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Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 10:33 GMT
Should anyone be allowed to clone humans?
A controversial Italian fertility doctor has announced that he is ready to start cloning humans to make babies for infertile couples.

Dr Severino Antonioni says that, with technology similar to that used on animals, a human clone could be a reality within two years.

He claims 600 patients are queuing up to receive his treatment.

Critics say the move is irresponsible because cloning technology is still too much of a hit and miss affair. A large proportion of animal-clone pregnancies never reach full term. Of those animal clones that are born, 40% are deformed.

Should Dr Antonioni be allowed to go ahead? If people are willing to undergo such treatment voluntarily, should they be stopped? Why?

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

Your reaction

In a sense, we are all clones

Jim, USA
In a sense, we are all clones, i.e., genetic copies of our parents. So all this morality stuff doesn't wash with me. I am rather tired of hearing self-appointed bio-ethicists tell me what is right and wrong.
Jim, USA

I am not surprised that scientists should take the view that the process of cloning should be allowed to develop. Scientists have been able to improve the lives of many human beings. None of the improvements, advances, and breakthroughs would have been possible if the moralists and superstitious had won the various ethical and moral debates.
James Evans, UK

I that that cloning should be permitted for the likes of organ transplants or the treatment of disease.
Stuart Blaney, UK

We have nothing to fear from science, it is materialism that we must reject

Bob, Australia
We have nothing to fear from science, it is materialism that we must reject. To view human life as a means to an end, even a virtuous end like helping couples to have children, is to debase the dignity that the Creator gave us. Most of the world believes in God and a moral law, so how can we continue to fund such inhuman research? I think it is time to rescue science from materialism.
Bob, Australia

As my daughter-in-law says, cloning is no big deal. She is a clone, and cannot see what all the fuss is about. She is a clone? Yes, she is an identical twin. She has the same genetic makeup as her sister, right down to their fingerprints.
Michael, Canada

For the doctors to stupidly think that cloning is not a two-edged sword is immature and irresponsible. They should know better than anyone what happens when human evolution reaches its pinnacle. I just hope that mankind doesn't have to suffer the sins of these people.
Nathan Butcher, Japan

How would Dr Jon Mabley, USA, feel if he were told that only artists could comment on art, soldiers on war and chefs on food? We may not be scientists but we have to live in the world that they create and we have every right to object to what these arrogant people are doing.
Gill, UK,

I don't think infertility treatment is really an issue is it? Cloning is much more expensive and less reliable even than IVF. Clearly this is simply a race to be 'first'.
Jojo, Canada

A few people want millions of pounds to clone children. Millions of people want a few pounds to prevent their children starving.
Clive Mitchell, UK

The genie is out of the bottle

Shawn Redemann, USA
The genie is out of the bottle. Cloning is going to happen whether we like it or not so we might as well make the best of it.
Shawn Redemann, USA

In my opinion, it's only a question of responsibility. Of course, there's the threat of hi-tech slavery; there are psychological aspects of a child being a copy of a parent. But we got used to in-vitro, so I think we'll get over this one too. All it takes is the responsibility of scientists AND society.
Leszek Rybicki, Poland

Imagine how that child (cloned) would feel. Imagine knowing you were a complete replica of one of your parents, and that this was deliberate. It would be like not having an identity of your own. There is something very creepy about the thought that parents would want children who are identical to themselves. I have heard that only 1 in 40 will be born without deformity. If this is true, what would happen to the other 39?
Anne, UK

Human cloning is the natural next step for biotechnology and it is not necessarily evil. I believe that if it is viable then we should do it. The science of cloning should not be held back by some outdated morals that some people have.
David Jones, Australia

In the event of a breakdown in the parents' marriage, the non-genetic parent may well transfer its antipathy towards the partner onto the child. What will happen to the custody battles? Will the non-genetic partner fight against having custody of a miniature version of the adult they cannot abide? All children need emotional security. Not all get it but the odds are worse for a clone.
Sarah Leighton, Argentina

I am a research scientist and I am not religious yet I disagree with cloning entire human beings as things stand. The full effects of cloning an entire organism are as yet unknown, and we will have to study the lives of many cloned animals to know the full effects.
Dan, UK

The scientific knowledge gained might be useful

Dr Dominic Wilson, UK
The scientific knowledge gained might be useful, but this cannot be done at the risk to a human. I personally (and I am a physicist) would I admit, be curious to know if it worked, but it should not go ahead purely for scientific interest - that would be immoral.
Dr Dominic Wilson, UK

It would be nice if those objecting to human cloning ever explained their objections, beyond superstition about "playing God" or primitive expressions of disgust. If prospective parents are so selfishly keen to see their own genes propagated rather than adopting a needy child then they should be allowed their (slim) chance.
Owen Massey, London, UK

Regardless of whether cloning ever becomes workable in practice or ethically acceptable to the public, such cynical attempts to manipulate and exploit the childless for profit should be banned. No doubt none of Dr Antonioni's profits will be put aside to help care for his victims, either child or hopeful parent.
Julian Hayward, UK

I am a research scientist and find any attempt to stop the progression of science to be unacceptable. Cloning is here to stay, a human is going to be cloned, get used to it. Remember if we let people who do not understand or want to understand science decide our fate the world would still be flat, the sun would still be going around the earth and we would not be advanced as we are today.
Dr Jon Mabley, USA

If scientists wanted to clone me, then why not? The world would be a better place!
John Richards, UK

I think that cloning is a very bad practice as far as medicine is concerned. Instead let Dr Antonioni invent some kind of vaccine to cure Aids.
John Afonso, Goa

For parents desperate to get children, Dr. Antonioni would be a godfather. But for a world already full of poverty and disgrace, his idea will bring every kind of trouble.

Rajan Kafle , Nepal

I can see nothing wrong with cloning. At present, all concerns expressed by people basically revolve around morality and ethics. They are nothing more than pure speculation. The real impact of cloning on society have yet to be known. So why should cloning be stopped? Besides, cloning can also bring enormous benefits to society. I look forward to the day when we are able to clone our hearts, lungs and kidneys.
Salome Tan Ah Huay, Potong Pasir, Singapore

For both religious and unreligious people, mankind has a certain limit that cannot be crossed. By crossing it, the world has to wait for the worst from now on. It seems that there is no distinction between what is right and what is wrong any more, and I think we are going to our end of our own free will!
Hala, UK

What is happening now was predictable and is the reason why the topic is so controversial. Even though I understand the desire for a baby for childless couples, I tend to think of that doctor as a sorcerer's apprentice. There are so many children waiting to be adopted in the world. I know this is a common argument but shouldn't we try to convince childless couples that this may be a more ethical solution instead of letting them be the guinea pigs of somebody who wants to make his (crazy) dream come true?
Véronique Hébrard, France

The making of Dolly the sheep and Tetra was regarded as one of the greatest achievements in science. Indeed it is. But a human clone in question is a truly serious matter to debate. For parents desperate to get children, Dr. Antonioni would be a godfather. But for a world already full of poverty and disgrace, his idea will bring every kind of troubles.
Rajan Kafle , Nepal

I find this subject a difficult one to consider. I look from the scientific & medical angle and I see a humanitarian responsibility. Medical research and better treatments are inevitable as we move into the future. However, that is where it should stay. On the moral path I have a bad taste over this one. The reports indicate a much higher percentage of failure than success. Are those people ready to face that? It will turn everything on its head. If this does go ahead then I feel the medical profession is going over board. This can not be allowed to happen, but for pure medical treatment and advancement of that.
Bruce Eden, United Kingdom

If you are physically selected by nature not to have children, then you shouldn't

Dave, UK
Once again mankind has found yet another new, unnatural way to manufacture life. People don't seem to realise the worldwide problems that will be experienced in 10 maybe 20 years time due to soaring numbers in population that will result in food and resource shortages. This may sound heartless, but if you are physically selected by nature not to have children, then you shouldn't. I think more time and money should go into promoting adoption. There are already enough unwanted children out there in desperate need of a loving family environment.
Dave, UK

If people want to go ahead with this kind of treatment knowing the risks, then so be it.
Tim Welch, England

I think cloning is wrong. I am not religious but I believe there is something sacred in being an individual which should never be lost. I support DNA modification that would suppress or subdue the unwanted personality traits of humans if possible, such as criminal tendencies. This would benefit the human race in the long run.
Paul, UK

Theoretically, it is not that bad because it would provide a solution to infertility, and, of course, the 'clones' would not actually be that similar to their 'parents' because of environmental differences. However, practically, this could cause major problems because of the danger of errors in cloning, which would be tantamount to manslaughter. More animal research is needed before this sort of action can be justified.
Mike Dubott, UK

I don't think nature intended everyone to be able to reproduce for population reasons so I don't believe in fertility treatment anyway. But the idea of cloning is disgraceful and makes a mockery of what nature intended.
Lou, UK

It is absolutely wrong, the issue is not even debatable.
Cecile Owen, South Africa and England

See also:

09 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Doctor ready to clone babies
30 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Cloned human planned 'by 2003'
16 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Experts support human cloning
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