Stem cells are also at the top of the bioethics agenda in Australia at the moment. A government report, the Lockhart Review, has recommended that therapeutic cloning and other research techniques be legalised. Stem cell scientists are jumping in to defend it.
Professor Alan Trounson, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field, argued in a newspaper column that embryonic stem cells will be very useful in research and drug testing. He contends that cloned embryos are “not embryos in the usual understanding of the term” because they are not formed by the union of egg and sperm and because they will not be implanted in a womb.
The head of the Australian Stem Cell Centre, Dr Hugh Niall, praised the Review’s analysis of three major objections to cloning embryos in The Age. The first, the slippery slope argument that cloning embryos leads to cloning full-term babies is dismissed because reproductive cloning will be against the law and therefore impossible. The second, that the embryo is a human being, is dismissed because an embryo only has as much moral significance as its creators deem it to have. The third, that embryos should not be created in order to be destroyed, is dismissed because IVF embryos are already being destroyed in great quantities and it would be inconsistent not to accept the destruction of cloned embryos.
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