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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Should doctors clone humans?
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American infertility specialist Dr Panos Zavos has said that he is ready to start cloning humans to help infertile couples have children.
He claims the technology that pioneered Dolly the Sheep could produce a human clone within two years and that hundreds of childless couples are eager to receive the treatment.
Critics argue that any attempt to clone humans would be reckless and irresponsible. Cloning technology is still flawed and the experience of cloning sheep has given rise to many animals with serious birth defects.
Do you think it is right for doctors to ease the suffering of infertile couples by cloning humans? Would you consider receiving the treatment?
Lyse Doucet was joined by Dr Panos Zavos for Talking Point on Air, a radio phone-in programme on BBC World Service. You can add to the debate by using the form below.
The "why not adopt" argument is cropping up very frequently on this forum, as if you could go to an orphanage and pick out a child like you can go to an animal rescue centre and pick out a dog. Being assessed as adoptive parents is a long, difficult, painful and stressful process (rightly so as it's about giving children parents, not the other way around) and there's no guarantee that you'll be deemed suitable to adopt at the end of it.
Also, while there are infertile couples who genuinely feel that adoption is the natural next step, many do not feel this way. We shouldn't be made to feel guilty about this. Every needy child deserves to be adopted on his own terms, not just as a substitute for the biological child you can't have.
H.G.Wells in First Men in the Moon wrote that there were big heads and small heads. The big heads lived on the upper level of the moon while the small heads were shown pushing shovels and lived at a lower level on the moon. Surely cloning of humans will eventually lead to similar situation on Earth as H.G.Wells portrays . Certainly the rich and mighty might chose to be cloned from someone who has exhibited a penchant for brilliance or wealth production. Only the rich will be able to afford this cloning type so big heads will evolve. No, it won't be stopped in the long term. Science will prevail. God help us all!
The fact is the science is here. I don't agree with it but how can it be stopped. Even if it was outlawed on a world-wide basis I'm sure there are those who would be so fascinated by the subject that research would continue. The only way to control the science is to allow it so we have a chance of control.
There should either be no cloning and genetic tampering at all or every type should be allowed. To say it is alright on animals and plants but not humans is hypocrisy. People having been saying, "who are we to play God?", I say who are we not to play God?
The simple answer to this is NO! Who are we to play God? There are other ways to have children. We are in an age where more and more people are becoming infertile. However there are children in orphanages who are crying out for someone to take care of them. If you cannot have children then adopt.
I must say, apart from anything else, I find it a little pathetic that those involved in human cloning need to make the emotional appeal "to relieve the suffering of potential parents" in order to carry out their experimental work (for that is what it is). Though it must be an awful and emotionally painful thing not to be able to conceive, sentiment is not a valid reason to justify such serious research. It may be that, some day, the scientific provision of human bodies will be of value and be needed. But is there any real need for it now? Why rush into it? I wonder, what are the real motives behind Dr Zavos' work? I would suggest (if I may) ambition.
David Hill, London UK
People typically fear the unknown. Science fiction has created the image of the cloned human as somehow being different to the rest of humanity. In reality, the cloned human is likely to be as individual in personality as the next human being - witness the difference in the personalities of twins.
Cloning should be not be allowed to be done on animals or even humans. Take a look at the great claims of Monsanto and their GM products and how good they say it is. Now there are reports all over the world of troubles arising from GM grains etc. Why can't we leave things alone and stop trying to play God? In the end it all boils down to greed for money.
Nailya Ordabayeva, Ankara, Turkey
Remember the lesson of "Jurassic Park"; namely, CHAOS THEORY - you can't micromanage every contingency such that unforeseen disasters are impossible.
As a medical student and after listening to the broadcast, I got a feeling that Dr Zavos was trying to project a superior image about his team, and they are going to press on no matter what consequences it may bring. To me, even IVF is a bit overboard, although this fact has been accepted by many nowadays.
L. Loukopoulos, Detroit, USA
Everyone talks about how "un-natural" cloning is - who is to say what is natural and what isn't? We as human beings are as "natural" as the next animal, so if we decide to produce another human, be it by any means possible, then this should be considered as natural as well.
Why would anybody have such a high opinion of themselves to want to be cloned, I for one would not like a copy of myself to be brought into this world.
Another attempt at man trying to improve on nature and the natural order of all life. Look at how much we have already improved the planet with the destruction of the environment, animal kingdom, horrors and atrocities against other humans. Until we have reached "perfection" in our world on all living levels, how can one even consider this an option? Another race of "super beings" or "Arian thinking"?
Surely we can better use technology to try to prolong and improve life on earth, our air; water and food supply.
In our modern day society we have so many opinions on what is and what is not immoral. The fact most humans are immoral, in this case we have the possibility of fulfilling the lives of parents who can not have a child they feel to be their own.
Ivan Shalev, M.D. Varna, Bulgaria
Why did I get the feeling from this interview that this is not a debate. Dr Zavos told listeners that his team were pressing on, whatever the consequences. How will you be accountable for 'mistakes'? You are dealing with human lives┐
Physicians who deliver births need good insurance's today.
What happens if a cloned baby is defect?
Do you have an insurance that will cover
damage if the parents sue you?
I disagree completely with any
excuses that cloning
of humans should be
used to help couples
who are in need of a child. My reason is that a clone is not representative
of both parents since it is produced
from the cell of one
person. So the baby is only a replica of
one and no trait of
the partner is present in the baby.
Like IVF, cloning will benefit a small number of infertile couples. The vast majority of children will continue to be conceived the traditional way. Opposition to cloning research (other than on the grounds of reliability or safety) shows a heartless lack of consideration for infertile people.
A problem which we need to address, is the lack of prior discussion of the goals of scientific research. These decisions seem to be going on behind closed doors.
I want to ask these infertile couples who may considering now that they can be biological parents of their children by accepting human cloning, Why not adopt one? Because, me personally, it would be much more natural to have adopted children than to have children who have been created from one of my own DNA.
Apart from all the other problems of a practical and psychological nature that his proposal will cause I would be very interested to hear what he is going to do with the foetuses which may be discovered to be defective, and seriously so, late in the term of the pregnancy.
Donnamarie Leemann Coffrane, Switzerland
Listen to the experts on cloning: it is an imperfect science at the moment, many flawed foetuses are produced for each healthy one. It is not appropriate as a solution for infertility!
At the moment, we're already facing sex discrimination, racial discrimination, and other kinds of discrimination which comes from human prejudice. Now you want to divide the world population into clones and God-made humans. Please, do not add to the headache we are already having now.
Venu Aasuri, Fremont, USA
Although we may now have the technology, that doesn't necessarily mean that we should use it, before we are fully able to explain and debate the social, psychological and genetic effects of cloning. I am not absolutely opposed to cloning on any kind of ideological basis, but I do believe that we should hold fire until we understand the consequences more fully.
Cloned humans are as old as the human race. Indentical twins are natural human clones. All this hysteria and hand-wringing is ill-informed religous nonsense. I'm so bored with people who can't even accept evolutionary theory trying to enter scientific debate. If their omnipresent omnipotent God doesn't like progress why did he give us such a enquiring mind. Or is it just the Church that doesn't like progress?
Ryan Hobson, Leeds, UK
If anyone who is against this kind of activity has ever taken an analgesic, antacid or any kind of medication, they should count themselves as hypocrites. You are all the first to shoot down medical advances on moral and ethical grounds, but don't think twice about popping a migraine tablet! Get off your high horses and educate yourselves before you pass comment...you might surprise yourselves!
Having read the majority of the comments posted in this forum, it is clear that there is a lot of misinformation and naivety surrounding the practicalities of cloning. The sucess rate for Dolly was so low as not to be applicable to any human cloning, and Dolly (and her offspring) are still a work in progress. Little is known about the cumulative effects of cloning on future fertility, genomic stability, tumourogenesis and many other areas of concern. So it is very unlikely that any ethics board would approve a human clone when so little is known, especially in an age of such political correctness.
Cloning has to be wrong on moral grounds, as will be the mass murder of the many "mistakes" created before the perfect baby is formed. Look around all your friends and loved ones - how many people would not be around if scientists had to decide what was right and wrong?
Munnamalai, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Some people seem to be saying that cloning is going to be quick. There's no guarantee that cloning is even going to produce anything, let alone be successful, and then there's still the choice. If you want to adopt, or have a clone, then it should be up to the parents, not some bureaucrat or pressure group. If the good doctor can produce the clones, that's up to him and those that want to follow that route, and all of those that are complaining about the numerous children available for adoption, they are more than welcome to adopt, if that is what they want. If you don't like it, that's up to you. Just don't try to force your views on someone else.
What a strange time we live in. Half the people insist on the right to abort children, whenever it suits them, and the other half expect children on demand - regardless of the method used. Why not ban abortion (legalised murder) and give the rescued babies over to childless couples who do want them? By the way, the people who make dismissive, disparaging comments about God, and about religious viewpoints in general, ought to bear in mind that science has definitely NOT disproved the existence of God. These people are not thinking for themselves but have merely been brainwashed by all the materialistic, atheistic, humanist philosophies that are currently in vogue. WAKE UP! It's about time you started thinking for yourselves for a change.
Mat Wigham, Brighton UK
Remove from your mind emotive images of Brave New World and consider the fact that this is carefully regulated research with widespread potential benefits to humans. If there are ethical conundrums, they should be addressed before the results are implemented, not before the research is fully completed. How else can we make an informed decision?
James Hayward, London, UK
I believe that human cloning is a huge mistake because it not only raises moral issues, but also problems for the environment. The planet's birth rate is already larger than the death rate. Bring in all the medicine and now human cloning - we will be too much for our planet. I believe that it will also bring such problems as racism against any clones and a huge divide in our society. It is against the bible for a glorified scientist to try and play God.
Presumably, cloning a person unable to conceive will produce another who is unable to conceive. Sounds like a wonderful way to grow the market for the geneticists' services.
I think that the cloning of humans is fundamentally wrong. There are thousands of children brought into this world by natural means that could be fostered or adopted by childless couples, but instead many of them don't get a chance. A bit of effort on behalf of governments and some joined up global thinking could result in our never having the need to consider cloning.
How can people turn cloning into a religious issue? The bible (which is only a book written by a collection of technologically ignorant people) mentions nothing on the subject. Who has the right to inflict their morals on to others? Cloning is only a scientific issue.
I dispute the statement that the Bible was written by the technically ignorant, and that it has nothing to say about cloning. The Bible was written under the inspiration of God who created humans in the first place. I don't see how one can accuse God of technical ignorance - surely as the designer of humans in the first place he knows more about us than any eminent scientist. Secondly, the Bible is clear that life is made by God, stating that God knits man together in the womb (Psalm 139), and that God knows us for his own before our creation (Jeremiah 1). It would follow that creating clones of ourselves (rather than using God's methods of creating humans) is trying to usurp his authority, as man is all too often guilty of doing.
Rodney Johnston, Dundee, Scotland
Lovely as I am, there is no way I would want an exact copy of me running around.
The idea that childless couples can have a clone created for them seems a little strange to me. Who will this be a clone of? The mother? The father? Who? If a clone breaks the law, can they claim diminished responsibility for their actions, by blaming the shortcomings of the person they were cloned from?
But the way forward is NOT to stick our collective head in the sand. The way forward is to deal with the threat that has arisen, to be shaped by it, to be guided by its consequences. We have the knowledge to clone. We cannot unlearn what we have learnt. The reservoir has started to fill and it cannot be stopped. Whether the dam will hold or not remains to be seen. I suspect that it will, since it always has in the past. After all, cloning is hardly as dangerous as nuclear devastation...
The ignorance here astounds me. All this nonsense about scientists playing God and interfering with some mythical balance of nature. If humans didn't interfere with nature we would see, for example, a much higher infant mortality rate (vaccinations are hardly natural). Cloning technology has many potential benefits and the field should not be put off limits just because people are scared of what they clearly do not understand. My objection to human cloning is that I simply do not believe the field has progressed to the point where it is a serious option. Dolly the sheep was the only successful clone out of over 200 attempts. That is not a very good success rate when dealing with human lives.
The comments that I have read from people who are of the opinion that infertility is God's way of saying you shouldn't have children anger me to no end. They are sitting in judgement on a situation of which they have no concept. They blithely tell people that they should simply adopt one of the countless children already out there. Not realising in their ignorance what a hard process adoption really is. Not realising that unless you have around $20,000 available it is impossible to adopt a baby, or the risks that are run in the adoption process itself. And what if only one person is infertile, does that mean according to their definition that the fertile one must go off and find someone else? These people are in serious need of a human emotions transplant, as their own emotions are obviously defective beyond repair. Any avenue that can help people like this should be explored to its fullest.
I do, however believe that it is far to soon to try cloning humans. The process that they have so far is risky and hit or miss at best. We simply haven't had enough time to explore all of the complications that could result from this process.
T Cassidy, USA
I really can't see what the fuss is all about. I really don't see what's so bad about it? I think banning will be impractical and impossible to enforce. What if someone breaks that law and clones a human will that human then be "destroyed" or allowed to live? It's all a big fuss over nothing in my opinion
Absolutely not! Cloning is not the answer to infertility problems. Science should stop trying to come up with quick fixes to extremely complex difficulties which nature presents to us.
No, but humans should clone doctors, we could do with more of 'em.
People who are involved in this type of research are doing so as much for their own glory as for the good of mankind, and if they really wanted to ease suffering they would be working on treatment for unfashionable diseases such as TB or malaria. If nature has made someone infertile, it is probably for a reason and they should accept this and get on with their life. After all, none of us gets everything we want out of life. I just wonder how the cloned human being will feel, knowing that they are an exact copy of one of their parents and that every physical change that affects this parent will one day happen to them.
As for cloning being 'ungodly', well identical twins are by definition 'natural' clones are they 'ungodly'? The 2000-year-old archaic book has little relevance for this modern argument. However cloning is currently far from foolproof, and until such time as it can be proven to be acceptably safe and reliable, this technique should not be used on humans.
Well, I believe that cloning is wrong but if it is for parents that cannot have kids I think they should have their own kids. It's just not right for couples to love each other and not have a child to express their love to. Also if couples can't have kids, how are they going to pass their name down?
Human cloning should not be allowed. I have every sympathy for those people that cannot have children and for those people who believe that research into cloning will improve their lives, but stop...take a step back...and think. What have we become when we take the natural selection out of natural selection?
Corinne Gurvitz, London, England
I think cloning should be allowed, if they wish, for helping infertile couples. This would be a great favour to them.
If people were going to become extinct, then I could understand why cloning could be an answer. That's not going to happen for the foreseeable future (barring global war). Cloning as a response to infertility is thoughtless, irresponsible and downright dangerous. Do we really need to have to cope with a new spectrum of birth defects when we're already struggling to find answers to existing ones?
Cloning humans is like saying we only want a certain kind of child - pretty or intelligent or good at sports or whatever. What sort of message does that send to people who may not be as fortunate in all these things? It's ok that the doctors are saying that this is just to help couples who want babies but will it really stop there? Like any other kind of scientific experiment, this will go a lot further than they are predicting. We might end up having a world full of beautiful, intelligent people, perfect at everything. But the important question is, will we have real people or just robots?
Philip Moore, London, UK
I'm sure my personal suffering on my morning commute would be alleviated by a chauffer-driven limo. But I no more have the right to demand that than any individual has a right to reproduce, no matter how much they desire to. We cannot pander to people's desires at the expense of the environment.
Everything that is new and iconoclastic creates great controversy and mixed feelings when applied for the first time. In 10 years time human cloning will be as natural as in vitro fertilisation. Remember the in vitro debate a couple of decades ago?
Zach, South Africa
I am all for it... but if I was a couple wanting to have a child through this method, a problem would be that the child born would be a clone of one of the partners - no genetic material from the other partner would be present. So, to that partner this would be high tech adoption. Cloning is a possibility - but research should be done into producing artificial sperm and eggs from the couple's own genes.
Aongside rights there must also be responsibilities. We are growing out of control as a species. We are driving other species into extinction due to our selfishness. There are enough of us already and plenty of unwanted babies and children that would appreciate a loving home. People who want to propagate their own genes whilst there are other humans starving and dying are selfish beyond belief. Perhaps they should stop and consider that infertility is nature's way of slowing down the rate at which our huge population is growing.
With a nephew who was recently born with a very serious heart defect my views on the morality of cloning are in something of a dilemma. His future health lies very much in the hands of those who are engaged in genetic research. Is it right to deny a handicapped child life simply because cloning is deemed immoral?
Edmund Montgomery, Leicester, UK
No matter who you clone it's not going to be the same person. God puts an individual in every body. There is no secret recipe to exactly cloning someone. However I am hesitant when it comes to our Frankenstein scientists who have no morals. This is a fact, as they will carry out executions of children (abortion when someone feels like it). I mean, who's to say they don't try and make a half-horse-half-man? If you ask me, it needs very strict overseeing by public religious and government groups
My wife and I lost our expectant babies last year after treatment, which, because of where we live, we have to pay for. We are now in the process of selling my car to afford the next attempt. Too many people write off infertility, saying it was not meant to be, but when it is you, your mind soon changes. The party that says it will abolish the postcode lottery for infertility funding will get my vote.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex.UK)
I am unable to have children but would not consider cloning as a means of having one. Many people suggest that infertile couples should adopt instead. Perhaps people who are not infertile would like to consider doing this as well? Shouldn't we be promoting adoption as a positive choice rather than an alternative just for those who are infertile?
Nature did not intend for everyone to have children for population reasons. It is sad for couples who cannot conceive but cloning is a definite "no no".
Gill, Bradford, UK
The sin and lawlessness predicted in the Bible for the last days of mankind is coming true before our very eyes. Human cloning to aid reproduction is a nightmare that God will surely punish us for. Where do the religious leaders stand on this one? Now's the time for them to speak out against this abomination.
This is the equivalent of interbreeding and can only lead to serious genetic problems over time. Yet again scientists are pushing the boundaries with no consideration of ethics. It is more important than ever that a watchdog be appointed to oversee this kind of dubious research.
Randolfe Wicker, NYC, NY
For those who has ethical issues as top of their agenda on human cloning, consider the following and ask yourselves the ethical questions: Cloning is for life, not against it! Why are there no ethical committees when nuclear weapons were being developed? Why are there no ethical committees when chemical weapons were being developed? And why are there no ethical committees when biological weapons were being developed? All of which are against life! Are you in the position of talking about ethics when you did not demonstrate against the existence of nuclear weapons which are ready to be launched at the push of a button?
Marie Annette M. Griebsch, Hanahan, USA
The deep desire for couples with infertility problems to have children of their own is something that is real and understandable. However, cloning is not the answer to their prayers for sure. The ramifications of this process could be disastrous both scientifically and sociologically. There would be no way to predict or control the long-term effects of cloning.
So, couples with fertility problems should take the hint - linguistic code deciphered: read God's word - and totally forget about propagating their genes because there are enough 'unwanted babies' around.
This question is like opening a tin of worms. In a few years time we will not be discussing whether an infertile couple can have a cloned child as a means to reproduce. Instead fertile couples both heterosexual and homosexual will want to choose the characteristics of their "designer babies".
I do not believe that cloning humans
is moral or ethical. God created each
of us to be different. Nor is
cloning humans the solution for
couples who want children but
cannot conceive. They should
adopt instead; there are millions
of children waiting to be adopted
and cloning humans will only
make the problem of overpopulation
We urgently need to find ways of reducing the global human population, not of increasing it. People don't have a 'right' to reproduce if nature has dictated otherwise. All research into infertility treatments should be stopped immediately and the funds channelled into healthcare for people who are sick rather than selfish.
As far as I know cloning will produce a child genetically identical to one parent only, and completely dissimilar to the other. As the only reason for a couple to undergo IVF treatment at all is to produce a child genetically BOTH of theirs, then what is the point of cloning? Also, if the parent is infertile for genetic reasons, then the child will be as well, which just isn't fair.
That Dr. Zavos obviously sees nothing morally or ethically wrong with his intention to clone a human being, is very unsettling. Basic common sense tells us that because we can do it does not mean that we should.
I find it quite frightening that Zavos and his ilk are quite willing to open this Pandora's Box at our expense in order to gratify their need to play God.
Overpopulation and the lack of resources to support the human race will be the biggest single problem we face in the coming century. It's insane that anyone should even be considering creating human beings artificially. Stop these scientists now, before it's too late.
With the variety of treatments and options open to infertile/childless couples I don't see any need for doctors or scientist, or anyone else for that matter to begin playing God. While I do believe anyone who can provide a loving and happy home for a child should have the right to have one, this is no reason to opt for such a drastic procedure. From all our past mistakes, it's about time we learnt from them and stopped messing with nature.
Disclaimer: The BBC will use as many of your questions as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
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