Cross-Cultural Issues in Bioethics: The Example of Human Cloning

By Heiner Roetz | Go to book overview

The American Debate on Human Cloning

Nigel M. de S. Cameron

Abstract: The US debate over embryo stem cell research and human clon-
ing has been a dominant theme of public and political focus during the
Bush administration. President Bush's first televised broadcast to the
American people was on embryo stem cell research, and while efforts at
federal legislation on cloning have been frustrated, US influence helped
secure a prohibition on all forms of cloning in the United Nations Decla-
ration on Human Cloning.

Keywords: Cloning, Bioethics, United States, Congress, Biotechnology,
George W. Bush, Embryo, Somatic cell nuclear transfer, Embryo stem cell
research


1. The Significance of This Debate

The announcement in February 1997 of the cloning of Dolly the sheep took the media by storm and offered cover copy to every news magazine as the uncomprehending mammal stared out at scarcely more comprehending publics around the globe. Yet despite the news hype that accompanied the announcement and has followed its sequelae, one can argue that the final significance of Dolly was, and continues to be, underestimated.

For the first mammalian cloning bifurcates the history of the world. It demonstrates to humankind as has nothing before that we are in line to become the creatures, the products, of our own inventive selves: Homo sapiens in the hands of Homo faber. As the newspapers and the television talk shows jumped straight from the Scottish sheep to the meaning of this story for the human future, Dolly proved the catalyst of a vast debate about biotechnology and its significance for human nature. On trial, alongside human nature itself, is the capacity of our public institutions to respond to what some commentators have begun to recognise as their greatest challenge.

This point was well-made by President George W. Bush in the April 2002 White House speech in which he called for a comprehensive ban on human cloning in the United States:

Science has set before us decisions of immense conse-
quence. We can pursue medical research with a clear

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