Keep Research Cloning Legal
Reproductive cloning should be banned for now, as medical and ethical questions remain
Until the medical dangers of human reproductive cloning are resolved, the procedure—in which a fertilized egg has its original DNA replaced with cloned DNA and is implanted in a woman’s womb with the intent
for a successful birth—should be banned on safety grounds. The state of current research makes the procedure likely to produce a deformed or otherwise diseased clone, if it even survives. Since researchers in Scotland cloned Dolly the sheep in 1997, they have discovered severe arthritis in her and other signs of early aging. Scientists believe similar difficulties would occur in human reproductive cloning, and those liabilities make it extremely unwise to experiment with the procedure now.
Even more important, the ethical implications of such a procedure have hardly been explored. Issues of commodification and individuality, issues that touch every person in the most fundamental way, have yet to be engaged by the public to any considerable extent. There is no social consensus on human reproductive cloning and the debate has not even begun. It would be morally irresponsible of any scientist to create a human clone before politicians, philosophers, and religious leaders have a chance to digest and discuss these issues.
On the other hand, therapeutic cloning—used to create stem cells—is ethically acceptable. The possibilities for stem cells derived from therapeutic cloning are immense. Great gains might be made in treating multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and various other crippling diseases. And because it will never result in the birth of a cloned embryo, therapeutic cloning is free from many of the ethical dilemmas confronting reproductive cloning.
To prevent renegades like Antinori from starting research on their own, the international scientific community should adopt a universal standard on cloning. This is an issue that goes far beyond national borders, and decisions made in one country cannot help but impact others.
Furthermore, in the ongoing debate about cloning, partisan politics has no place. Every senator must feel free to vote based on personal convictions, without pressure or fear of political retaliation from either side. Only a vibrant and open debate on the ethics of reproductive cloning, in the Senate and elsewhere across the world, will lend legitimacy to the decisions that are ultimately made.