It’s here. Don’t get used to it. May 27, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 35 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
Human cloning is finally here, and it is going to spark a political conflagration. First, some background.
The cloning era began when Dolly the sheep was manufactured in 1996. Dolly was cloned via somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This is accomplished by removing the nucleus from a skin or other cell (in Dolly’s case, a mammary gland cell, hence her naming after Dolly Parton). That nucleus is then inserted into an egg whose nucleus has been removed. The engineered egg is stimulated, and if the cloning works, an embryo comes into being through asexual reproduction. Once that happens, the cloning is complete.
If the cloned embryo is implanted in a mother—often called “reproductive cloning”—and all goes well, it develops like a natural embryo through the fetal stage to birth. Hello Dolly.
Many mammals are now routinely cloned—mice, pigs, cattle, to name a few. Monkeys proved a difficult species to create via SCNT until a few years ago, and even now scientists have not succeeded in bringing a cloned monkey to birth.
Human cloning has been even more technically challenging. But an international group of scientists announced in the June 6 Cell—a prominent, peer-reviewed scientific journal—that they created scores of cloned human embryos, developing four of them in a dish for about 10 days to the blastocyst stage (about 150-200 cells). This is the stage at which embryos created in vitro are usually implanted if they are to be gestated to birth. However, that was not the purpose of the recent experiments. Instead, the cloned embryos were destroyed and embryonic stem cell lines created—a process sometimes called “therapeutic cloning.” While these scientists have no interest in reproductive cloning, if a cloned baby is ever born, their experiments will have been a big step toward making it possible.
The successful cloning of human beings—whether for research or birth—is momentous: Even if the technique is used only in pursuit of biological knowledge and medical treatments, those will come at the very high ethical price of manufacturing human life for the purpose of harvesting it like a corn crop—that is, for the purpose of destroying it.
Cloning, moreover, is essential to foreseeable endeavors such as the genetic engineering of embryos, the creation of human/animal chimeras, the gestation of cloned fetuses in artificial wombs as a means of obtaining patient-compatible organs, and eventually the birth of cloned babies. With the struggle over whether and to what extent the technology should be regulated still unresolved, we can expect fiery contention going forward over matters like the following:
The legal status of human cloning. Competing bills are likely to be introduced in Congress and state legislatures, as they have been in the past, to outlaw human cloning. The devil will be in the definitions.
In particular, cloning opponents should beware phony bans that pretend to outlaw cloning but actually legalize the SCNT process using human DNA. This sleight-of-hand has been tried before. In 2007, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) coauthored the Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Protection Bill, which not only would not have banned human cloning, it would have legalized it by codifying an inaccurate definition: “The term ‘human cloning’ means implanting or attempting to implant the product of nuclear transplantation into a uterus or the functional equivalent of a uterus.”
But cloning is the asexual creation of the cloned embryo, regardless of whether it is implanted. A real ban would make it illegal to use human cells and nuclei in SCNT.
Public funding. President George W. Bush triggered intense debate by placing minor restrictions on the funding of embryonic stem cell research by the National Institutes of Health. Despite the false claim that Bush had banned embryonic stem cell research, he actually funded it to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
In contrast, the federal government is already prohibited by law from financing human cloning. Under the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, federal funds may not be used to create embryos for use in research or to support research that harms or destroys embryos. President Obama circumvents Dickey-Wicker by sophistry: Private money pays for the destruction of the embryos, then federal funds support research on the resulting stem cell lines.
Two cases of European doctors refusing to treat their patients are cause for concern: Futile Care Theory may be coming to America. 11:00 PM, Mar 10, 2004 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
A LITTLE NOTICED LITIGATION in the United Kingdom could be a harbinger of medical woes to come here in the United States. Leslie Burke, age 44, is suing for the right to stay alive. Yes, you read right: Burke, who has a terminal neurological disease, is deathly afraid that doctors will refuse to provide him wanted food and water when his condition deteriorates to the point that has to receive nourishment through a feeding tube.
With a dishonest bill pending, Delaware looks to join New Jersey as a haven for human cloning.11:45 AM, Jan 16, 2004 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
CLONING ADVOCATES are playing a shell game with the American people. At the federal level, they advocate the legalization of human cloning but assert that cloned embryos should be destroyed after 14 days of development and never implanted in wombs (the Hatch / Feinstein Bill). But this is a diversionary political tactic. Hatch / Feinstein's true purpose is to prevent passage of a total federal ban on cloning by human somatic nuclear cell transfer (SCNT), the Brownback / Landrieu bill.
Dec 22, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 15 • By CHRISTINE ROSEN
Whose View of Life?
Embryos, Cloning, and Stem Cells
by Jane Maienschein
Harvard University Press, 368 pp., $27.95
THIS OUGHT TO BE a welcome contribution to contemporary bioethical debates--a book, written by a well-regarded historian of science and published by a prestigious academic press, that engages the history of embryo research, stem cell research, and cloning, while promising to tackle the contentious issue of when life begins.
New Jersey Assembly Bill 2840 looks to be the most radical human cloning measure ever put into law. It should be stopped.11:50 AM, Dec 11, 2003 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
USING "embryonic stem cell research" (ESCR) as a Trojan Horse, the authors of New Jersey Assembly Bill 2840 are trying to sneak one of the most radical human cloning legalization schemes ever proposed into law. How radical is A-2840? If the bill passes, it will be legal in New Jersey to implant cloned human embryos into wombs, gestate them for up to nine months, and then destroy them for use in research.
Terri Schiavo's guardian ad litem files his report; there's bad news and good news.11:00 PM, Dec 3, 2003 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
THERE IS A BULL ELEPHANT in the living room of the Terri Schiavo case that many adamantly refuse to see. Terri's husband Michael Schiavo has fallen in love with another woman. He has lived with his "fiancé" now for many years. The couple has been blessed with two children together. By any reasonable standard of judgment, falling in love with, committing to, and siring children by another woman estranges a husband from his wife. Indeed, in a divorce case, these facts would undoubtedly be construed as actions amounting to legal abandonment.
The mainstream media is ignoring promising news about adult stem cell research.11:00 PM, Dec 2, 2003 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
MEDIA BIAS is alive and well and busily promoting the brave new world. I personally experienced the phenomenon recently when I participated in an educational symposium in Frankfort, Kentucky (along with Drs. David Prentice and John Hubert). Our purpose was to provide empirical and moral support for pending state legislation that would outlaw human cloning in Kentucky. (Similar laws have already passed in Michigan, Iowa, North Dakota, and Arkansas.)
The Florida state legislature steps in to save a woman whose husband is trying to kill her.11:40 AM, Oct 21, 2003 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
WHEN TERRI SCHIAVO collapsed in 1990, causes unknown, she could have had no idea that 13 years later people the world over would know her name and care very much about whether she lived or died. Yet what began as a private tragedy--a vivacious young woman stricken in the very prime of her life with a brain injury that left her profoundly disabled--has become a story heard round the world.
Oct 27, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 07 • By J. BOTTUM, FOR THE EDITORS
YOU KNOW THE STORY. The frog in a saucepan on the stove will die--because the temperature creeps up so smoothly and stealthily that he's never given the clue that now is the time to hop out. And so he boils to death, for if the rise from 70 degrees to 71 degrees didn't make him jump, why should the rise from 150 to 151?
We've never entirely believed the story--or its allegorical applications. Surely the frog will jump, and people, too, before the water gets too hot.
The horrifying case of Terri Schiavo, and what it portends.Oct 20, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 06 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
AT 2:00 P.M. on October 15, 2003, Terri Schiavo's feeding tube is to be removed, after which she will slowly dehydrate to death. This is to be done at the request of her husband, Michael Schiavo, and at the order of Judge George W. Greer of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, in Clearwater, Florida. If the order is carried out, Terri will die over a period of 10 to 14 days.
The Schiavo case is only the most recent "food and fluids" case to make national headlines, after Nancy Cruzan (Missouri), Michael Martin (Michigan), and Robert Wendland (California).
The false promise of experimental cloning.Oct 6, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 04 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
POLLS SHOW that most Americans want to ban all human cloning. President Bush is eager to sign such a measure into law. The House has twice enacted a strong legal prohibition with wide, bipartisan votes.
Bill McKibben's useful assault on the unfettered biogenetic project.Jun 9, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 38 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
Staying Human in an Engineered Age
by Bill McKibben