News that two scientists plan to begin cloning human beings has been widely condemned by churches and the scientific community. At a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC, on Tuesday, Dr Panos Zavos and Dr Severino Antinori said they were ready to go ahead at two secret locations "within 30 to 60 days", and had 200 couples as volunteers. Another scientist at the meeting, Dr Brigitte Boiselier, said she had already begun some human cloning experiments. "The demand is huge, the demand is there and this will be done," Dr Brigitte Boisselier said. The general reaction, particularly from mainstream scientists who have pioneered the cloning of animals, was that the technology was simply not developed enough to be applied safely in humans. Prof Ian Wilmut: the man who led the team that created Dolly the sheep clone, said: "Animal cloning is inefficient in all species." The UK researcher added: "Expect the same outcome in humans as in other species: late abortions, dead children and surviving but abnormal children." In Moscow, Vladimir Ivanov, head of the medical and genetic scientific centre at the Russian Academy of Medical Science, said that "this escapade is like a dangerous game whose aim is sensationalist; it meets no real medical need". Richard Doerflinger, of the US National Conference of Catholic Bishops said: "The announcements at the National Academy of Sciences by people who are just going to pursue human cloning, unless somebody stops them, are an example of why the law needs to step in," he said. "The medical and science professionals are not going to police themselves. And, I think everybody agrees, that trying to make children by cloning at this point is a completely irresponsible experiment involving human subjects." The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said the moves by to produce cloned babies were the inevitable outcome of the promotion of cloning for therapeutic purposes by British scientists and politicians. Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary, said: "As experience with animals has shown, cloning is a notoriously dangerous process. Developmental abnormalities are commonplace and many embryos are lost during the process. In the case of human cloning, these will be real people who are discarded as part of this sinister manipulation of the otherwise natural reproductive process. "In March, Professor Antinori applauded the Blair government when it pushed through regulations to permit research on cloned embryos. Without Britain's lead on therapeutic cloning, Professor Antinori's plans for reproductive cloning would not have been feasible. The two techniques share many key aspects. "It is very dangerous when scientists' professional bodies, biotechnology companies and other interest groups seem always to get their way with government, regardless of ethical considerations." *On 25 June 1997, the Pontifical Academy for Life issued a document called Reflections on Cloning. The document concludes with a summary of two fundamental moral objections to cloning. A first objection relates to the dignity of human procreation. Each human person should have the right to be born of the natural sexual union of a man and a woman. Cloning would be a denial of this process and this right. The cloning process would involve what the document calls a 'radical rupture' of the ordinary bonds of parenting and family. Cloning is the production of a life in a process that is the most removed of all from the truly human process. The second is related to the dignity that is to be accorded to each person without discrimination. That dignity demands the recognition that a person is never to be treated merely as a means to another end. A cloning programme may be aimed at the production of genetically engineered human beings, or may be undertaken to replicate genetically one particular human being. Doing this means subordinating such cloned beings to the purposes of others, for utility or satisfaction or even mere curiosity. Such a process is intrinsically wrong. The Pontifical Academy was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1994 specifically to examine bioethical issues. It is based in the Vatican. *The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales have issued a number of documents on stem cell research and cloning. To access their website click on: Catholic Media Office You can also visit their site through our Links pages.
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