U.S. editorials on embryo cloning

Nov. 28, 2001 at 11:47 AM   |   Comments

Miami Herald

A ban on cloning will not make this advancing branch of research and technology wither and die. Rather, it will deny sick Americans real hope for remedies for a variety of diseases and allow research abroad to get ahead of that done in the United States.

But a ban will not make cloning go away. Thus, congressional lawmakers should realize the distinction between banning and controlling cloning.

When Advanced Cell Technology announced this week its first baby steps toward producing human embryos, the debate over cloning's moral, medical and, yes, political consequences began anew.

Now some Senate members, supporting President Bush's view, want to parrot the shortsighted bill that the House passed during the summer. It adopted a ban on human cloning for both reproductive and medical-research purposes.

The Senate should not follow the House's misguided lead. Rather, it should craft a more moderate and finely calibrated proposal.

Cloning to produce stem cells for research from human tissue clearly is viable, and it should be allowed to continue for its potentially life-saving benefits. The procedures use cloning techniques to produce early human embryos that can yield stem cells. The stem cells, in turn, can be made into replacement tissues to help patients suffering from various, often life-threatening, diseases.

The experiments at the center of Advanced Cell Technology's controversial work actually ended in failure. None of the human embryos that it developed survived. But the company's ability to create embryos at all offers a look at what can -- and will -- be possible one day.

Though these procedures do not produce cloned human beings, they are a step in that direction. Therefore, they should be strictly regulated -- but allowed to proceed. ...

The thought of cloning for reproduction remains a chilling and morally unsettling idea, one that should be prohibited.

Cloning for stem-cell research, however, has far-reaching merit. More discerning and thoughtful lawmakers should take the lead here.


Los Angeles Times

A Massachusetts biotech company's announcement earlier this week that it had created a cloned human embryo has prompted many legislators to call for an immediate ban on research that some see as ghoulish.

Cloning aimed at replicating humans is ethically troubling, not to mention medically reckless. But scientists are hardly, as Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., claimed this week, "on the verge of having human embryo farms in laboratories all across America."

In fact, Advanced Cell Technology's big breakthrough is a yawn. Far from creating some sinister, Michael Crichton-style organ farm, the company's scientists only managed to get a single egg to divide into six cells, far short of the several hundred cells needed to meet Webster's Medical Dictionary's definition of "embryo"...

On Monday, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., joined Smith and leaders of 10 religious and anti-abortion groups to urge the Senate "to pass a complete ban on human cloning immediately." Rather than passing hasty and overbearing legislation that would ban both "therapeutic" and human cloning--thus halting the most hopeful research into Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis and other diseases that ravage bodies and devastate families--Congress should quickly pass a more sensible and scientifically astute bill by Rep. James C. Greenwood, R-Pa. This legislation would ban what rightly worries most Americans: cloning aimed at producing a child.

President Bush, who on Monday said he was deeply troubled by the Massachusetts firm's decision to "grow life to destroy it," could also help. He could encourage greater moral and ethical scrutiny of cloning by moving up his deadline for naming members to his Bioethics Advisory Commission from the end of December to the end of this week.

All scientists, even those working on biotechnology's frontier, should be subject to laws reflecting national values. But the researchers at Advanced Cell Technology are not the evil Dr. Frankensteins that some legislators are making them out to be. As Rep. Greenwood pointed out in a congressional debate about cloning two months ago, "Some will say, 'But wait a minute, once you put Mr. Greenwood's cheek cell into this empty cell and it divides, we have a soul.' ... That's ridiculous."


New York Post

Hello, Brave New World?

Maybe.

On Sunday, a Worcester, Mass., technology company announced that it had taken a giant step toward that nightmare future.

Advanced Cell Technology said it had cloned the first human embryo -- a development that caught the attention of the whole world.

Understandably.

While the announcement's practical import remains unclear, the moral questions aren't all that nuanced. The experiments raise the prospect of cloned human beings - and that is no road for humanity to be traveling.

The company says its work, at this stage, is intended basically to find cures for chronic and genetically transmitted disease. That's an eminently respectable goal: The worth of combating disorders like diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases (to name just three) is obvious.

But creating embryos - that is, some would say, human life - by any means simply to harvest stem cells (essentially what ACT says it's up to) takes medical research one moral bridge too far.

As President Bush put it, "The use of embryos to clone is wrong ... We should not, as a society, grow life to destroy it."

Since Dolly the sheep was manufactured in 1997, the potential for abuse of the technique has been obvious.

So is the need for remedial action - but while the House of Representatives passed a ban on cloning in July, the Senate has done nothing.

And appears prepared to do nothing.

We understand that the Democratic Party -- which controls the Senate and which is in near-total thrall to the pro-abortion lobby -- will do nothing that would validate the notion that human life exists at the embryonic stage. The implications of that for the nation's endless abortion debate are obvious.

But the manufacture of human embryos for industrial purposes - which, at the end of the day, is what Advanced Cell is doing - simply is grotesque.

It needs to be outlawed.


Chicago Sun-Times

Dissecting a human body was once considered against God's law. Thus physicians had only the sketchiest knowledge of which organs went where, and almost no idea at all about what those organs did. Time passed. Performing an autopsy is no longer an act of religious defiance. Yet medical science and religion -- or morality, if you prefer -- still grapple over what should be allowed, or not allowed.

Cloning, which has sat ominously on the horizon for years, is again being debated, now that a Massachusetts company, Advanced Cell Technology, has announced the successful cloning of a human embryo. Whether this instance is indeed cloning, whether it represents a medical advance or merely a marketing tool to attract investors, is not the point. The point is: Should human cloning be permitted? Congress and the president are quick to denounce it, conjuring up Huxleyian images of babies growing in glass jars.

But we must make a distinction between cloning for therapeutic research and cloning to produce babies. When the goal is not reproduction, but to provide genetic material -- such as stem cells --used to search for medical advances, any regard for the nascent clump of cells is overshadowed by the needs of people suffering from a range of illnesses, from diabetes to Alzheimer's. We're not talking about harvesting embryos, but rather extracting stem cells from a blastocyst, at most a few hundred cells smaller than a mote of dust. Your skin, after all, basically clones itself to cover a wound, and science providing stem cells helping you, for instance, to grow a new kidney to replace a failing one would be a development to be welcomed, not deplored.

Cloning for reproduction is another matter. The value that such a practice might hold for society -- the ability of rich, infertile people to genetically copy themselves without benefit of a partner -- seems dwarfed by the prospect of the years of experiments needed to reach that point, of assembly lines forming, then discarding, flawed attempts at cloning human embryos. Society has a right to step in and block scientists irresponsible enough to try them. ...

Our ethics, by their very nature, reflect experience and inevitably clash with the latest developments of science and medicine. We owe it to the legion of afflicted to be open to new practices -- even those that challenge our values -- that might offer breakthroughs.


(Compiled by United Press International.)

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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