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Bush’s supporters split over second-term bioethics agenda
After failing to persuade the US Senate to pass a bill banning both cloning for reproduction and cloning for research, it appears that supporters of President Bush have split over a legislative strategy for his second term.
On one side is an informal group headed by Dr Leon Kass, the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics. It argues that “we have today an administration and a Congress as friendly to human life and human dignity as we are likely to have for many years to come. It would be tragic if we failed to take advantage of this rare opportunity to enact significant bans on some of the most egregious biotechnical practices”.
In the words of columnist Charles Krauthammer, this approach implies that “we may honourably disagree about the moral dignity due a tiny human embryo. But we must establish some barrier to the most wanton, reckless and hubristic exploitation of the human embryo for our own purposes. The line is easy to find: You do not create a human embryo to be a means to some other end.” Using this standard, rather than a ban on cloning humans, Kass’s group has put together a hit list of practices which are emerging in research labs and IVF clinics.
On the other side is Senator Sam Brownback, of Kansas, who led the battle in the Senate for a ban of all forms of cloning. “The proposal being promoted by Kass undermines our ability to pass a comprehensive ban on all human cloning,” he told the Washington Post.
The bioethics council chairman is now being criticised for acting, um, unethically. Representative Diana DeGette, a supporter of stem cell research, has reported him to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, alleging that Dr Kass has confused his private views with his public role. Other have commented that as chairman, he should be an honest broker of ideas, not a lobbyist.
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