BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February, 2005, 12:17 GMT
Should embryo cloning be licensed?
Human embryo
The creator of Dolly the sheep has been granted a licence to clone human embryos for medical research.

Professor Ian Wilmut and a team of scientists from Kings College London will clone early stage embryos in the hope of finding new treatments for motor neurone disease.

This is only the second time the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has given such permission, sparking fury from critics who maintain the research is immoral.

Do agree with therapeutic cloning or do you think it is immoral? Do you believe it is a step closer to full-blown human cloning? Do you see any benefits to therapeutic cloning?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

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

No. We are advancing one step at a time towards designer human beings justifying each step with the claim that we'll be able to cure more diseases. This is a ludicrous argument when millions are dying each year from starvation and treatable diseases in poor countries. This isn't about improving lives, it's about profit first, and damn the consequences.
Paul, Derby, UK

Any reasonable means of scientific advancement has to be followed up or the world will stop moving forward. We are where we are today because of men and women who kept searching for answers. It is right that some forms of research have to be monitored carefully, as people quite rightly say, we cannot play God. However, the research must be carried out to take us to the next step forward. To create a clone for medical purposes, for harvesting should never be allowed, ever.
Keith, Sunderland, UK

Survival of the fittest in the human species ceased centuries ago and this is nature's way of taking back the control of evolution. We're not playing god, I say he's playing us¿ let's move the human race forward!
McT, Cambridge, UK

Illness and disease is here for a reason, everyone must die whether it be from illness, old age or accident. Otherwise the world is going to become so over populated no one will be able to survive! It's the circle of life and tampering with it will go wrong in the end!
Natasha Smith, Guildford, Surrey

No one can decide where chemical reactions end and life begins. You could argue that life is just one giant chemical reaction. We have to try and understand this, so that we can better the "chemical reaction", and fix bad "chemical reactions". Morality should not come into it. We need to survive as a species at all costs. That is the way of nature. If we keep worrying about feelings, we will end up stunting our own human development and be overtaken by another species that is more ruthless. Technology is evolution, accept it.
Dan C, UK

You can't stop it. You can ban it and criminalise it in your own country but if you do, it only means that it will be performed in other places where the advancement of science and the exploitation of new knowledge is more highly valued. Religious and ethical arguments in our culture have become obsolete and superfluous. We now face the prospect that cures for diseases like multiple sclerosis and diabetes will be delayed five years and come from China, not the USA or Europe. What do you say to the relatives of people who will have died needlessly after those cures are found?
Mark, USA

We've messed around with nature far too much, this is only adding to the problem. It's very hypocritical using and destroying a potential human life to save others. Although I would like to see cures for these diseases, I don't think this is the right way to go about it.
Victoria Watterson, Falkirk, Scotland

I believe that along with stem cell research, cloning is a step towards currently incurable conditions such as cancer and neurological illnesses.
Steve, Lancashire, UK

There is no way people can stop science no matter what they think is moral. They should ask themselves one thing. Can religion cure diseases? I think not.
Joan Furlong, Dubuque, Iowa

We have a duty to use such knowledge to help one another
Robin, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
I do not find any ethical problems in producing embryos to benefit mankind. I think people don't fully understand the purpose behind such research. Being a scientist, I feel those of us in the science world have a better understanding of what the embryos will be used for. I think it is ridiculous to dismiss the ability to save hundreds of ill patients simply because we'd rather save the embryos. We have a duty to use such knowledge to help one another. Humanity comes first.
Robin, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Why don't we stop playing God? Why don't we just investigate other things that are even more important? While millions die from hunger we are wasting money trying to make clones. Why are we so stupid as a race?
Martín Alejandro Carmona Selva, Buenos Aires, Argentina

How many of the people protesting against this are actually suffering from motor neurone disease? What I think is immoral, is for people who are healthy and fit to withhold a cure from those who aren't.
Dave, Lowestoft, UK

Far from being nothing more than a "bunch of cells with no feelings" a human being is a human being from conception! It should be treated as such and should neither be used for cloning, experimentation nor anything else.
Christine, Kent, UK

I have no moral complaints about the cloning of embryos, I have no specific religious belief, therefore can only assume the brain has to be quite well developed before a personality and 'self' begin. However, just because we can cure certain illnesses with this development it doesn't necessarily mean we should. The world is already overpopulated, pushing medical advances until we all die age 150, in perfect health, means this situation can only get worse. It should be developed, yes, but people should think long and hard about the consequences of another way of defeating death.
Tom, Norwich, UK

Since testing drugs, etc on animals has virtually been stopped by animal liberationists, society has to choose between allowing science to advance in other ways so we can find cures for debilitating diseases, and preventing such advances in the name of morality. Doesn't the end justify the means in such a case?
Harold Lee, London, England

A plant displays more awareness than an early-stage embryo
Andrew Johnson, Manchester, UK

Some contributors seem to be ignorant about what is being done here. This is not about evil scientists breeding "humans to use as spare parts". Only an embryo is being created. An embryo is not "just a baby, only smaller": its a small bunch of cells with no nervous system and no consciousness. It will never become anything more than that. It cannot suffer. Even a plant displays more awareness than an early-stage embryo. Rather than reflexively condemning anything associated with cloning, can I suggest people abandon their superstitious preconceptions and just think about the reality of the issue?
Andrew Johnson, Manchester, UK

I am far from convinced that it would be a good idea to license this practice. But if it is licensed then there should be a moratorium on public money being spent on this research. Why should Catholic taxpayers, I am not a Catholic by the way, be forced to contribute financially to a practice that they believe to be akin to murder. We may differ about the status of an embryo, but the right of a man or woman to be free not to participate in practices they regard as wicked is something about which nearly all of us can agree.
Michael Lakey, Newcastle

How many from the religious right wing argued against test tube babies, transplants, blood transfusions etc and now happily use these technologies? I am personally tired of the religious right wing controlling access to science that is highly beneficial to society until one of them needs it, then it becomes suddenly morally acceptable. How many people have to die or live miserable lives just to keep someone else's dogmatic beliefs happy?
Vish, UK

This is only another step on the ladder of human evolution, intellectually. The same barriers had to be overcome when Copernicus proffered his theories that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, and so too with Darwin when he said humans come from apes. We will inevitably create human life from cloning and should accept the opposition to it as a necessary step to keep us on a relatively moral path, but we will do it and we will progress. Morality, religion or conventional wisdom seldom hold intellectual progress back. This will be no exception.
Darren Stevens, Rushden

Thousands of animals die every year as a result of hideous experiments, ostensibly conducted for the purpose of 'curing' disease, and very few consider this 'immoral'. Therapeutic cloning is just one more tool in the fight against genetic break-down. Nevertheless, there must be strict guidelines or else we'll foment a nightmare worse than nuclear energy. And the profit motive should never be a consideration.
Charles Coddington, Aurora, IL, USA

All life is valuable and embryos have the right to live
Eric, USA

We seem to hope that one day mankind will live forever. If there is a possibility of developing ways to cure people who are suffering, that should be done, but we should not sacrifice life for life. All life is valuable and embryos have the right to live. A seed has the potential to be a tree if given a chance and we do not have the right to chose. Let us not forget that we are mortal and are all bound to die.
Eric, USA

Those who condemn this research should stop and think - I am watching my husband deteriorating with MND and turning into someone who is becoming more and more dependent on me for everything. It is demoralising and frustrating for him and heartbreaking for me and his family. Those who condemn this research probably have no first hand experience of this devastating disease and until they do they should keep their judgemental comments to themselves.
Sue, Reading, UK

Our time and money should be spent on adult stem cell research, which has already helped sufferers of diseases, and not on unethical and destructive research on human embryos. The life of every human person from conception to natural death must be protected, and not disregarded when science tells us it is acceptable - when will we learn?
C McLarty, UK

Let's get it into perspective, it's a ball of a few cells, not a baby
Ian, Nottingham, UK

As a scientist, though not involved in this area of research, looking at most of the posts here they range from people with a personal involvement in many of the diseases this research will investigate, to, well frankly people who have no idea of what they're talking about, comparing cloning to slavery, and pre-programmed humans?! Let's get it into perspective, it's a ball of a few cells, not a baby! This is important research, and it will go ahead here or elsewhere. We in the UK already have the most stringent legislation in the world regarding scientific experiments, what's the legislation and unrestricted cloning experiments? Or go back to medieval values and burn people for suggesting the world is round!
Ian, Nottingham, UK

I am saddened by people who say that those who object should not receive medical care. I am an objector, but only to cloning, not medical advancement or research. We should invest in and carry out research into the horrific diseases that inhabit this world, but not at the expense of life. Would those condemning the likes of me like to see testing on humans as they do with animals instead? Surely this will give a more accurate test result? No? I thought not. Come on, face up to it, we are all going to die eventually.
Karen, Bletchley

Amazing that people will calmly accept tens of thousands being blown to pieces for the sake of non existent WMD, yet everyone is up in arms about a bunch of cells. Since when did people care about life so much? Thousands die needlessly in Africa every day and no-one lifts a finger to help.
Matt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ex-UK)

It boggles my mind that human life, living human DNA in a living dividing cell, is not considered a person deserving of respect and a chance at existence. To me this is a gross discrimination based on size, age, and physical makeup. I cannot separate human life from a human person. Obviously my belief has far reaching consequences beyond the topic of human cloning.
Matthew Brounstein, Green Bay, USA

Some of you feel the research is unethical/playing God? Fine, should you ever need treatment based on this research simply refuse it on moral/religious grounds - just don't condemn other people to unnecessary suffering and early death because of your own personal beliefs.
Steve, London

The issue of cloning in order to produce stem cells confuses me, since when I gave birth to my daughter here in The Netherlands I was asked to donate the cord blood for stem cell research as a matter of routine. The procedure is carried out during all normal births here, even home births. Yet none of my friends who have given birth in the UK even knew what I was talking about.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex-UK

There are many sources of stem cells without creating life/embryos, manipulating it and then binning it
Tess Hillson, Cardiff, UK

As a researcher and daughter of an MS sufferer I can see the potential benefits. But the creation of stem cells from cloned embryos is totally unnecessary. There are many sources of stem cells without creating life/embryos, manipulating it and then binning it. It is unnecessary - other cell lines have not been used to their full advantage yet so it is the need for drama and scandal that is driving Dr Wilmut to use these methods.
Tess Hillson, Cardiff, UK

I find it sad and narrow-minded that people cannot open their views to see the fantastic benefits this could bring. Trust me after being involved with an illness such as MND for the last four years, life truly has no value when your basic rights as a human to breathing, eating and sleeping are taken away from you. Those involved with these debilitating illness have no quality of life so why shouldn't the opportunity to be given to investigate further if we could find a cure or even a cause? It is not greed, it is the willingness to try and help fellow man and ease suffering.
Donna Fisken, Swindon

This is a tragic development. Sadly, it shows how we have lost sight of the fact that human life begins at the moment of conception. It is worth reflecting: at what point does an 'embryo' become a 'baby'? If a premature 'baby' can survive if born at 24 weeks (when a 'pregnancy' can also be terminated), a foetus is fully developed at 12 weeks, the heart is beating by three weeks, when exactly does it become a baby? Think of the congratulations that are expressed when we find out that a friend is pregnant and expecting a 'baby' - the 'embryo' inside her is just the same as those who will be created and killed in the procedures approved this week.
Matt, London, UK

Science is our only chance
Linda Hawkins, Brighton, East Sussex

My mother died two years ago after three years with MND. There is no treatment, no cure. She attended Kings College hoping they would learn something more about the disease which would help her or others. I am therefore pro anything that might help others suffering from this awful disease, particularly after the case mentioned on BBC where mother, daughter and sister in one family all suffer. Science is our only chance. 5,000 per year may not be many people in the great scheme of things but that is 5,000 families effected.
Linda Hawkins, Brighton, East Sussex

You'll never stop the basic human urge to uncover knowledge. You might as well stand on the beach and tell the tide not to come in.
Col, UK ex-pat in Poland

I believe cloning should be allowed but heavily regulated. Progress, many times through technology, is essential for humans to move forward. We should not ban science and experimentation outright.
Brian Quinn, Pittsburgh, USA

How can a ball of cells be classed as a life? I would have a problem if embryos were allowed to develop to a point where a nervous system was developing in the foetus. However, a few week-old ball of cells that has the potential to cure so many ills of this world has got to be thoroughly researched - and of course, totally regulated as well.
Colin Grant, Manchester, UK

When will 'scientists' realise that bringing a life into the world is a privilege, not a right?
Paul, Colchester

There is nothing wrong with therapeutic cloning which will help to save lives on the long run, but any attempt to turn it around for human purpose could make it immoral. We should learn to respect God and nature, even though technology has gone to greater heights.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

I would much rather research be done on cloned human embryos - which have no developed brain and no working nervous system - than on animals who feel everything, but just don't have the communication skills that humans do. Also, surely the results of tests on humans for humans are much more useful than results of tests on animals for humans.
Lisa, MK, UK

It was a matter of time. How long until people factories begin to open I wonder?
Robert Smythe, Swindon

Don't hold back progress just because something doesn't sit comfortably
Mark, Sussex, UK

Yes, push the boundaries of science, have monitoring and legislation, but don't hold back progress just because something doesn't sit comfortably. I support it and the scientists behind it, there is so much potential to cure and save lives that to not investigate the subject fully is an ethical crime in its self. Unless it's actually unsafe.
Mark, Sussex, UK

Wasn't slavery made illegal throughout the British Empire as long ago as 1833? How is it therefore legal to breed slaves for medical experiments?
Alan Fisk, London, England If Alan Fisk of, London's comments are representative of the anti-cloning lobby's knowledge on the subject then god help them! Scientists aren't "breeding slaves", they're growing bundles of a couple of hundred cells. They can only become living, sentient beings if implanted in a women's womb (and even then the odds are stacked very heavily against a successful birth... 1 in 400 is a good estimate). In the lab they are no more "alive" or "capable of life" than a test tube full of blood or a severed finger tip is.
Peter, Nottingham

How is it that this far-reaching decision is made by an unelected body, the HFEA, whereas parliament decides whether we can smack our children? Have we got this wrong somewhere?
Robert Frost, Hertford

With thousands of aborted, i.e. murdered, babies every year, why should it surprise anyone that we would treat embryos for medical research with any better ethical concerns? While I would like to see a cure for such diseases, I do believe that sickness is a fact of life. Killing one life in an attempt to save another will always be wrong. It sickens me but then with the breakdown of Christian morality in this country so do a lot of things. Very sad.
Stuart, Ascot, Berkshire

My Mother-in-law has recently passed away following a most demoralising illness (MND). I myself have had a stem cell transplant for lymphoma. Unless you have come into direct contact with these things one should not be too quick to condemn what they do not understand.
Suzanne Richmond, Uxbridge, UK

I am totally bemused as to why the alternatives have not yet been exhausted. Seems like this is another case of greedy scientists after headlines and money.
Patrick Leahy, Cambridge, UK

On purely scientific grounds, I just can't understand how embryo research and abortion can possibly be legal. Judges and bureaucrats can't make a judgement about what constitutes a life - it's a stark, irrefutable fact. When was the last time that science admitted it was wrong?
David , Cardiff, UK

Yes, definitely. License it, control it, learn from it and use that knowledge wisely.
Ali, Truro, UK

Morality always brings with it religious mumbo jumbo. Whilst I will always have a respect for a person's belief, let them have a respect for mine. Science will by definition be controversial; we must never let moralists stand in the way of progress and the reduction in human suffering. Let the research continue.
Mike Eveleigh, UK

Is the medical profession becoming a Jekyll and Hyde?
KS, Milton Keynes, UK

Definitely not. A life is a life, however developed it is. Is the medical profession becoming a Jekyll and Hyde? You cannot use humans without consent in medical trials and you wouldn't bring a baby into the world fully developed just for medical testing, so why do it on an embryo? It's just a baby only smaller!
KS, Milton Keynes, UK

This is fantastic, this technology will allow us to study, and possibly cure, many of the world's ailments and help prolong human life and reduce suffering. As I do not believe in a 'God' I do not see this as immoral - quite the contrary - it would be immoral not to pursue this technology because some people believe it goes against their 'god'. For those of you who do believe in a mystical all powerful 'god' who created man in his own image....if he did then surely he gave us the ability to come up with this technology¿. and if we are in his own image and can clone, surely this is just replicating his powers? And to deny that is to deny your god!
Stuart, Aberdeen

I'm really, really shocked. Can't people see how cruel this is? The country is always talking about equal rights. Now we want to breed an underclass of humans to use as spare parts. There is no justification or reason which can disguise this basic fact. This is, effectively the end of civilisation as we know it. Life truly has no value anymore.
Nick, UK

What is immoral is to do nothing for those who would like help
Mark, Norwich

As someone who has lost 90% of my sight, heart attack at 33, nerve damage and kidney failure all through diabetes, I welcome any medical break through. There are a lot of people who potentially would benefit from cloning. What is immoral is to do nothing for those who would like help. Those who think it immoral don't have to have anything to do with it.
Mark, Norwich

The issue of this licence is both immoral and sickening. I thought we were supposed to have learned something from Auschwitz and here we are, legally permitting research that Dr Mengele would have been proud of. Let's ban fox hunting because it's cruel, but cloning human embryos for medical research? Oh that's fine. It is at times like these that I am disgusted to be a member of the human race.
Trevor, Cambs, UK

I am very cautious about cloning. Professor Wilmut may be a very reputable scientist (depending of course on how you define reputable), but can he guarantee that his findings from this research will only be used by other reputable people. Too many highly intelligent scientists are also naive about what others may do with their research, and once something is learned, it cannot be unlearned.
Jon G, Huddersfield, UK

This is a fantastic day for science in the United Kingdom
Nick, Norwich

This is a fantastic day for science in the United Kingdom. We have the expertise, the ambition and the regulation in place to advance our knowledge of biology and to use this information for the benefit of the world.
Nick, Norwich

'Moral' objections, most of which are archaic and many of which are risible, should not prevent brilliant scientific research from developing treatments for diseases. It is the rejection of scientific research, and thus the prolonging of preventable human suffering, which is immoral.
Al, Kent

We mess about with nature at our peril
Chris, Dudley UK

Nature just is, only man can lie and deceive, pretending to do humanity a favour for the sake of profit and greed. We mess about with nature at our peril, how many promises of wonder cures have we heard about to keep the cash rolling in that never materialise? Dolly and all her ilk created by man had flaws and genetic weakness; these pursuits will ultimately create designer humans that will be pre-programmed - the stuff of horror and nightmare.
Chris, Dudley UK

If it can be used for medical research purposes and cures for things such as cancer and HIV I'm all for it. However, creating embryos purely for this reason and none other is not morally right is it?
Ian Mc, NW, England

This research is a million miles away from unethical and we should welcome it with open arms
Jock, Blackwood, Gwent

I welcome any research that could ease the pain some people feel if they have a crippling disease like motor neurone disease. This research is a million miles away from unethical and we should welcome it with open arms. It's medical progress and we should see it as that - not an opportunity to bang the 'ethical' drum.
Jock, Blackwood, Gwent

No, pure and simple. It is barbaric and inhuman to clone an embryo for research. To do so is tantamount to playing God. I suffer from a genetic eye disease and whilst I support genetic research, I would not want this (cloning) to be done in my name, if it could cure me. We never save lives in medicine, only extend them. It's a hard fact of life but we must all get ill and all die of something sometime.
Karen smith, London, UK

I think this is a very difficult one to judge. My concern is not at this level but at what level you draw the line. I think any research in to cloning organs or tissue needs to be considered greatly as it could potentially damage our original genetic make up.
Cat, Cambridge UK

About time. The cloning of embryos should give a go-ahead for treating incurable diseases. Just because the embryos are to be cloned does not mean it will pave the way to human cloning.
George Nipah, London, England


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific