If you thought that human cloning was just Science fiction and that no one in
their right mind would contemplate such a thing, then think again. Even as you
are reading this no less a person than the Department of Health's Chief Medical
Officer (CMO), Professor Liam Donaldson is working closely with a group of
to look into the 'pros and cons' of human
Last year the government heeded the views of the public and rejected the
proposals of the Human Genetics Advisory Commission
(HGAC) to proceed with some
forms of human cloning. So what do we expect to hear from this committee? An out
and out rejection of all forms of human cloning or a weak boned, we'll allow a
little bit, not a lot, but a little? Without pre-empting the decisions of the
working group, let's consider what exactly it is that they are discussing.
At first glance it appears that human reproductive cloning, to produce
identical copies of human beings, is not being considered at all this time
around. They specify that 'therapeutic cloning' is the only type of cloning up
for discussion. However, it doesn't make sense to consider these types of
cloning in isolation because both methods of cloning use the same initial
scientific process. All human cloning is completed by removing the nucleus of an
egg cell and replacing it with the nucleus of any donor cell from a human being.
This is 'fused' artificially and the process produces a human embryo.
When an embryo is created for therapeutic purposes, instead of being placed
to grow in the womb, it will be sacrificed to produce embryonic stem cells. This
type of cell only exists in the early embryo and can be used to create specific
human tissue for transplant therapies. Human life would be created with the
intention of using it as biological material.
The implications of this new technology raise very serious fundamental
ethical questions. The CMO's group has reduced the discussion to a matter of
risks and benefits. It is far from just a matter of risks and benefits. If you
examine the list of members there is a clear lack of philosophical and
ethical input, and most of the committee are from a scientific background.
The objection to therapeutic cloning is not an objection to progress. Without
allowing ourselves to be marginalised as anti-science, we must stress that our
objection is to the creation of human life for the sole purpose of using and
exploiting it. It is never acceptable to kill one human being in order to help
It should be noted that we do not even need to create embryos in order to
obtain stem cells. The most absurd thing is that there are a number of
alternative sources of these cells. There are no ethical objections to using and
investigating the potential of stem cells which have been obtained in an
ethically acceptable manner.
Will therapeutic cloning lead to reproductive cloning?
Many of us consider this a meaningless question, given that the initial
developmental stage is exactly the same.
However, think of a scenario where numerous cloned human embryos are being
created for therapeutic purposes, it is quite feasible that one day a scientist
will implant one of these embryos into a womb and subsequently announce the
birth of the first cloned human being after it is done. If you think that's far
fetched then perhaps you should write to the British Medical Association
and express your concern over their recent public endorsement of full
reproductive human cloning.
If we say an emphatic NO to all human cloning it is unlikely that any human
clones will ever be created.