Bioethics Panel Will Study Cloning Issues: White House Says Fetal-Research Ban Will Extend to Human Clone Projects

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President Clinton yesterday instructed the National Bioethics Advisory Commission to examine "the ethical and legal issues" arising from reports that Scottish scientists had made a clone of an adult sheep, and their assertion that human cloning may now be possible.

White House Press Secretary Michael McCurry noted that Mr. Clinton has previously denied federal funding for human-embryo research, and said those restrictions would extend to human cloning experiments. He said the bioethics panel will examine "whether private research ought to be sensitive to these issues."

Mr. McCurry stressed that the commission is not being asked to make specific conclusions or recommendations. "The president wants a good, thorough, accurate review," he said. The report is due in 90 days.

The panel - which includes philosophers, theologians, lawyers, doctors and biologists - was established in October 1995 to "provide guidance to federal agencies on the ethical conduct of current and future human biological and behavioral research."

Experts acknowledge the technique that Scottish researechers used to create Dolly the ewe, the world's first clone made from an adult mammal, opens the door to important pharmaceutical and agricultural applications.

"A lot of the research going on now is driven by money that's available to produce pharmaceuticals" from the milk of genetically engineered animals, said Caird Rexroad, research leader for gene evaluation and mapping at the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville.

But ethicists and many researchers are alarmed about the implications for human cloning, and some are saying steps should be taken to prohibit such experimentation.

"To see a sheep cloning take place is remarkable, and I suppose it's possible to take it up to humans and other primates," said Arthur Caplan, head of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. "The capacity is out there.

"But I can't think of any defensible application for the cloning of humans. . . . In fact, I would damn it. We need a bipartisan national task force to talk about and examine [cloning] and restrict it" so it can't be used to clone humans, Mr. Caplan said.

He said it is one thing to want "copies of hamburgers" that are uniformly tasty and lean. …