are considered potential children, they can also be viewed as potential research tools. However, if embryos are produced specifically for procreative purposes, then it is valid to consider them as potential children. Additionally, when life is lost, people feel differently with regard to the stage of the life lost; before the implantation of a fertilised egg into the uterus, the embryo could be treated with less respect as compared to a human foetus or a baby after birth (Loser etal., 2010). Furthermore, some of the fertilised eggs get lost or die due to natural causes; it is estimated that approximately half of all the fertilised eggs die. If through natural processes there is such a significant loss of embryos, then using some of embryos in stem cell investigation in search for cure should not attract wide concerns. Generally, an individual’s interests and life are protected not because they are valuable and important from a universal viewpoint, but rather due to their significance to the concerned person (Stephenson, et al., 2012). In essence, no matter the human embryos’ moral status, the life that embryo lives is only valuable to it. Consequently, judging the embryos’ moral status from its age, then individuals will be making uninformed decision regarding who is a person. In accordance with the above discussion, the formation of the nervous system marks the beginning of personhood; embryos should be given moral status a person after 14 days of inception and hence treated with respect and dignity (Stephenson, et al., 2012).

Under this argument, it is alluded that an embryo is but organic material similar to any other body party and thus has no moral status at all. Fertilised human eggs are like any other body parts attached to women’s bodies long enough to develop so as to independently survive. For this reason, the moral status and respect that should be accorded to an embryo is the value that should be given to other people’s property (Ilkilic & Ertin, 2010). Further, is a blastocyst is destroyed prior to its implantation into the uterus, there is no harm since it does not have desires, beliefs, expectations, purposes or aims to be harmed. Contrastingly, opponents of this argument observe that embryonic stem cells harvesting from an embryo in its early stage, the normal way of development of that embryo is hindered. In essence, the embryo is hindered from becoming what it was programmed become (a human being) (Ilkilic & Ertin, 2010).

The Human Embryo’s Moral Status

Stem cells from human adults despite of being valuable and with great potential for future therapies, they are restricted in what they can do (Banchoff, 2011). As compared to hESCs with the capacity to develop into anybody tissue cell type, adult stem cells are constrained to follow specific paths. For instance, blood-forming stem cells can only develop into mature blood cells while brain stem cells specifically grow into mature neurons; however, a brain stem cell cannot grow into a blood cell and vice versa. Accordingly, adult blood cells cannot grow indefinitely in the lab and are inflexible in the type of disease they can treat unlike embryonic stem cells. Whereas there are stories that individuals who had received therapies from adult stem cells, few of these therapies have been used in major trials that can ascertain the potentiality of whether the therapy is effective and safe. In this regard, until such large trials are conducted in both adult and embryonic stem cells, there is virtually no way to know stem cell type that is superior (Brignier & Gewirtz, 2010). Researchers on adult stem cells have in many cases advocated for stem cells use to achieve superior outcomes. As such significant research is required to ascertain the success of using adult stem cells.

With existence of numerous different religions around the world, there are a myriad of view regarding the status of early human embryo. The Christians for instance, believe that a human embryo even in its early stages has the status of a human being which thus does not advocate for human embryonic research and therapy (Ding et al., 2011). On the other hand, Islam and Judaism encourage and emphasize the significance of helping others and they thus argue that an embryo is not yet a human being; it can only attain the status of a human being after 40 days of inception. Judaism and Islam permit embryonic research and therapy.  

Notwithstanding clarification from courts and parliaments across the world, there still is a massive discrepancy in the embryonic stem cell research governance. However, in the UK there has been debate on embryonic research ethics that was stimulated by the establishment of the in vitro fertilisation technology. This led to the development and enactment of the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act that has been the foundation of the UK’s embryonic research regulatory framework (Kihse, 2015). This HFE Act (HFEA) was created to manage conformity with the Act as well as to licence all research institutions wishing to undertake embryonic research. Another critical issue is stem cell resources management in the UK; The House of Lord’s recommended for the establishment of a national Stem Cell Bank to help in the management of resources under an ethical governance framework (Wilson, 2011). For instance, the National Institute of Biological Standards Control is tasked as a repository for stem cell types in the UK Stem Cell Bank (embryonic, foetal, and adult) and as a supplier for stem cell for basic research and clinical applications.

Despite the above regulatory framework, there is the need for further clarification to abolish the ambiguity in embryo research governance. The HFEA only grants licences if the research is ‘necessary and desirable.’ The statement does not clearly define the necessary and desirable research phrase and hence permits unethical research activities like the creating embryos through cell nuclear replacement (Robinton & Daley, 2012).

The European Union’s harmonisation of European legal standards on the other hand is considered stricter than the UK law given the fact that some European countries prohibit deliberate development of research embryos whereas necessitating other stem cells research types. The Council of Europe’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine strictly forbids the development of human research embryos (Brivanlou et al., 2003).  

In accordance with the above discussion, ABC Company should use embryos of below 14 days old to harvest stem cells. The harvested stem cells would help in furthering their gene therapy technique to aid in the reduction of microcephaly development in the unborn babies of pregnant women infected with the Zika virus. Accordingly, the embryo cells used should be produced specifically for research purposes through in vitro fertilisation process where there is mixing of a woman’s egg with a man’s semen in a lab dish. Norsigian (2005) observed that harvesting embryo cells from pregnant women would culminate into the women exploitation. Similarly, using In Vitro Fertilisation process will help the company harvest thousands and thousands of embryo cells to derive enough stem cells to treat the global community to help the world overcome the Zika virus scourge. The essence of using under 14 days old embryos is that the embryo has not yet attained the status of a human being since it has not have a nervous system. A human being only attains a status of a human being when it can feel, have desires, and be emotional; however, a below 14 days old embryos does not have any of the above. Similarly, ender 14 days old embryos have high chances of dying; using these embryos for research purposes is deservingly acceptable (McLaren, 2001).

Although, the use of embryos more than 14 days old provide close to perfect results in reducing microcephaly development in unborn babies, it elicits more ethical concerns. For instance, after 14 days the nervous system of the embryo has begun its development thus it has already started attaining the moral status of a human being. The potentiality of a more than 14 days old embryo developing into a full human being are higher as compared to those under 14 days old. Destruction of potential human life is un-ethical. In accordance with these, the company should need not to use stem cells from adults; first, their probability of enhancing the therapy are low (15%). Secondly, stem cells from adults are produced to perform specific functions and hence they are unsuitable for therapy purposes.

ABC Company should use qualitative research in acquiring stem cells. The qualitative research in its essence is used to investigate phenomena of interest to offer comprehensive understanding of motivation, beliefs, values and attitudes. For this reason, the company will have to follow the following research process:

Problem of the research identification: identifying the needed solutions

Available literature review

Specification of the purpose of the research.

Data collection

  1. Analysis and interpretation of the collected data
  2. Evaluating and reporting the findings

While using the qualitative research design, ABC Company will have to observe the following research ethics codes and guidelines:

  • Informed consent
  • Professional conduct
  • Intellectual property
  • Anonymity, confidentiality, and privacy
  • Non-discrimination
  • Legal issues
  • Protection of human objects


Stem cells research is a significant domain of scientific research that has the potentiality of offering excellent therapeutic options for debilitating injury and disease. Following this realisation ABC Company developed a gene therapy technique that uses stem cells to reduce microcephaly of unborn babies in pregnant mothers affected with the Zika virus. The company now needs the supply stem cells on a large scale. There are several ethical concerns associated with harvesting stem cells from embryos. This report has significantly investigated the different ethical consideration involving deriving stem cells from under 14 days old embryos, over 14 days old embryos, and from adults. The report brings to light as to when an embryo attains the status of personhood. Similarly, the report has discussed the legal challenges involving embryonic stem cells research. In accordance with, this ABC Company is recommended to use stem cells from under 14 days old embryos.  


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