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Human Cloning

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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 'prestigious' professors to look into the 'pros and cons' of human cloning.

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 another.

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 (BMA) 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.

Watch this space for up and coming campaigns!

 

For more information on human cloning and alternative stem cell research try the following websites.

CBHD - Centre for Bioethics and Human Dignity 

MATCH - Movement Against the Cloning of Humans 

Do No Harm - Coalition of Scientists 

 

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This Page was Last Updated on Monday, 10 July 2000.