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Abstract

It was not often that the word "magic" appeared in scientific literature until the advent of the stem cell. Now, this terminology seems to appear more and more often. If even half of the promises offered in the lay and professional literature come to pass regarding the magical nature of the stem cell, perhaps this hyperbole will be forgiven.

The potential for using stem cells to cure or ameliorate a host of genetic, metabolic, and degenerative conditions has been recognized only in the past few years, and this recognition has led to a major redirection of research efforts. In this relatively short time, a mixture of facts and fantasy has propelled the issue into the headlines; the surrounding fervor is fueled not only by the promises of magic, but also by the recognition that research and therapy with stem cells is not merely a scientific issue-it is also a profoundly moral issue.

While recognizing that stem cell research is also the subject of much scientific and political debate, this Case Study will focus primarily on the moral aspects. The nub of the moral issue is the source of the stem cells that are needed for research and therapy.

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