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Friday, May 20, 2005

The Hype of the Clones

Cloning Hype Posted by Hello

In Newcastle, UK there are breathless announcements of human cloning, likewise in South Korea. Unwisely, this has stirred up all sorts of premature excitements about stem cell miracle cures for this, that and the other. The trouble is, of course, that researchers just can't resist the hype ... and neither can the press.

Cloning pioneers know full well that if they go on the offensive about the benefits of therapeutic cloning, this is what the media will publish first, thereby drowning out any ethical objections about the harvesting of tissue from terminated embryos (cloned or otherwise) which always then slip innocuously to the end of news bulletins.

The trouble is of course that, ethical objections aside for one moment, such miracle cures are not "just around the corner." For therapeutic cloning to be available as a medical intervention, there has to be a plentful supply of human ova. At the moment, researchers are using genetic material from IVF "discarded" embryos. These are "failed embryos" but even if the best of the crop were selected there is still the problem of dealing with gross defects in cloned organisms and the possibility of passing these on through stem cells along with such devastating conditions as human variant CJD.

Let's speculate for a moment though that all these severe difficulties have been ironed out (10 years?). Would therapeutic cloning still be ethical? Clearly, those who think that embryos are only genetic bits to be harvested and manipulated for whatever reason are going to have no problem with this. However, for those of us who believe that the human temple has been violated by such procedures with untold unforeseen spiritual and social costs in the years ahead, therapeutic cloning can never be justified, no matter what the much heralded benefits might be.

There are wider issues here of course to do with the manipulation of our own genetic destiny and the crafting of an upgrade to homo sapiens. How will homsap 2.0 deal with homsap 1.0? I can only shudder at these and other prospects. Merely being able to do something does not mean that it should be done.

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