Life Matters —The Newsletter of the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Rockford
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
Dr. Woo Suk Hwang and Dr. Shin Yong Moon of Seoul National University (South Korea) recently announced that they had successfully cloned thirty human embryos and had “created” a stable stem cell line from one of them. While scientists from other countries have made similar claims in the past, this is the first credible documentation to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Previously, the debate over the ethical and policy issues associated with cloning has—for the most part—been theoretical. But now, the issue is real. These scientists have demonstrated that human embryos can be cloned.
In order to “produce” a cloned baby, these scientists must get the tiny human to develop to the six day old stage and then place him or her into a womb. If implantation is successful and the pregnancy goes well, a cloned baby will be born.
Like the majority of scientists and lawmakers addressing the issue of cloning, Hwang insists that their goal “is not to clone humans, but to understand the causes of diseases.” In reality, however, they have cloned a human. Intellectually honest scientists know that a human blastocyst or embryo is a living human being—albeit a very tiny one.
Dr. Hwang did admit that therapeutic cloning “cannot be separated from reproductive cloning.” One has to be very naive not to recognize that reproductive cloning will follow therapeutic cloning. It’s only a matter of time.
In the February 23, 2004 issue of Time, Michael D. Lemonick acknowledges this possibility when he writes, “Responsible scientists wouldn’t try it [reproductive cloning], but an unethical researcher could read the Science paper [which describes in great detail the process used by Hwang and Moon] and attempt to use the technique to bring a clone to term. ‘I’m afraid that some nitwit is going to try,’ says Larry Goldstein, a cellular and molecular biologist the University of California at San Diego.”
Dr. Leon R. Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, called for federal legislation to stop human cloning for any purpose. “The age of human cloning has apparently arrived: today, cloned blastocysts for research, tomorrow cloned blastocysts for babymaking…In my opinion, and that of the majority of the Council, the only way to prevent this from happening here is for Congress to enact a comprehensive ban or moratorium on all human cloning.”
The Genie is Out of the Bottle
Kass is correct that we must enact a ban on all human cloning. We must also recognize, however, that legislation alone will not stop this immoral research.
Dr. Panayiotis M. Zavos of the Kentucky Centre for Reproductive Medicine and IVF says that cloning cannot be banned. “That time has passed a long time ago. The genie is out of the bottle,” he said.
Zavos is focusing his research efforts on allowing “infertile couples to safely have healthy, genetically related children through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) [cloning] methods.” He views reproductive cloning as just “another new development in assisted reproductive technologies for the world to consider.” But it is much more than that. It is a doorway to a brave new world where the line between good and evil becomes increasingly blurred.
Some Things Are Just Wrong
David Stevens, M.D., executive director of the Christian Medical Association (CMA) writes, “Many injustices and horrors have been foisted on individuals and society in the name of science, but to duplicate a living human being for the sole purpose of exploitative research and destruction is singularly morally unconscionable. To do so when morally acceptable research—the use of adult stem cells—is already producing tremendous therapies for patients—is unthinkable.”
Dr. Gene Rudd, also of the CMA added, “What makes this watershed event even worse is the duplicity involved. These researchers, like some politicians and even some reporters, baldly state that they are not cloning human beings. A human embryo, scientifically speaking, is a genetically complete, living human being.”
Syndicated columnist, Armstrong Williams, weighed in on the South Korean cloning experiment saying, “Far less consideration seems to be given to the moral implications of creating life simply to destroy it. Each embryo these researchers harvest and dissect has a unique genetic code. That means they are using their scalpels to tear not at a random collection of cells, but at a genetically complete human being. This is no different from, say, abortion or murder.”
We must never forget that there are some things that are intrinsically and inherently wrong. Using human beings as research material—whether for therapeutic or reproductive cloning or for embryonic stem cell research is clearly wrong.
Recent research efforts have clearly demonstrated that we can treat diseases without killing human embryos. The British Medical Journal reported, “the need for fetal cells as a source of stem cells for medical research may soon be eclipsed by the more readily available and less controversial adult stem cells.” There is simply no need to continue with the draconian experiments on human embryos—there are better and ethical alternatives that must be pursued!