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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 August, 2004, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Is it ethical to clone embryos for research?
Cloned embryos
The technique involves removing the nucleus of a human egg cell
British scientists have been given permission for the first time to carry out human cloning for medical research.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority granted the licence to experts at the University of Newcastle in the northeast of England.

They are investigating new treatments for conditions including diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

Britain is one of the few countries to allow therapeutic cloning under strict licence from a government regulatory agency but cloning humans for reproductive purposes remains illegal and is punishable by a 10-year prison sentence and unlimited fines.

Is therapeutic cloning ethical? Are we one step closer to human reproductive cloning? Is it cloning the answer to conquering diseases? Send us your comments

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Of course it's right to use cells that are essentially waste products for medical research. I think the emotive use of the word 'embryo' contributes to the controversy. Fertilised eggs a few days old are not embryos. These cells are zygotes and do not become embryos until later in their development - if they reach that stage at all. Religious dogma should not come into the equation.
Fletcher, Poole, UK

While delighted that reason has finally prevailed over dogma and ignorance, I think that we should ask why this vital research which will undoubtedly save and improve lives was delayed so long. These times when control over science was removed from the clutches of outdated bigots and handed over to intelligent humanists will be remembered as the final stages of emergence from the dark ages.
Aarash Saleh, Manchester, UK

Pro-life activists are better off dedicating their time and effort to stop wars around the world that kill fully grown human-beings than trying to stop killing of "cells' (debatable) that could potentially save lives! You bet your life its ethical!
Shay Helm, Beverly Hills, CA, USA

Scientific and healthcare development should be settled by the majority will of the people
Keith, US/UK
Nobody can win this debate. The pro-lifers believe in the divine creation beginning at conception. Their opponents believe that test tube embryos aren't part of that divine process. We live in a democracy and this critical stage of our scientific and healthcare development should be settled by the majority will of the people. After all, if in the future the cells are available that would reverse the effects of say Alzheimer's, those with strong religious beliefs can always refuse the treatment.
Keith, US/UK

Excuse me. This debate seems rather moot. We are asking politicians and groups chosen by politicians to decide whether something is moral or not. History has shown time and time again that politicians are the least moral of all, why do we allow them to define what is legally right and wrong.
Paolo Sammut, UK

How can cloning be ethical? Yes we should be in favour of all advancements in order to enhance the quality of our life, but this is just one step too far. Before we know it, it could become legal to clone human beings (if scientific technology permits it) for any reason. I wish we would stop playing God and look to the ethical solutions of disease cures. After all, it cannot be justified to find a cure through destroying a life, an embryo. For those who do not believe an embryo is a life, I would beg them to examine and read up on medical research pertaining to this. It is clear (though very carefully hidden from the public") that an embryo has to be a life from the moment it becomes so. Leading research? Strict licence? Maybe, but for how long and what will the consequences be? I wonder.
Rosanne Allen, Preston, England

I cannot understand this question of 'ethics' in the research of cloning that so many seem to be concerned about, while there was/is no ethics involved when it comes to research in the development of nuclear bombs.
Gita, India

The genie cannot be put back in the bottle, regardless of ethical considerations. It can be done, so it will be, somewhere, by someone. The world's moved on - accept it
Alec Wood, Hartlepool, UK

I for one, am very pleased at this news. I have been suffering from Multiple Sclerosis for the past nine months, and will consider any treatment in the fight against this debilitating disease. It's about time this important, and hopefully life-changing research was allowed.
Brian Taylor, Glasgow, Scotland

It's about time this was done. Ethical? For heaven's sake, we're talking about benefits to actual people, set against the whining of the pro-lifers. I'm just glad the licence has been given...finally someone sees sense.
Christy, Newcastle, UK

Isn't it un-Christian and unethical of the pro-life lobby to deny the sick and dying a chance of a better quality of life
Kev, Liverpool
I read on the internet the theory of a leading Australian Catholic theologian who stated that an embryonic life does not start until 14 days after its conception - our rules in the UK state that therapeutic cloning can only be done within this time span and that the embryo would only grow to the size of a pinhead. Personally, I'm not sure that cloning embryos can conquer serious illness but isn't it 'un-Christian' and unethical of the pro-life lobby to deny the sick and dying a chance of a better quality of life if there are no other treatments that work.
Kev, Liverpool

I work with stem cells on a regular basis - on a bone marrow transplant unit. These stem cells are removed from cord blood and are able to reconstitute the entire bone marrow after ablation. They are also able to cross the blood-brain barrier to heal certain diseases of the brain, for example Krabbe's leukodystrophy. All this is done with waste product -- umbilical cord blood -- with no sacrifice of a human embryo. Has it occurred to no one that identical twins are natural clones of one another? And yet no one would consider sacrificing one without its consent in order to cure Alzheimer's or diabetes.
Jennifer, Durham, NC, USA

It is not ethical to clone embryos for research. Unfertilized eggs are the other half to the beginning of life. Yes embryos have rights life is a gift from God not from a scientist in a lab.
Mark Weir, Swadlincote UK

I don't think I would want it done for me, no matter how ill I was. It just wouldn't feel right.
Melanie, London, UK

The conservatives are right. This is a moral issue. Its about the morality of telling diabetes patients to keep injecting insulin everyday, its about the morality of telling Parkinson's patients to just deteriorate, and its about the morality of telling Alzheimer's patients to say goodbye to their mind forever. It takes a seriously outdated conception of morality to tell sufferers of these horrible condition that the life of an unknowing, unfeeling organism which would not otherwise exist is more valuable than the enjoyment of life for a person with family, friends, and a history. All of the social conservatives should feel ashamed of themselves.
Kyle Carruthers, Whitehorse, Canada

I have muscular Dystrophy and my wife has Diabetes - we are the ones who should judge if this is ethical, NOT those who it doesn't effect. I'd like to see how fast people change their minds when it suddenly effects them or a loved one.
Miles Black, Brighton

Not at the cost of cannibalizing our young
C. Ben Mitchell, Chicago, Illinois USA
To create human beings through cloning for the purposes of destroying them for research is unconscionable. We want therapies for those who are suffering from Parkinson's and Alzheimers, but not at the cost of cannibalizing our young.
C. Ben Mitchell, Chicago, Illinois USA

It makes sense as a tool for medical research. If it can eliminate or cure certain diseases, then absolutely. Human cloning on the other hand is downright scary with all sorts of ethical dilemmas. for instance, if you kill your clone, is that a murder or a suicide?
Barry , USA

I don't know why the pro-life folks are getting their knickers in a twist over this... this technique, as the BBC article makes clear, uses only unfertilized egg cells, which were never destined to be fertilized and would otherwise be discarded. No embryos involved. No possible argument over 'when does human life begin?'. Do embryos have rights? Debatable. Do unfertilized eggs have rights? No, they belong to the woman from whom they were removed, she can do what she likes with them. Of course it's ethical!
Mike Ross, Brit in New York, USA

Cloning for so-called therapeutic purposes is particularly abhorrent as it results in the abuse and ultimate destruction of the human life which is created. The destruction of even one human life in order to save another can never be justified
Julia Millington, London, England

Cloning for so-called therapeutic purposes is particularly abhorrent
Julia Millington, London, England
One thing is certain, we start things for the best of motives, but of course there is always money, which means that it will not be long before we are cloned for our IQ's or selective breeding. This is what the Communists and Nazis wanted and developed. So in the end we will have the lower order of humans edited out. That does not mean that we should not continue our experiments for Alzheimer cures, but that is not the motive I attribute for the long term investors in this technology.
Tony, Welling Kent

Fact: The biological life of every single person reading this began when their first cell divided. We have all been cells, embryo's, babies, children, teenagers and now adults, moving on into old age. Every time a human embryo is created, an independent, new life is created - irrespective of its developed form. If any of the people reading this had had their lives terminated at any stage after the first cells divided, they would not be here now. The fundamental point is that we have absolutely no right whatsoever to create destroy, experiment on another human life, no matter at what stage that life is at, for the benefit of those who are living today.
Charles H, UK

What proof have the HFEA got that cloning is necessary when leading scientific experts have known for years that cloning is never going to have much of a clinical impact, and it is clear to anyone looking at adult stem cell therapies that cloning is not just massively unethical but also unnecessary because adult stem cells work better? The HFEA should not be allowed to make these decisions. They are manifestly incompetent and unaccountable.
Fiona, London, UK

Nobody can seriously argue against the obvious benefits of cloning for research into fatal diseases. However, the strict licensing and regulation must never be relaxed, otherwise Aldous Huxley may be proven right. That would be a terrible thing for mankind. Furthermore, a 10-year prison sentence is far too lenient for such a frightening and horrendous crime.
Dean, Bristol, UK

Nobody can seriously argue against the obvious benefits of cloning for research into fatal diseases
Dean, Bristol, UK
If it can help treat diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's I see no problem with it. No doubt the pc brigade will protest against this decision but I ask them this - if one of your relations had a serious illness and this could improve the quality of their life or even save it surely it can only be a good thing?
JK, Oxford, UK

All of the stem cell miracles have come from Adult stem cells, not foetal. This is just an excuse to open the door to reproductive cloning of humans.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

It is unethical not to. The purpose of medical science is to be the servant of man in the pursuit of human health and well being. It is not rational to allow those whose religion tells them that a small clump of cells in a Petri dish has a human soul to stand in its way. Countless lives could be prolonged and enhanced by the discoveries this research offers.
Mark, USA

Why not? Embryos have less feelings than animals, yet we still test on rats, monkeys, etc.
Carl, Liverpool, UK

Thank goodness that Britain is leading this important area of scientific research. Those who claim that this research amounts to "killing" foetuses fail to consider that the eggs in question would never have been used, and in fact would have been destroyed, absent the research. So it's not as if people are being asked to abort their pregnancies in order to produce sperm cells. Likewise, it is insane to think that allowing this is tantamount to allowing universally banned human cloning. This is nothing but the next step in important areas of medicine like organ transplantation, and should be encouraged.
Paul Gower, Washington D.C., USA

It certainly is. We do not weep for skin cells when we lose them. They are not human. Embryos may be living but they are not self-aware and therefore cannot "miss" a chance at life. So many lives could be improved without harming a single sentient being.
Giles Olley, Winchester, UK

It doesn't matter if it's ethical or not. It's going to happen somewhere in the world and I would rather it happened here, where there are sensible safeguards, rather than in a less regulated country. My family has a little known genetic disease, if this will help prevent it in future generations I am all for it.
Terry, Epsom, Surrey, England

What is and isn't ethical is surely very much a matter of opinion. I consider it very unethical to disallow research into cures for illnesses.
Robert Goforth, Middlesbrough, UK

Does it mater? We all knew it was going to happen sooner or later.
Gerry Noble, Salisbury, UK

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Q&A: Therapeutic cloning
11 Aug 04  |  Health

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