Magazine article The Human Life Review

The First Clone: Nobody's Child

Magazine article The Human Life Review

The First Clone: Nobody's Child

Article excerpt

The first of a race of laboratory human beings has been created, the first absolute orphan. The cloned embryo, unlike its IVF cousin, has no mother or father, and is intended for destruction. It is the identical twin of its tissue-donor, which might be a living person or a dead person, or even just a fragment of anonymous human tissue from the hospital freezer. The clone is nobody's child. Human kinship is grotesquely violated; the new Homo experimentus is outside the circle of human belonging, and its creation as an excluded, exploited human existence is the moral heart of this matter.

Our Senate Select Committee on Human Embryo Experimentation advised in 1985 "that the concept of guardianship be adopted as the most appropriate model to indicate the respect due to the embryo." The cloned embryo is intended to be cut off from such protection, since there is no parent, no guardian-and therefore no cramping of the experimenter's style.

The experimenters reject any moral obligation to the cloned embryo, reminding us repeatedly of its insignificant size, "smaller than a full stop." From the perspective of our doctors' Federation, significance is not a function of size; a human existence is measured not in milligrams but in "meaning," in the fact of a new human Name being written into our common story. Our constitution declares: "from the earliest moment of biologic existence the developing human being is alive and entirely distinct." We affirm that the fact of a distinct human existence, however conceived, binds us to do no harm, to act as guardians.

The battle over cloning is fundamentally a battle over human meaning, not over medical technology. We are all on the same side medically; we all love stem cells. The vital point is that these precious magic bullets can be obtained without cloning and cannibalising embryos. Ethical sources of stem cells such as adult or placental tissue show greater promise, rendering cloning redundant.

Professor John Shine, of Sydney's Garvan Institute, stated in March, "You don't need to clone a human ... there is no valid reason for it any more." (Daily Telegraph 12/3/01). He describes how "We are now able to take an (adult) skin cell, deprogram it back into stem cells and regrow them into a nerve cell or something else."

Likewise the chair of a Royal Society group on therapeutic cloning, Professor Richard Gardner: "I think therapeutic cloning is not terribly realistic. This other approach of reprogramming later cells makes sense."

Other Australian authorities pointing the ethical direction include the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, which reports that "adult stem nerve cells can grow into other types of tissue," and the Murdoch Institute which uses "umbilical cord blood, the richest source of stem cells, not human embryo stem cells" (The Australian 27/ 11/01).

The latter innocent source of stem cells invites a visionary move from our leaders: let Australia become the first country where all newborn babies have their stem cells routinely harvested from their own placenta, preserved for any future needs, as one American company now offers to babies of the elite.

So the recent wanton experiment in so called "therapeutic" cloning is not only evil, in that it creates and destroys dehumanised embryos, but an unnecessary evil, in that there are innocent alternatives for achieving the promise of these all-powerful stem cells. …

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