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Saturday, 10 March, 2001, 16:30 GMT
Human cloning plans under fire
Severino Antinori and Panos Zavos
Antinori and Zavos: Aim to go ahead with plans
There is mounting criticism of plans by doctors from Italy and the United States to clone human beings.

Among the latest voices to speak out against the proposals is the prominent Italian cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.

The Milan archbishop said the cloning team should remember that "the dignity of man is the main thing, and persons cannot be fabricated through technology".

He said a human being had an "innate and natural" dignity, which should "not be violated in any way".

The cloning team insist their project is intended to help infertile couples and have tried to avoid ethical questions. But this has failed to stop the objections and doubts raised by religious and scientific groups.

'Frankenstein doctors'

An Italian politician has been highly critical of the cloning team's research conference in Rome on Friday, which attracted a huge amount of publicity.

Giovanni Bianchi, of the Popular Party, which is in the governing coalition, described the team as "Frankenstein" doctors and said the conference was called with "one eye on a scoop and the other, obviously, on business".

The cloning team is led by Panos Zavos, a reproduction researcher, and Italian gynaecologist Severino Antinori, who has helped post-menopausal women conceive.

The doctor first attracted controversy eight years ago when he enabled a 62-year-old woman have a baby by implanting an egg in her womb. Two years later, Antinori helped a British 59-year-old unmarried mother have twins.

Cloning 'inevitable'

The British anti-abortion charity Life has condemned the plans, though it admits that it was inevitable someone would try to clone humans as a way to "treat" infertility.

"This is a momentous step to take and society should tremble before doing something so radical," said national chairman Professor Jack Scarisbrick. "Pro-life" groups have also spoken out against the plans.

"Without Britain's lead on therapeutic cloning, Professor Antinori's plans for reproductive cloning would not have been feasible," said John Smeaton of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

"It is to the great shame of our country's leaders that Britain has taken the lead in this repugnant technology."

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See also:

09 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Doctor ready to clone babies
09 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Doctors defiant on cloning
09 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Human cloning: The 'terrible odds'
30 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Cloned human planned 'by 2003'
29 Aug 00 | Europe
Pope condemns human cloning
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