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Dr Malcolm Alison, Imperial College, London
"There's a balancing act to be performed here"
 real 28k

Eric Swindin, Ipswich, UK
"Cloning could improve people's quality of life"
 real 28k

Hugh Moran, Chipping Norton, UK
"The law legitimises the destruction of individuals"
 real 28k

Jaak Aru, Tartu, Estonia
"Cloning should be legalised"
 real 28k

George Weiss, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
"Animals never gave us permission to clone them"
 real 28k

John Airey, Peterborough, UK
"The whole thing is morally questionable"
 real 28k

John Kane, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
"Medical experts are at the forefront of a eugenics programme"
 real 28k

Ken Simmonds, Johannesburg, South Africa
"We can get closer to God through science"
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Simon Heaney, Edinburgh, UK
"Science has made many great improvements"
 real 28k

Duncan Drury, London, UK
"Scientists need to reassure the public"
 real 28k

Thursday, 31 August, 2000, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Should human cloning be legalised?
Should human cloning be legalised?
The UK is expected to approve a limited form of human cloning for medical research following recommendations put forward by a panel of experts in England.

Should therapeutic cloning be used if it can save lives? Or do you think that there should be a limit to how far scientists should probe the secrets of life?

Diana Madill took your calls for a live phone-in debate on the subject - online and on BBC World Service Radio.

In the studio to answer your questions was Dr Malcolm Alison, Reader in stem cell research at Imperial College School of Medicine.

Select the link below to watch Talking Point On Air

  • Read your comments during the programme
  • Read what you said before we went ON AIR
  • Read what you have said since the programme

    Your comments since the programme:

    As in every scientific debate the question cannot be answered without several considerations concerning the nature of the methods involved. How do we clone Human Beings? Can we clone only parts? Only with accurate and crystal clear information regarding this matter will we be able to answer such a difficult question.
    Luca Serrati Sisa, Paraguay

    It always seems to be the people who have faith in nature who are worried by the possibility of 'designer babies' and the likee

    Will McNeill, Great Britain
    It always seems to be the people who have faith in nature who are worried by the possibility of 'designer babies' and the like. If they follow that faith far enough, they will realise that man will never be in a position to understand the complexities of the environment enough to design a baby that will be able to cope with all the possible factors. While evolution is by definition never wrong, humans often are. Changing a genetic structure that has been formed over billions of years, whether by adding so-called intelligence genes or whatever, is bound to have side-effects which make them far less 'designer' than their more natural cousins.
    Will McNeill, Great Britain

    In reply to Jim from Alaska. Yes I would refuse any treatment for myself or my family that had been derived from cloned humans. My life is no more important than that of a fertilised human egg regardless the degree of development when it is terminated by experimentation or removal of "spare parts".
    Ewan, Aberdeen Scotland

    I don't think that any form of human cloning should be allowed. Where would scientists get a source of human eggs from? It would very likely mean cajoling women into physically invasive procedures, no doubt for profit. This whole proposal seems unnecessary and ill considered.
    Anne, Kent, UK

    The cloning of complete humans is unnecessary and immoral

    Marcus Boarder, USA
    The cloning of complete humans is unnecessary and immoral. The cloning, however, of individual human parts, such as a heart or a lung, are both needed and morale. Clone the parts, not the whole package.
    Marcus Boarder, USA

    Do those people complaining about 'scientists playing God' also refuse antibiotics, surgery, blood transfusions, disinfectants, clean water and all the other advances brought about by the evil 'scientists'. After all, each of these involve human beings deciding whether or not another living organism should die or not.
    Frank Hollis, Harlow, Essex

    The recent history of the human race has several instances of people who thought that they were doing good for society when they abused other people. Let's not repeat the mistake of closing our eyes to the ethics of human life, whilst seeking a quick solution to a set of problems. The ends cannot necessarily justify the means.
    Dave Houlton, Brussels, Belgium

    I notice a lot of people object to cloning. I have a question, I wish they would answer: "Will they personally forgo any medical treatment which would benefit themselves that is developed from cloning e.g.. Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes, spinal cord injuries etc.?"
    Jim, Alaska

    Morality seldom gets in the way of progress.

    Phillip J Hubbell, USA
    Well, since a human clone would still be a human then cloning people would not present an ethical dilemma. Cloning people to harvest organs would violate existing laws. Cloning foetus' to grind up for medical treatment...while it doesn't violate current is a tad reprehensible to those whose moral convictions sees the foetus as human life. Morality seldom gets in the way of progress.
    Phillip J Hubbell, Dallas USA

    I agree with the cloning of human organs. It is possibly the only solution that we have to our current problem of organ rejection in transplants. And to those who don't like the idea of human cloning need not worry - with World population at it's current levels, large-scale human cloning isn't going be a viable proposition. However, the possible future developments that may be made in medical technology by use of this, I think, should not be ignored.
    Derek Jones, Bristol, UK

    Cloning is not such a new thing it occurs in nature all the time. As long as you aren't copying someone that doesn't want to be copied, I don't see this as a problem. What bothers people is people doing something that only god or nature could do before: make a food, make a baby, alter DNA. All these things occur in nature all the time. And all these things can have negative consequences, whether created by man or nature. One mutation in a virus and human civilisation becomes history.
    Al Brown, Sunnyvale, CA, USA

    At present I trust the judgement of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority; also that of Lord Winston, who is also a man of religious faith

    Guy Chapman, Reading, UK
    As a practising Christian I find myself strangely at odds with most of my fellow believers in supporting the limited and controlled use of cloning for therapeutic research. The technology exists to pursue this avenue of research, and those who would seek to ban it always remind me of Michael Flanders' observation that "if God had meant us to fly He would never have given us the railways." At present I trust the judgement of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority; also that of Lord Winston, who is also a man of religious faith.
    Guy Chapman, Reading, UK

    While the scientists are happily pursuing their research interests at the expense of human beings in their earliest and most vulnerable stages, I, for one, have already begun boycotting any product (such as vaccines) that utilise human embryonic cell lines, etc. I also refuse to donate money to any organisation that would fund "therapeutic cloning" basic research. Your guest seems to forget that his research is expensive and without the financial support of the public his culture dishes will dry up.
    T. Strecker, Seattle, USA

    No human cloning. There should be no animal cloning. Man is his ultimate wisdom with brain has exploited the animal kingdom and the environment in every sense of the word for too long, be it politics or self-aggrandisement. The horrors done here would extend further in the wrong hands, and there are many wrong hands. Scientists for the sake of science go way too far; brilliance does not override wrongdoing.
    Suze, Kensington USA

    Cloning embryos will lead to full reproductive human cloning and designer babies, which has nothing to do with advancing medical research. This technology must be stopped now. We should be looking for alternative routes of research and trying to stop all forms of cloning around the world. There are other ways and means to do things without demoralising the dignity of individuality and attempting to play god with life.
    Graham Ho, York, North Yorkshire

    If human cloning did go ahead what would we tell all the people produced from it? Would they be told that they were cloned in a harsh, unfeeling lab instead of being produced in an act of love? We already have enough persecution in the world, if we go ahead and introduce human cloning could we introduce more? Used for the right purposes human clonig could offer numerous advantages but it could also, in the wrong hands, have many more disadvantages.
    E Payne, Edinburgh, Midlothian

    We are not at this moment aware of the different outcomes. Would Oppenheimer have gone for the construction of the bomb if he could have imagined the dimensions of the tragedy his brainchild inflicted on thousands of innocent people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Experimenting with lab animals is like having a detonation in the Nevada desert - you may never have a glimpse of the total picture.
    Fehmi Yazıcıoğlu, Istanbul / Turkey

    It is easy for people with no problems to spout off about right and wrong but those of us with serious problems (I have MS) would say do whatever it takes. There are some of us that say no, fair enough, you get cured last, tough!
    Mark Smith, St Catharines, Canada

    I live in the western US where people still "shoot 'em up and pray about it on Sunday". The bible is literally interpreted and Darwin's theory of evolution is a no-no in public schools. Humans are viewed here as not another organism of our planet who happen to have large brains as their evolutionary advantage, but special and created by God in the image of God - literally. Cloning a sheep may be acceptable, but God forbid cloning God's children! Do you think our society will ever reach a point where our superstitious beliefs in Gods, demons, ghosts and spirits will abate? Maybe some day we can soar with scientific knowledge instead of being thwarted at every turn by religious dogmatism. Clone away!
    Gretchen Mann, Parker, Colorado, USA

    Most of the human population is yet to benefit from such medical advances

    Mohan Singh, India
    Tall claims are made that thereupatical cloning will benefit the whole of human society just as they were made with penicillin, BCG, interferon, etc. The reality on the ground is that most of the human population is yet to benefit from such medical advances. Only the pharmaceutical companies and their shareholders have grown fat with profits from such discoveries - as well as the scientists and researchers who have gained their brownie points and Nobel prizes.
    Mohan Singh, India

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    Your comments during the programme:

    There's a balancing act to be performed here. On both sides of the Atlantic people say we should be able to work with this technology. Most of the embryos used are spares from the IVF (in vitro fertilisation) programme. People use the morning after pill. We are throwing away embryos all the time.
    Dr Malcolm Alison, Imperial College School of Medicine

    With advances in technology it will not be possible to outlaw cloning so it should be legalised.
    Jaak Aru, Tartu, Estonia

    There are laws that allow research into embryos up to 14 days old. They are legitimising the destruction of individuals.
    Hugh Moran, Chipping Norton, UK

    Most people have a reasonable quality of life. I've suffered from Parkinson's disease for 17 years and I don't have that quality of life.
    Eric Swindin, Ipswich, UK

    I've read a great deal on Hitler's ideas on eugenics lately. After the war people said never again. But medical experts are now at the forefront of a eugenics programme.
    John Kane, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    Scientists aren't managing to convince the public that they are concerned about ethics. They need to explain to people that there are regulations being followed. But people have lost confidence with safeguards following BSE and GM foods.
    Duncan Drury, London, UK

    Europe doesn't want embryo research. The whole thing is morally questionable. If you allow therapeutic cloning we'll have reproductive cloning by the back door. It's a slippery slope. Look at what happened with the atomic bomb.
    John Airey, Peterborough, UK

    If we were always worried about what some bandit scientist would do then we'd never get anywhere. We have a burgeoning elderly population. Such technology may alleviate the suffering of people and increase life expectancy.
    Dr Malcolm Alison comments

    From a purely religious point of view the more we know about the wonders of God's creation the closer we get to him. We're now on the threshold of a true enlightenment. Mankind has been on a journey away from ignorance and superstition for centuries.
    Ken Simmonds, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Scientist are playing God. What's the difference between cloning animals such as sheep and cloning humans? Let things take their natural course.
    Dora Samuels, Berlin, Germany

    We are paying God by using animals for medical research. It seems to me to be more ethical to use ourselves than to use animals - they never gave us permission to experiment with them. If it feasible to clone humans one day maybe it will happen. It raises all kinds of questions nobody is talking about.
    George Weiss, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    As an invalid I'm for cloning if you can take a stem cell from your body. But if there's no other way but to use an embryo, then why not use IVF embryos. Why shouldn't people clone them to make tissues?
    Uri Stern, Israel

    It's immoral, barbaric and potentially very dangerous. It involves the destruction of human life. Technologists will be able to decide who should be able to live finally. And we cannot perceive the long-term consequences of this.
    Andrew, Newcastle, UK

    Science has made many great improvements such as antibiotics and electricity. I look forward to new developments. Paranoid accusations made by some people are ridiculous. A collection of cells is not the same as human life. As far as I see it it's just the same as using yeast in brewing.
    Simon Heaney, Edinburgh, UK

    Talking about slippery slopes and equating cloning with nuclear bombs is ridiculous. But it's a free world and everyone is equal in being able to develop technologies and using them.
    Richard Smith, London, UK

    If God allows our scientists to succeed in this research then God is behind us and is blessing the technology.
    Santhi Sri, Sri Lanka / London, UK

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    Your comments before we went ON AIR:

    The sort of "pro-life" person is probably the sort of person who is against euthanasia, but this is exactly what they are advocating they do to ill people, against the ill person's choice. Don't let them get away with murder!
    Rob, London, UK

    Legislation is of course required but as "god's" creations have evolved through history, so should we be able to do so. Clone away!

    Mike, China
    I just wish religion would whither and die. Our morals are in-bred, everyone knows at birth that murder and stealing are wrong. The worst thing the church can do now is to try and halt the development of new technologies related to improving the chances of homo-sapians surviving the supernova. Legislation is of course required but as "god's" creations have evolved through history, so should we be able to do so. Clone away!
    Mike, China

    Just like all inventions, the technique of cloning isn't dangerous, but the goals mankind hopes to achieve. And just like all other inventions, legislation will have no effect in the end. Look at how many countries have developed their own atomic bomb, while this knowledge is supposed to be top-secret.
    PeeRei, NL

    Chris from the UK says it interferes with natural selection. There has been no natural selection in modern times. Since when are the ill, incompetent and injured stopped from having children these days? Cloning is just another step in the same direction.
    Jack, UK

    Is it really necessary to rush ahead with human cloning when we have only recently managed to successfully clone a sheep? A lot more time needs to be spent on sheep cloning before we proceed any further.
    CM, Wales

    If cloning can help, why should we deny ourselves the opportunity for such advances? The problem is, just like GM crops, that a small minority seem to be taking it upon themselves to deny the rest of us the benefits of this technology.
    G Fincham, Leicester, UK

    Surely it's precisely human self-importance that makes people believe that embryos, even those that are specifically bred for cultivation, somehow have rights

    Claire, UK
    Julie, who talks about humans' feelings of self-importance, contradicts herself. Surely it's precisely human self-importance that makes people believe that embryos, even those that are specifically bred for cultivation, somehow have rights, whereas presumably animals such as mice which are also bred for research, have none. How self-important can you get?
    Claire, UK

    It is common to talk of deaths due to preventable illnesses or diseases. Such deaths could simply be described as deaths due to negligence or ignorance. Since there is such an advancement in cloning skin and tissues, I believe it will even help us to do away with disabilities such blindness. Who knows we may be on our way to eliminate even the category of people we call the Deaf or the Blind in the twenty first century.
    Grace Akello, Uganda

    Human cloning for medical research should be legalised

    Michael Pala, UK
    Human cloning for medical research should be legalised. The potential for a giant leap in medical research is too good to be ignored just for the sake of "morals" and "ethics" which are usually drawn up by people who are stuck in the past.
    Michael Pala, UK

    I think the Government should legalise cloning immediately and pour huge amounts of money into human cloning research. Hopefully in the next 10 years, I can have a clone of me at work; another clone doing the shopping and housework while I relax in the pub spending the money my clones have earned. This is the threshold of a new era of leisure time for all.
    Frank Hudson, Leeds, England

    So the search for immortality marches on. Any "progress" made by scientists in saving the few that can afford it will not help the masses who die daily from hunger and already curable diseases. If we really want to "play God" let's improve the plight of those who need it most. No matter how tight the regulations someone somewhere will bend or break the rules just to see if they can - purely in the interests of science, of course.
    Mike H, Bristol, England

    If cloning can prove beneficial to human life, why not?
    Ob Amran, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    It seems to me quite natural that we will use cloning and similar techniques in medicine in the future and any country that bans it will be on the way to a second-rate future. The debate is often as irrational as the negative views on genetic engineering.
    G. S. Brown, Auckland New Zealand

    Evolution takes place in everything to do with nature, whether it be the natural growth of animals/ humans/ plants, or the development in ideas, thoughts and their tangible results. Humankind has a tendency to develop these ideas better than most other species, which is perhaps why we are the most "developed" of this world's inhabitants. Human cloning is just another step in the evolution of science - how we use it is the real issue that we have to address.
    Allaster Finke, UK

    Someone has to make the decisions but I fear it is interfering too much with "natural selection". I think this debate will go on for a very long time and scientists had better make sure that nothing goes wrong as the prospect is frightening.
    Chris UK, Germany

    People are afraid of new things, especially when they've been hyped up by sci-fi images shown by the media

    Achint, New Zealand
    God gave us our bodies, if we wish to clone them, then that's our choice. We were already playing God when artificial nuclear fission/fusion was developed. People are afraid of new things, especially when they've been hyped up by sci-fi images shown by the media. Cloning uses embryos now, but given time they will be able to use any cell from the body.
    Achint, New Zealand

    People opposed to research talk about playing God - but if you ban a technology which could help people, you are also playing God. A ban in this area will cost lives - let's do the research!
    Kevin Elliott, Oxford, UK

    I do not think that human cloning should be approved by anyone in any country. The casual disregard for the life of the embryos, that scientists would create and destroy, is truly frightening. Where will this end?
    Joanne, Yorkshire, UK

    Within a tightly controlled environment, yes. It is probably going on somewhere anyway. I think the playing god argument etc is an ignorant cop out. If it saves lives and gives people better quality of life, then great, but the public should not make big judgements on things they do not fully understand. The argument however is that scientist's do not fully understand either.
    Baz, England

    We have been allegedly "playing God" since time immemorial - there were similar outcries when the umbrella was invented

    Paul, UK
    Cloning for the sake of organ production is beneficial for all concerned, as long as genetic mutations from such a process do not lead to the creation of new diseases. We have been allegedly "playing God" since time immemorial - there were similar outcries when the umbrella was invented ("If God had intended us to stay dry He would not have let it rain"). More mature responses should be expected in the 21st Century.
    Paul, UK

    Is DNA research a solution to a problem that, in perspective, does not really exist? I would say that more people die and suffer because of our neglect over much simpler issues (poverty, pollution, diet, employment) than that of our DNA sequence. The moral imperative of DNA research seems extremely weak by comparison. Perhaps we can become better people without having to resort such cost-ineffective 'solutions'.
    Dr Jon B, Sweden

    Like it or not, human beings are simply members of the animal kingdom. 'Playing God' with other animals is no different to 'playing God' with human embryos. In fact it is worse, since we seem to think it fit to deliberately inflict pain and suffering on a dumb animal in the name of medical, pharmaceutical or technological advancement. Personally, I am quite happy to donate cells, organs, or anything else of no particular use to me, if it means that someone else need not suffer and can enjoy a better quality of life - the same courtesy I would extend to any other animal in pain.
    Jenni, UK

    Yes. Human cloning should be legalised. Otherwise - if developed only illegally and secretly - the process and developments will not be under control. And there is no possibility to stop human cloning at this stage of knowledge...
    Jaak Aru, Estonia

    I do not think so. Human cloning will erase whatever respect humans have left for other humans. And humans will definitely feel the consequences of Mother Nature's revenge.
    Nitish Dass, MN, USA

    This quest for the perfect life, the cure for everything is getting way out of hand

    Peer Quaide, Rio de Janeiro / London
    Its a sad fact of life that we are not perfect, and like most other animals on this planet sooner or later we too will die. This quest for the perfect life, the cure for everything is getting way out of hand. What we are doing now is not acceptable in any shape or form.
    Peer Quaide, Rio de Janeiro / London

    Let the doctors develop the technology. It's a key part of enhancing medicine for the future. Also, keep a register of opponents of cloning and not provide them with related treatments - leave them to their leeches and faith!
    Vernon Bigg, UK

    Human cloning could save countless lives. Heart failure? No problem, they can just clone you a new one, your immune system wouldn't even reject it because it would be made from your own DNA.
    When the technology is perfected there will be no need to clone the whole human being; you could just clone the organ that you need and maybe a heart to provide it with blood.
    Squeamishness and fear of the unknown is no reason to avoid something so potentially beneficial, where is your human spirit? On this issue I believe we should listen to the experts, not the paranoid members of the general public who tend to develop opinions on matters like these based on cheesy horror movies and the "X-Files".
    David Wood, USA (ex UK)

    The drive to stop morning sickness gave us Thalidomide.

    John B, UK
    The drive to stop morning sickness gave us Thalidomide. The desire to harness nuclear energy gave us Chernobyl. The desire to save money on cattle feed gave us BSE. I can hardly wait to see what this wonderful advance will bring us.
    John B, UK

    Cloning should be legalised. And individuals should have the right to be or refused to be cloned, when the technology reaches that point. Laws restricting scientific advancements and research are counterproductive.
    JW Garner, USA

    I guess it all comes down to when you believe life begins. For me, it is in the embryo, so I can't agree with this new move, even though its benefits could be enormous; what is the point in killing one potential human being to save/ help another?
    Beth Hall, Leicester, UK

    The Donaldson Committee of 14, included 12 scientists, 11 of whom were known to be in favour of therapeutic cloning, before they even sat down to discuss it - a complete stitchup.
    Josephine Quintavalle, London

    Progress to find cures for diseases such as Parkinson's, Cancer, Alzheimers etc, do not depend on human cloning, nor the use of human embryos. There are already alternative sources of stem cells which are being used and developed to treat such diseases. These other sources of stem cells (from the adult body) do NOT involve the destruction of any human embryos, require no change in law and are yielding very exciting and successful results. Human Cloning is not the only way to achieve exciting medical advancements.
    London, UK

    How far can you cheat nature without it fighting back? We, as humans, are too full of our own self-importance and fail to realise that we are only relatively young inhabitants of our planet. We are not meant to be immortal. Nature will find another way of controlling numbers, probably by creating some super-virus, within the cloned cells.
    Julie, England

    If we do not set the trend then someone else will and we will be playing catch up

    Dominic, UK
    Of course it should. Think of how many people will be saved by having donor organs provided for them by this technology. If we do not set the trend then someone else will and we will be playing catch up.
    Dominic, UK

    If any parts are to be cloned for research what is stopping them from extracting DNA from living persons, except for the donor's permission?
    Hazel, UK

    Why would anyone want to clone a human? Therapeutic cloning, however, seems to present a number of very exciting and interesting possibilities. This should be legalised (but tightly regulated) to spread the potentially enormous benefits as widely as possible.
    James Evans, Portsmouth, UK

    Human cloning is bound to cause concern to many, and personally I find the situation quite upsetting. It's hard to think that for our benefit, lives are being deliberately created and destroyed. I know that people campaign against tests on animals. This is something different, it's playing God, and sadly the next progressive step in life medicine.
    Stuart Winchester, UK

    The whole idea about science is to research and push forward the bounds of our knowledge. By halting this area of science we are missing some real medical discoveries. We are already finding that using animals for human transplants is a risky area, most recently with the discovery of swine fever in pig farms. By manufacturing human body parts to order there will be no risk of rejection by the body and no risk of disease. By forcing a stop to this action we are putting peoples' lives at risk.
    Adam Baker, Crawley, England

    The medical world mainly considers the technical aspects, and is not interested in the very sensitive ethics surrounding this issue. Any government must strongly forbid playing "pseudo God" and put laws in place to prevent human manipulation and engineering. No real benefits and objectives have been documented as yet.
    Han de Min, Netherlands

    Rather than religion dictating what scientists should and shouldn't do, perhaps it is time for science to tell people what to believe.
    Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex UK)

    Human cloning should not be accepted in any circumstance or for any purpose.
    Mikko Toivonen, Finland

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