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Cloned Child (video)
December 27, 2002

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Interviewees: George Annas, Chair, Boston University Health Law; Rudolf Jaenisch, Whitehead Institute at MIT; and Mike West, Advanced Cell Technology.

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Produced by Joyce Gramza

Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc., with additional footage from the University of Missouri, Columbia, ABC News, the Boston Museum of Science, and Advanced Cell Technology.

Also on ScienCentral News

Human Cloning - The Science - Cloning could one day cure diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes and even heart disease. But it could also be used to make a copy of a human being. (10/31/02)

Human Cloning - The Ethics - The United States bars government-funded scientists from cloning human cells to cure diseases. But the nation has not outlawed cloning a human being. (10/31/02)

Elsewhere on the web

Raelians Claim First Cloned Baby

"Scientific and Medical Aspects of Human Reproductive Cloning" - NAS Report

World Cloning Ban Delayed

Reproductive Cloning Network

Clone Rights United Front

With the reported birth of the first human clone comes a renewed campaign to outlaw reproductive cloning.

This ScienCentral News video reports that mainstream scientists and ethicists predict the worst.

Clone Controversy

The announcement of the birth of “Eve”—a baby girl apparently cloned by Clonaid, a company with ties to the Raelian religious sect—has sparked outrage and condemnation both from scientists and ethicists. Chances are, efforts to outlaw human cloning will be redoubled, even though the scientific establishment has cast serious doubt about the veracity of Clonaid’s claim.

Leading medical ethicist George Annas, who chairs the Health Law Department at Boston University’s School of Public Health, has urged that reproductive cloning be banned long before it could be attempted. Annas, who founded Global Lawyers and Physicians, a human rights organization working on a proposed United Nations treaty to outlaw reproductive cloning, thinks that an announcement like Clonaid’s might help bring on the ban.

Annas believes cloning is wrong for ethical reasons. “Even in this hypothetical world that you could possibly do this in a safe manner without subjecting women and children to horrible disabilities and death, even in that situation it would be wrong for the children," Annas says. "It would be treating the children like products, like pets in a sense, and in a sense depriving them of their human dignity."

He says he hopes that the first cloned baby is healthy. But if not, “That'll trigger a ban almost immediately,” he says.

That cloning has not been proven safe is at the center of an ongoing debate. World cloning expert, Rudolf Jaenisch points out that cloned animals’ genes simply don’t function properly, causing defects over time. Cloned humans, he fears, would suffer the same fate. “Some will be more abnormal so they die very early, and some may be less abnormal and they develop maybe to school children, but then they might be very abnormal like these cloned animals,” says Jaenisch.

In cloning, the nucleus from an egg cell is replaced with the nucleus from a mature adult body cell, a process referred to as somatic cell nuclear transfer (see Human Cloning: The Science). Jaenisch explains that this short-cuts the normal process of sperm and egg and maturation, which normally take months and years, respectively.

“This very complex process assures that the two gametes, the mature sperm and the mature egg… can now activate the correct way when they come together at fertilization, to direct development of a new organism," Jaenisch says, adding that he is surprised that cloned animals have survived to adulthood.

But Mike West, president of Advanced Cell Technology, is not at all surprised. West, whose company has cloned dozens of prized dairy and beef cattle, says, “the cloning of human beings is probably entirely possible to do."

While West thinks animal cloning is a useful technique that is well on its way to being practical and cost-effective, and even though he feels we know more about human embryos than any other animals’, he doesn’t support cloning a human. “I have to say, the reason for not doing it is that we don't know that it's safe, and no one can dispute that,” West says.

Scientists and ethicists can, however, agree on one thing: if Eve is indeed what her creators claim, she deserves the same respect and consideration given any other child. Says George Annas, “We shouldn't do it again, but obviously this child should be treated with the same human rights and dignity as any other child… to take care of it, shelter it and not make an international media event out of this child's life.”

by Julia Schulhof

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