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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 11:11 GMT
Should human cloning be allowed?
Scientists have been given the go-ahead by the House of Lords to clone human embryos for research.
A House of Lords select committee set up last year to examine claims that cloning embryos was unnecessary has decided that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) can issue research licences.
Supporters of the research believe scientists should be allowed to use human embryos to find ways of regenerating tissues such as nerves, muscle and cartilage to treat the elderly and disabled. But anti-abortion campaigners believe equally effective treatments could be developed using adult cells.
The committee's approval enables the HFEA, the body that regulates embryology research in Britain, to issue licences to begin experimenting with human material almost immediately.
Do you agree with the House of Lords select committee's decision? Do you think doctors should be allowed to clone humans?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
John Gallagher, England
Darren (UK) - you say "We need to find other ways of doing this" and then you go on to say that doing anything to stop diseases is going against the law of nature. So what exactly is your "Other way of doing things"? Doing nothing, I presume. Let's hope you never contract an illness that needs scientific research!
People create many wonderful and great things with the best intentions; it's when people with the worst intentions get hold of them that problems happen. Image a world where Bin Laden could have an endless supply of suicide bombers. The value of human life would be reduced even further than it is today.
Thom Leggett, UK
Human embryos contain stem cells which have the ability to generate all types of tissue. Research in this area is long overdue and may lead to cures for all sorts of dreadful diseases like cancer, MS and Motor neurone disease. Finally, there is no progress without change.
I have read the above comments with great interest. I think what is important at the moment, for both sides of the argument to see, is not whether we should allow cloning to go ahead or not - it is going to happen. Step back and accept it. What we need to do is bring it into the open and not let it be done in secret without regulation and control. The way forward is being open-minded and realistic without allowing ignorance and fear to drive research behind doors. Morals and ethics will go out of the window if that happens.
I feel destroying live embryos is sinful and immoral. It should not be done, especially when someone's own tissue can be used to produce almost the same result.
I don't understand campaigners who try to stop this kind of thing. If they were terminally ill and the only way to treat them was to use this type of thing I'm sure they'd jump at the opportunity to be cured. As for cloning humans, it's going to happen eventually, we might as well embrace it so we can control it. Gene manipulation is another benefit, whets wrong with making humans healthier?
I think research using embryonic stem cells to create new tissue for the treatment of many diseases and possible cure of conditions such as paralysis, can only be a good thing but cloning a whole person?? I don't think so. I think all we're going to need to do is to wait for the hundred or so babies who have been created by that foreign doctor... I doubt many if any will be born normal. This technology is just still to hit and miss.
I watched a documentary about the potential of cloning and genetics in general... The future that it lauded as so desirable contained a great number of 150-year-olds and hardly any youngsters. I wouldn't want to live that long. Surely I'm not the only one? When will all these doctors and researchers realise that extending lifespan should not be their everlasting goal. This sort of thing will lead to a world STUFFED FULL of very old people... and there are enough people already!
Anthony Stephenson, USA
Don't we already have an over-populated world without giving an easy means to add carbon copies to the mix? I have a hard enough time coming to terms with rats and other lab animals being subjected to horrendous torture in the name of science and our own selfish survival, let alone putting human embryos through the same. What's to stop the scientists taking this one step further than the embryo? And let's not ignore the inevitable! This will end up in the wrong hands. Leave well alone is my advice.
Under no circumstances whatsoever should the cloning of human embryos be allowed to progress any further. To continue is to push mankind's interference with the natural world way too far. It is enough to have Darwin's THEORY of evolution taught in schools as FACT without going to this extreme. What has happened to peoples' beliefs that GOD created us? There are so many flaws in Darwinian beliefs that it beggars belief that people have been so sucked into this load of old rubbish. Come on people! Let's get back to having some kind of standards.
Most of the 'antis' cite religion to justify their beliefs. Yet thousands of living, breathing people die and suffer every day because of religious violence (just read the news). Please, for once will the religious stop worrying about the rights of clumps of cells and start defending the rights of living men, women and children?
I object strongly to Alpha Iota's equation of scientific progress to money. There is NO link. Science is the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Engineering and technology may be different, but pure scientific research is NOT money based.
And to those who tell us that this is against nature. All I'll say is NATURE SUCKS. If we didn't find ways around nature we'd still all be dying in our 40's. I just don't see why people think that nature is inherently good, just like I object to people who believe science is inherently bad.
To those who say that God wouldn't approve of cloning: if God's work was as irreproachable as advertised, we wouldn't need to consider cloning in the first place.
All scientific advance is a good thing, as it represents the advance of the human civilisation.
After reading through people's comments, I wonder how many of these people are affected by a disability. I myself am spinally injured and given the choice of staying in a wheelchair, or potentially walking again, and the chance to walk with my daughter to the park, just the everyday things that people take for granted. People need to realise that the word cloning doesn't necessarily mean reproducing a human being. After all would you deny your child or loved ones the chance to live a normal life again?
Jaeho Kim, UK
Surely our legal system is in conflict between human rights and embryo rights, between freedom and restraint. That decision isn't made by our rational law but by politics and judge's discretion.
Human cloning?? I think this has gone a bit too far. As far as the organ cloning is concerned, it is good as it will help the people who are sick. But the technology to clone whole humans might prove fatal for the human race one day. What if this technology falls in the wrong hands? That might endanger many other lives. I know it seems to far fetched but what if it happens... I think there are too many problems on our hands already. So PLEASE don't try to be smart!
Some people will see cloning organs as a positive thing for human beings. It would allow us to treat incurable diseases. However, in my opinion, it looks like playing with nature. People can't be treated as robots. This is similar to building a tower of Babel
How cruel are we, if we allow scientists to clone embryos of humans just to find a new way of curing ourselves of illness, or even just to identify a new technology.
Human cloning could be a good way to help to cure some diseases but it won't. Why? Because people will abuse it and use it in a very wrong way such as making "perfect people". Strict control will not be enough. Some people are not afraid of the law and think they can always get round it so there won't be any limits.
I suggest that anyone who objects on religious grounds stops using the conventional channels to stop the experimentation. Surely prayer is the answer. Apparently God never fails so let them pray that the decision is reversed.
I am astounded that the committee have knowingly made a decision which stamps on the some of the most deep-set moral and ethical beliefs of a great many people, whilst knowing that an alternative exists.
Claire, Scotland, UK
I'm stuck right in the middle - a Christian who has a mum with Multiple Sclerosis. I believe that we are not appreciating the paradox. Advances in nuclear science have probably caused more cancer and advances in manufacturing and automobiles are causing more asthma. There is always a hidden evil behind scientific advances. If this goes ahead, we won't see the implications until many years later - when it's too late.
It would appear that the whole issue is being 'bogged down' by moralistic crusaders who see this subject as having religious ties. It seems absolutely crazy that certain individuals would rather die than receive medication produced from cloned embryos. While that is indeed their right of choice, they should accept the fact that others too have the right of choice and that their moral stance, quite selfishly, is denying the rest of us the chance to choose. At the end of the day, an embryo is not by any definition a 'baby'. It would appear that the less informed attach this tag in order to stir public opinion to meet their own agenda. I, for one, have no objection to cloning and look forward to the day when researchers and pro-cloning campaigners are no longer viewed as murderers, a term which is simply ludicrous.
Putting a number of human embryos in a blender to make a cure-all medicine is not my idea of advancement of Mankind.
To me it is scary and I'm glad I don't have to make the decision. There are so many moralistic, socialistic and religious concerns to take into consideration. Regardless of the official ruling, a human embryo is still a live human being. Are we prepared to accept the sacrifice of such beings? If it meant saving my children's' lives then I would do it but it is a hard decision to make.
There is a novel called "Spares" about cloning - about humans farms containing clones - just in case the human in the outside world loses a leg in an accident... or needs a new heart, you would get it from your spare on the farm. I read this about 5 years ago and thought it was preposterous - now I am not so sure
Forget the pro-lifers (strange term) or even those indeed in full favour of cloning.
Whether it is morally wrong or right is unfortunately irrelevant. There are HUGE amounts of cash to be made and nothing - not even most governments will stand in the way of scientific progress (money).
Cloning has probably been going on for far longer than everyone realises. I too am scared of the potential consequences of genetic alteration, but working under strictly controlled guidelines is the way forward.
As Kit Barker states, babies and toddlers will probably die or at least be affected by it. Would Kit suggest stopping medicine treatment if it effected babies? The research will continue whatever is decided: I'd just prefer it to continue under strict guidelines...
We have a little boy with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. This is a severe muscle-wasting disease that will leave him wheelchair-bound by 9yrs and it will kill him in late teens. As yet there is no cure or viable treatments. Stem cell research offers a potential route to finding a cure for him and prolonging his life.
How can trying to find a cure for our sons be morally wrong?
Mike Littleton, Billings, Montana, USA
When are we ever going to learn to leave nature alone? We have destroyed enough on this planet now we seem to want to destroy ourselves. Unfortunately the human race will not learn until it's to late and this is just the next step to human cloning.
A resounding NO! Setting aside the obvious moral objections, what legal, economic or social rights would a copy of a person have? Cloning not only devalues life (you become unimportant since you can be recreated) it causes a dizzying number of ethical and legal questions.
I have just looked at your cloning home page. On it I noticed a reference to Nerves. I am disabled with Epilepsy and now recently Sciatica. Would this technology be of any help to me? If yes, then I am all for cloning as long as its use is not abused.
Cloning should be allowed but legislated by authorities. Enforcing a ban will not stop countries from pioneering cloning for financial gain, nor adopting the techniques of cloning for other means.
We already play fast and loose enough with human lives.
I remember furore over GM few years ago and now it is a fact of life and no one talks about it. So will the human cloning. There will always be arguments about its ethics and morality and there are exceptional circumstances for science to triumph in the end.
God has allowed us free will. However, at some stage He may feel it necessary to intervene in the way we conduct our lives. We must always bear in mind what He would want us to do. Let that govern our actions.
There have been clones for centuries, after all twins are clones of each other. However if we are going to talk about whether it is murder should we kill for stem cells? It depends on what the embryo is classed as. After all, if it is a human because it has the possibility of becoming human, then so do sperm and eggs!!! This means that you may be wasting yours... Is it wrong to say to someone, well we may have been able to save you, but you are going to die because it is deemed wrong, in case we harm people. Lets get the facts not the fictional hype created by the press
Andrew Bartlett, UK
At what point does an embryo become a foetus, which becomes a baby?
Is this not the same thing as medical research done on puppies, kittens, rabbits etc in the name of scientific progress? It is simply unthinkable that so-called medical advances can rest upon using a human life in this way. How can this be called medical ethics? To me it is exactly the same as testing new drugs on babies, where is the line to be drawn?
Governments should refrain from interfering with how people choose to breed. Conceding the state the right to do this opens the way to eugenics. People should be free to use any available technology to assist them. If cloning is the latest of these, then so be it. We can trust prospective parents to do the right thing much more than we can trust governments.
In the interests of this really exciting field of science, I feel fractions who think this technology is generically wrong should not harness us. The possibilities of understanding biology are there to be taken - so don't waste it.
Human cloning is the key to eradicating many diseases which cause great suffering in our lives. For the sake of ourselves, our families and future generations, we cannot stand in the way of progress.
No. There are lines we should not cross, and that's on of them. If this goes ahead where will it stop?
No. An embryo is still a human life, even if it is legal to abort one (I think that's wrong too).
As the lady in the interview pointed out, if it was someone you loved dearly or even yourself who could benefit from this kind of research then we would opt for it without objections. If I thought at my age (47) I could further this amazing technology then I would not hesitate to become a donor.
Andrew N, UK
For all those opposed, I suppose their reasoning stems largely on religious belief... Let's see if we listened to the religious zealots of the world, we'd still believe the earth was flat, and at the centre of the universe, and women would still have no equal rights. Grow up, people, evolve your mind!
Genetics is the single most important discovery man has yet made.
The long-term advances in medical science that could be achieved far outweigh any concerns anyone has on this matter. It may lead to a cure for cancer and other terrible diseases and will most certainly extend the lifespan of an average human being.
Would the BBC stop scaring people with false pictures and comments? Humans cannot be cloned completely. We can only make nuclear clones. We won't have 1000's of Tony Blair's running around, or anyone else for that matter. The only way to truly clone a human is the natural way - twins!
If I am ill or have been in an accident and want to use 'my own cells' to treat myself, that is my choice.
I am absolutely for cloning. I believe in God, and God says that you I make you to look like God. This means that we should try to become more godlike. We are now faced with massive threat of nuclear holocaust and only genetic engineering is there to save us.
Alex Young, UK
We don't seem to understand the difference between engineering and ethics. Just because something is technically possible does not make it morally justifiable. Embryos are not interesting lumps of genetic material to be experimented upon at the whim of the scientist or entrepreneur. We are talking about human life, for many of us created in the image of God. If we dispense with the rights of human life no matter at how early a stage, on what basis do we preserve the human rights of those of us who simply happen to be older?
If it is properly controlled then it should be done, this has the potential to improve or even save the lives of thousands, maybe millions, of suffering people around the world (and I'm sure it's of great comfort to them that the knee-jerk fanatics who consider their personal morals to be more important than the lives of complete strangers have every sympathy for their plight).
The process of cloning would mean that a human is created, a few cells harvested, and then the embryo destroyed. Even if you don't give the embryo the same status as a human, it surely has enough moral worth to make this unacceptable.
Kit Barker, UK
Aside from the ethical problems and the hubris behind wanting to do human cloning, the dirty little secret in science is that although you can transfer nuclear DNA, since the mitochondrial DNA does not match, you won't have a true "clone", merely a similar person that will have medical problems.
This is the reason that "theraputic cloning" is not as good an option as using one's own stem cells.
I see cloning organs as a positive step to helping mankind and giving people new leases of life, but I think you have to draw the line somewhere. Before long scientists will be using the technology and asking permission to clone full human beings, something that I'd rather not see happen.
We need to find other ways of doing this. People are not cars, we are complex beings. It is the nature of life that there are consequences and side effects, and things that break the rules. As individuals we all differ and it's that difference which enables us to survive and evolve as life on this planet. Illness and death is not something to be eradicated because it's the world's natural way of making sure that we as a species don't get out of control.
Like with abortion, cloning may not be popular but if someone wants it they'll have it done. It's better to strictly control it than to ban it outright.
Think of the thousands of
precious lives we could
save or make better.
Gareth Stevenson, UK
I can't find any good words for doctors allowed to clone humans. This process of cloning, I'm afraid, would make living on this planet hazardous. It disturbs the natural system of living.
The ethics of cloning is not at issue here; before this is tackled we must decide as to whether experimenting on embryos is morally right. Just because abortion and IVF treatment is legal and practised does not allow us to presume that the experimenting and disposing of human embryos is moral.
I appreciate that great medical advancements may be made as a result, but the philosophy of the ends justifying the means is not always correct - certainly not when the means diminishes the sanctity of life.
Even though my brother has Parkinson's disease and I hope there can be advances in the regeneration of human nerve cells, I can't shake my deeply rooted conviction that the creation of human beings should be left up to God. It's the one line that can't be crossed.
I am a PhD student who is having immense problems trying to get human samples to carry out my research. On one hand, it would be a good thing to approve production of human tissue to enable research to carry on -people are always demanding a cure for diseases, but no one is prepared to step forward and allow their deceased loved ones or tissue that has been removed to go towards research. At the end of the day, you can't have it both ways. I have now had to use tissue from another source (ie not human). My only concern about this is that it needs to be tightly regulated.
Rowan Alfredd, England
Cloning should only be allowed for species facing extinction, otherwise there is little need for it, in humans or animals. I thought that as humans we would've seen how illogical the notion of cloning humans for spare parts is, but no. No matter about the lives we save, there are still those whose lives will be taken without a chance for them to have their say. Earlier the offspring were believed to be the future of mankind, now they seem to be the future of a few rich people.
Embryos are not people. At early stages it is perfectly possible to split human embryos to produce two, or fuse them to produce one that will have two different sets of parents. If I split an embryo to create two identical ones, have I killed one to make two, or have I made two identical humans? Neither. And if I fuse two embryos, have I killed two? No. So at this stage of life these embryos are not human individuals, just a cluster of cells with the potential, given the right situation, to become one (or two).
If a soul commits itself to a life at the stages of development then it seems a pretty sloppy way to run a universe, because nature treats these early embryos as completely dispensable. The ethical problem is that the creation of a new human life is a process, not an event. Nature draws no lines for us.
Why not? If we have the technology to do it, we should use it. In future, the there will no longer be a wait for transplant organs.
Austin Amadasun, Nigeria
Research has to continue for the benefit of all the living beings. Researchers should be allowed to use human embryos for the regeneration of tissues like nerve cells, cartilage cells and other cells which cannot be regenerated by the body but essential for healthy living, e.g. insulin secreting pancreatic cells.
Limited permission should be allowed for the progress of this new technology.
If we start from the assumption that life is sacred, then it is surely incompatible to hold the belief that abortion is acceptable and that using embryos for medical advances is wrong.
At what age can we stop experimenting on embryos? Will that age always be the case or will there be groups of people who wish to extend the period of experimenting? I suspect that we will be able to 'grow' clones that have had the brain genes removed - then we'll have a spare body.
Cloning should be allowed. Cloning technology would allow medical advances that are currently not possible.
27 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Lords to deliver cloning verdict
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