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January 4, 2003
Column #1,114

Human Cloning: A Horror That Should Be Illegal

     A religious cult that claims that space travelers created the human race by cloning, announced last week that it had created the first human clone, a supposedly healthy seven-pound baby girl nicknamed "Eve." The group's chief scientist, Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, produced no evidence of the claim, but promised to do so within a week

     The announcement was greeted with great skepticism and even greater alarm by the scientific community and leaders of virtually every faith. 

     "If it is true, it is alarming and disturbing," said Dr. Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics. In its recent report, the Council concluded that cloning to produce a child was "thoroughly unethical and should be outlawed." 

     Michael Guillen, a former science editor for ABC News, said that Clonaid, the corporation affiliated with the sect called the Raelians that conducted the cloning, invited him to arrange for independent DNA tests of the baby and mother to verify the claim.

     "Research scientists around the world just don't believe it," said Dr. Walter Larimore, Vice President of Focus on the Family on FOX TV News. "This group has never published a single scientific paper, has no record of success. They claim to have created and implanted ten human clones and that five have miscarried spontaneously while the four that are unborn are `doing well.'"

     Rudolph Jaenisch, a leading embryologist at MIT, asserts that it would be nearly impossible to clone a healthy child, that it might take 1,000 failures to get one. There were 276 failures to clone a sheep before Dolly was born. About a quarter of all cloned mammals suffer severe birth defects, such as enlarged or undersized organs. Even those that appear healthy are not. Dolly is aging much more quickly, with premature arthritis not seen in other sheep her age.

     That is why scientists almost universally condemn human cloning as profoundly unethical. "It violates basic human research ethics and the principle, `Do no harm,'" says Dr. Larimore who has delivered 1,500 babies. "Human beings should not be used as lab rats or guinea pigs in what amounts to human experimentation at its worst." It brings the Nazi experimentation to mind.

     Dr. Thomas Dooley, who has created bioethics firms in Birmingham, AL, grimly observes that "Scientists and physicians do not effectively self-police their own scientific advances." 

     Fortunately, one result of Clonaid's announcement is the surfacing of a clear scientific, religious and political consensus on the need for federal law to outlaw human cloning. Even the liberal Washington Post editorialized, "This country is not ready for the cloning of human beings." 

     Already more than 2000 people have told Clonaid that they are willing to spend $200,000 each to have their clone planted in a womb. That's $400 million! No wonder Clonaid made its announcement before proof of its success was available. It wants the business. 

     However, there is tremendous pressure to permit the use of "therapeutic cloning," using the same genetic material that can produce a cloned human being, for research. Nobel laureate David Baltimore, President of the California Institute of Technology, argues that embryonic stem cells "could be used to make up for the deficits in brain and pancreas cells that cause Parkinson's disease or diabetes. It is the only present hope that those who suffer from these ailments have."

     I am stunned by such a comment. To date, not one patient has been helped with embryonic stem cells. However adult stem cells, which can be obtained from a patient's bone marrow, are already being used to help patients with multiple sclerosis, lupus, arthritis, stroke, anemia, blood and liver diseases, cancers of the brain, ovaries and breast, diabetes and repair of the heart. Why do they work? Coming from the same body, there is less danger of rejection.

     President Bush has urged passage of a total ban on human cloning: "First, research cloning would contradict the most fundamental principle of medical ethics, that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another. 

     "Secondly, anything less than a total ban on human cloning would be virtually impossible to enforce. Cloned human embryos created for research would be widely available in laboratories and embryo farms. Once cloned embryos were available, implantation would take place."

     Such a bill passed the House by a wide 265-162 margin, but it never reached the floor of the Senate. The Senate's new Majority Leader, Sen. Bill Frist, who is a physician, has pledged to push for passage. 

     Clonaid's alleged news is just what the doctor ordered to ban cloning. 

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