- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 27, 2002

The banner headlines on the National Academy of Sciences recommendation to ban human cloning appear made-to-order for Congress and the White House. A committee of scientists and physicians recommended that the procedure be illegal [-] just as the Senate was about to debate a House-passed proposal to make the procedure punishable by 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. A meeting of President Bushs new Council on Bioethics also coincided with the release of the report last Friday. The committees recommendations are unfortunately somewhat lacking in cohesive logic, but are on track with what some senators are proposing.

@Edit:While the committee recommends banning "human reproductive cloning," it encourages "nonreproductive cloning." The former involves placing an early-stage embryo (fertilized egg) in a womb; the latter does not place the embryo in the womb. The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001, S. 1758, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Dec. 3 proposes to ban reproductive cloning but allows nonreproductive cloning. A bill sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, S. 790, would ban both types of cloning. This is the only moral and ethical approach.

Put simply, nonreproductive cloning would destroy the potential child for the sake of research; human reproductive cloning would attempt to produce a newborn genetically identical to another human. The scientists committee admits that questions could arise from its position to support one kind of cloning, but not another: "Some confusion arises because in both cases researchers would use nuclear transplantation, which is an initial step in the successful procedures used to clone animals [-] beginning with the sheep Dolly and including several other mammals since then." The report justifies the lack of logic by the scientists intent: "Human reproductive cloning is an assisted reproductive technology that would be carried out with the goal of creating a human being. There is a very different procedure, here termed nuclear transplantation to produce stem cells [-] but variously called nonreproductive cloning, therapeutic cloning, or somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to produce stem cells [-] whose aim is the creation of embryonic stem cells (ES cells) for clinical research purposes."

If, therefore, the goal of the scientist is to produce a human clone, the process should be illegal, according to the report. If the goal is to use that embryo for research, then it should be legal. All of which would lead to serious ethical and legal consequences. If Mrs. Feinsteins bill is passed, who would police the scientists? Who would determine that they engaged in illegal cloning, sending the scientist with the "wrong" intent to jail and fining him at least $1 million, meanwhile financially supporting the one with the "right" intent?

In addition, the scientists committee made its determination based on the fact that technology is not advanced enough yet, likely to fail and is even dangerous. Five years from now, if the ethical discussion in America permits and the technology is further along, the scientists said they would reconsider their decision. There is no need to reconsider. Both forms of cloning should remain banned.

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