- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2001

Under the guise of helping infertile couples and diseased individuals, two groups of scientists, led by Dr. Severino Antinori and professor Panayiotis Zavos, announced yesterday that they would soon begin efforts to produce human clones.
It's understandable that many find such a quest scary, if not outright repugnant. After all, fables of scientists being burned by their own technology are as old as Icarus, and many well remember Shelley's "Frankenstein," or at least the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Apparently, many members of the House of Representatives did too, since they passed a bill banning efforts to clone humans last week.
Yet even if the creepiness factor can be discounted, personal consent cannot. Efforts to clone humans are experiments done on humans without their consent. Patient consent is one of the cornerstones of medical ethics, and rightfully so. The Tuskegee syphilis episode shockingly reminded us that no human being should be made an inadvertent part of a medical experiment, especially one that has good odds of causing him drastic harm.
Efforts to clone humans are most likely to have exactly that result. Dolly, the cloned sheep, was "created" on the 277th try. Other animals have been cloned but only by creating similar carnage. Even viable clones are often born with undetectable genetic defects that cause all sorts of abnormalities. Embryonic human clones with detectable abnormalities will undoubtedly (and tragically) be aborted, but what of the cloned children who are born with defects or diseases? Mr. Zavos said that the couples who have volunteered to be a part of his experiment "are willing to take the chance." Yet would their child be willing to take what amounts to (at best) a 1 in 300 shot at survival?
Those who hope to clone a child to replace one who was lost, or to somehow prolong their own life, face even worse odds. In fact, they hope for the impossible. If a viable human clone does emerge from the certain carnage of experimentation, it will be a unique individual of man's tinkering.
Other ways, ones that don't involve experimentation on helpless, non-consenting individuals, can certainly be found to assist infertile couples including the ancient custom of adoption. The same could be said for other diseases that those attempting human cloning claim they hope to cure.
Man's desire for immortality is as understandable as his repugnance at the thought of human cloning. Yet following ethical guidelines instead of emotional responses is a key part of what makes us, well, uniquely human.

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