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The question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough

The Need for a Comprehensive Ban Issues: Cloning Human cloning is the creation of a human being whose genetic make-up is nearly identical 1 to that of a currently or previously existing individual. Recent developments in animal cloning coupled with advances in human embryonic stem cell research have heightened the need for legislation on this issue.

Despite their nearly identical titles, the two bills currently being considered by Congress call for markedly different policies on this critical issue. Though both seek a ban on what is being called "reproductive" cloning--in which a clonal human embryo is implanted in a woman with the intent that a cloned human being will be born--they differ dramatically with respect to what is being termed "therapeutic" cloning.

This latter type of cloning involves the creation and subsequent destruction of a clonal human embryo for the purposes of scientific or medical research. To achieve this end, we believe that a comprehensive ban prohibiting both "reproductive" and "therapeutic" cloning is needed. In support of this assertion, we offer the following: The overwhelming consensus in this country that human reproductive cloning should not be permitted necessitates a ban on both reproductive and "therapeutic" cloning.

An overwhelming majority of scientists, lawyers, health care professionals, ethicists and the general public has spoken out strongly against creating a human baby via what is being termed "reproductive cloning. Yet, to enact a ban on the former while simultaneously permitting the latter would almost certainly result in instances of both reproductive and "therapeutic" cloning.

Support for this premise is as follows: First, if a ban only on reproductive cloning were adopted, enforcement would require the legally mandated destruction the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough human embryos created via cloning. That is, if it were legal to create clonal embryos for "therapeutic"--but not for reproductive--purposes, the demise of these embryos would be required in order to prevent the illegal practice of reproductive cloning from occurring.

A non-comprehensive ban would thereby establish "for the first time in American history a class of embryos that it is a crime not to destroy, a felony not to treat as anything except disposable tissue.

Therefore, the birth of clonal human beings--the very thing such a ban would intend to prohibit--would likely result. A clonal embryo is produced with the "therapeutic" intent of producing tissue needed to save the life of a seriously ill child.

Before the tissue can be obtained, the child dies. Her grieving parents, distraught over their tragic loss, request that the embryo be implanted so that they may have another child.

A man agrees to be cloned with the intent of donating the resultant embryo to research. Subsequent to creation of the clonal embryo, he learns that both he and his wife are infertile.

Realizing that their prospect for having a genetically related child suddenly appears to be compromised, the man changes his mind and requests that his clone be implanted in his wife instead. In cases like these, authorities would be hard pressed to deny the wishes of those desiring to implant a clonal embryo.

Fertility clinics often go to great lengths to determine parents' wishes regarding embryos who have been stored for a long period of time and honor decisions both for and against implantation. The implantation of human life--regardless of how that life originated--should not be regarded as a prohibitable act.

Second, if the laboratory creation of clonal embryos was permitted but the implantation of such embryos was banned, logistical problems regarding enforcement of such a system would undoubtedly arise. Policies that would require genetic testing of every baby upon birth to ensure that he or she is not a clone would likely be regarded as a violation of privacy. Furthermore, such testing would itself fail to ensure that the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough cloning had not occurred, as the baby could be a clone of an unknown or unrevealed person, rather than being a near genetic duplicate of one of the parents.

As a result, the threat to levy fines on or otherwise punish those who clone often would not serve as a deterrent. Also, those who could be proven to have cloned e. Therefore, policies that would prohibit the implantation of clonal human embryos would often be unenforceable and would fail to deter human reproductive cloning.

To mandate the destruction of clonal human embryos created for research purposes would constitute a break with our nation's longstanding legal tradition and the majority of public sentiment. While some proponents of "therapeutic" cloning have characterized the cloning controversy as primarily a dispute between those who are "pro-life" and those who are "pro-choice," extracorporeal human embryos historically have been accorded the right to certain protections by those on both sides of the abortion debate.

The following excerpt from Richard Doerflinger's June 20, 2001 testimony before the U. House Subcommittee on Health illustrates this point in convincing fashion: In 1994 the National Institutes of Health did propose funding such [a practice], as part of a larger proposal for funding human embryo research generally.

The moral outcry against this aspect of the proposal, however, was almost universal. Opinion polls showed massive opposition and the NIH panel making the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough recommendation was inundated with over 50,000 letters of protest. The Washington Post, while reaffirming its support for legalized abortion, attacked the Panel's recommendation as follows: The creation of human embryos specifically for research that will destroy them is unconscionable.

We can debate all day whether an embryo is or isn't a person. But it is unquestionably human life, complete with its own unique set of human genes that inform and drive its own development.

The idea of the manufacture of such a magnificent thing as a human life purely for the purpose of conducting research is grotesque, at best. On the only occasion when an amendment was offered on the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough House floor to weaken the Dickey amendment, the sponsors emphasized that it would leave intact the clause rejecting the creation of embryos for research.

The United States should promote ethical scientific and medical research, and not merely the progress of research, as "good ends" do not justify any and all means to achieve those ends. Some have suggested recently that "America is likely to be [the] most important battleground" in the debate over human cloning.

Indeed, pressure from scientists seeking to the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough in on medical breakthroughs is immense, and they are consistently among the most vocal advocates of "therapeutic" cloning. Our nation is on the cusp of reaping the long dreamed-of rewards from our significant investment in biomedical research. Using somatic cell nuclear transfer and other cloning technologies, biotech researchers will continue to learn about cell differentiation, re-programming and other areas of cell and molecular biology.

Armed with this information, they can eventually crack the codes of diseases and conditions that have plagued us for hundreds of years, indeed, for millennia. For example, scientists would likely learn some very valuable information about the environmental contributions to cancer by administering known carcinogens to a group of people and then varying factors such as diet and sun exposure.

To do so, however, would certainly be unethical and almost no one would advocate going forward with such experimentation. The recent succession of advances in non-embryonic stem cell research indicate that we have not yet reached that point of determination.

Tragically, the last century and a half has been marred by numerous atrocities against vulnerable human beings in the name of progress and medical benefit. In the 19th century, vulnerable human beings were bought and sold in the town square as slaves and bred as though they were animals. These unspeakably cruel and inherently wrong acts against human beings have resulted in the enactment of laws and policies which require the protection of human rights and liberties, including the right to be protected from the tyranny the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough the quest for scientific progress.

We are aware that "therapeutic" cloning research has been endorsed by many on the basis of its alleged potential to relieve the suffering of those afflicted by debilitating disease or disability. While we acknowledge that the desire to heal people is certainly a the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough goal and understand that many have invested their lives in realizing this goal, we also recognize that we simply are not free to pursue good ends via unethical means.

As Fukuyama perceptively noted in his testimony: The United States, as an economically, politically and culturally dominant force in the world, will have an enormous impact on other societies. The Council of Europe has already passed a ban on cloning; to date, 24 countries including Germany, France, Italy and Japan have already enacted national bans on cloning, while 16 have banned creation of embryos for research purposes.

The United States can do a great deal to either reinforce or else undermine [what constitutes acceptable scientific and medical research]. Failure to set standards the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough are ethical will cause this country--and perhaps others--to reap once again the tragic consequences of unethical scientific and medical research. The pursuit of therapies for human disease and disability via "therapeutic" cloning would likely leave many Americans without acceptable means to relieve their suffering.

Some proponents of "therapeutic" cloning have alleged that if a comprehensive ban is enacted, those who advocated such legislation should be held responsible for the the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough suffering of patients who might have benefitted from therapies derived from embryonic stem cells.

However, given that many Americans have indicated they would resist treatments derived from embryonic stem cells due to their personal moral convictions, 32 serious consideration to the manner in which therapies are derived would seem warranted. That is to say, concern for the suffering should extend equally to all who suffer, and therapies should be developed which will not discriminate on the basis of moral convictions. Indeed, if a treatment or cure for a particular disease was developed from embryonic stem cells, researchers most likely would not seek to develop an alternative therapy from non-embryonic stem cells but would instead move on to pursue the development of therapies for other human afflictions.

Thus, if "therapeutic" cloning were to be legally accepted, the suffering of many patients might actually be extended--rather than ended or lessened--as they might be forced to continue in their suffering unless they are willing to abandon their moral commitments.

Human beings have a right not to be created for purposes of experimentation. A bill permitting "therapeutic" cloning while prohibiting reproductive cloning would constitute the legalization of a wholly unethical practice in that it would legally condone and even legally require the demise of human embryos created for research purposes. The destruction of human embryos is profoundly disturbing, and research which necessitates such an act should be proscribed--regardless of the potential for scientific and medical gain.

That some individuals would be destroyed in the name of medical science constitutes a threat to us the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough. Regardless of one's views on abortion or personhood of the human embryo, human embryos are unequivocally human beings and therefore should not be subjected to destructive research. An international scientific consensus now recognizes that human embryos are biologically human beings beginning at fertilization and acknowledges the physical continuity of human growth and development the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough the one-cell stage forward.

Cloning humans? Biological, ethical, and social considerations

Finally, the historic and well-respected 1995 Ramsey Colloquium statement on embryo research acknowledges that: The [embryo] is human; it will not articulate itself into some other kind of animal. Any being that is human is a human being. If it is objected that, at five days or fifteen days, the embryo does not the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough like a human being, it must be pointed out that this is precisely what a human being looks like--and what each of us looked like--at five or fifteen days of development.

Human embryos are not mere biological tissues or clusters of cells; they are the tiniest of human beings. To ignore this responsibility would be to engage in morally unacceptable age discrimination, resulting in the disregard for and destruction of human life based solely on its developmental stage.

As George Annas points out: To create human embryos solely for research--or to sell them, or to use them in toxicity testing--seems morally wrong because it seems to cheapen the act of procreation and turn embryos into commodities.

Thinking through the ethics of cloning

The moral problem with making embryos for research is that as a society we do not want to see embryos treated as products or mere objects the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough fear that we will cheapen the value of parenting, risk commercializing procreation and trivialize the act of procreation.

The prospect of creating new human life solely to be exploited in this way has been condemned on moral grounds by many people [sic]--including The Washington Post, President Clinton and many other supporters of a woman's right to abortion--as displaying a profound disrespect for life. Even those who are the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough to scavenge so-called "spare embryos"--those products of in vitro fertilization made in excess of people's reproductive needs, and otherwise likely to be discarded--draw back from creating human embryos explicitly and solely for research purposes.

They reject outright what they regard as the exploitation and the instrumentalization of nascent human life. In addition, others who are agnostic about the moral status of the embryo see the wisdom of not. Such a mentality might especially prevail with regard to clonal embryos, whose genetic blueprint would be easily reproducible.

Finally, it is important to recognize that although research on human embryos is widely accepted in the event that it may afford therapeutic benefit to the embryo, so-called "therapeutic" cloning is in no way beneficial to the embryo. This standard meaning of "nontherapeutic" research is found, for example, in state laws forbidding such research on human embryos as a crime.

Experiments performed on one subject solely for possible benefit to others are never called "therapeutic research" in any other context, and there is no reason to change that in this context.

Thus, the term "therapeutic cloning" is actually a misnomer. Such cloning holds no therapeutic value whatsoever for the clonal embryo as, far from benefitting from the research, the embryo is destroyed in it. The painful lessons of the past should have taught us that human beings must not be conscripted for research without their permission--no matter what the alleged justification--especially when that research means the forfeiture of their health or lives.

Even if an individual's death is believed to be otherwise imminent, we still do not have a license to engage in lethal experimentation--just as we may not experiment on death row prisoners or harvest their organs without their consent. Of all human beings, embryos are the most defenseless against abuse. A policy advocating the use of clonal human embryos the question of whether cloning is unethical or a scientific breakthrough destructive research would violate the rights of human beings not to be experimented upon.

Because the prospect of human cloning carries great potential to impact humanity in ways previously only imagined, it is exceedingly important that Congress adopt legislation that will protect society and the citizens who live in it--both now and for generations to come.