God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning

By Brent Waters; Ronald Cole-Turner | Go to book overview

Introduction

RONALD COLE-TURNER

The creation of the first human embryos by cloning was announced late in 2001 by a group of researchers working for a private corporation, Advanced Cell Technologies (ACT), of Worcester, Massachusetts.1 The work was done in order to determine whether it is possible to create cloned embryos from which to harvest embryonic stem cells. Advocates of this goal, sometimes called “therapeutic cloning,” believe it holds the key to successful treatment for a wide range of diseases, from Parkinson's disease to diabetes, that currently claim the lives of as many as 3,000 Americans every day.

What was disturbing to many about this research is that ACT set out on this pathway on its own, accountable only to itself and its investors. Human cloning, including therapeutic human cloning that produces no baby, is controversial, to put it mildly. Nearly everyone on both sides of the controversy acknowledges that human cloning is a milestone of sorts in human history. That a private corporation would cross the threshold into the age of cloning, as if it were nothing but a corporate strategy or a mere line in its R&D budget, is troubling.

To be fair, however, we must recognize that ACT broke no laws, nor did the company fail in any duty to obtain permission for its work. In fact, on scientific grounds alone, the researchers' publication was premature but perhaps commendable because it provided some public account of their work.

Furthermore, the legal and moral context in which ACT does its work is hardly the company's fault. The responsibility in fact lies with our political

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