Without a single exception, responsible stem sell scientists are outspoken foes of reproductive cloning. Nearly every plea for the legalisation of therapeutic cloning or for government funding ends with a sentence insisting that reproductive cloning must be banned because it is unsafe.
Many bioethicists, however, take a longer term view and foresee a day when cloning will no longer be unsafe. In that case, they contend, it ought to be treated as a human right. The latest issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics contains the most recent argument.
Cloning combined with certain types of genetic modification can be ethically justifiable when carried out by infertile, lesbian, or gay couples as a means to have children with a genetic relationship to both members of the couple," argues Professor Carson Strong, a bioethicist at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He stresses, however, that access to cloning should not be limited to these cases.
He identifies lack of uniqueness as the principal argument against cloning. This difficulty could be overcome by adding and deleting genes in the clone, making it unique and giving it "a nuclear DNA relationship to both members of an infertile couple".
The principal reason on which Prof Strong grounds his defence of reproductive cloning is reproductive freedom, provided, of course, that there is no danger of birth defects. Although some writers have argued that cloning is contrary to human dignity, Prof Carson has described this elsewhere as a nearly meaningless concept. "There are serious problems in specifying what the essence of a human is and in achieving a consensus on this matter," he wrote in another journal earlier this year.
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