Cloning Raises Difficult Issues for White House, Congress

Article excerpt

The recent successful cloning of an adult sheep - raising the possibility that a human could also be cloned - is presenting the federal government with some serious and difficult policy issues. Soon after the news of the birth of Dolly, Congress and the administration began considering action to limit human cloning research and to ban the actual cloning of a human being. Many scientists and ethicists, however, are warning against swiftly implementing legal restrictions without first thoroughly analyzing all aspects of cloning technology.

President Clinton set the stage for the cloning policy debate on March 4 by banning the use of federal funds for human cloning research and requesting that the private sector voluntarily abstain from such research for 90 days. He also asked the National Bioethics Advisory Commission to investigate the implications of human and animal cloning. The commission's report was expected to be ready by early June.

In Congress, Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) introduced legislation to prohibit the use of federal funds for research involving human cloning. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) introduced a similar bill in the House and proposed a second bill that would make it illegal to clone a human being. Whereas Bond emphasized the moral problems with human cloning in proposing his bill, Ehlers argued that his intention was to protect scientific research in the long run.

Although scientists and ethicists generally agree that there are some uses of cloning technology that clearly are morally wrong, the federal role in regulating cloning remains uncertain. According to scientists, cloning research has the potential to produce enormous health benefits. Ian Wilmut, who directed the Dolly project, told the Senate Labor and Human Resources Subcommittee on Public Health on March 12 that cloning and the genetic manipulation it allows make it possible to create better genetically engineered animals for use in treating human diseases. …