February 26, 2024

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Hollywood is once again mining the rich lode of cloning, this time with a paranormal horror-thriller. "Godsend" stars Robert De Niro as a suave, mysterious cloning doctor and Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as a couple grieving for their deceased five- year-old son. It is due to open in US cinemas at the end of April.
Part of the marketing for the purely fictional Godsend is a brilliantly realistic website for the Godsend Institute, which is described as "a fertility clinic and practice, specialising in the replication of cells for the purpose of creating life from life". It has a profile of its founder Dr Richard Wells, testimonials from happy parents and explanations of the cloning process. The restrained and professional style of the fake website is far removed from the tawdry ones which really do promote cloning. The film’s public relations firm says that it has received about 100 to 150 queries each week since the website went up on March 19.

Could the film influence the debate over cloning in the US? Science writer David Ewing Duncan thinks so. He laments in the San Francisco Chronicle that Godsend has misrepresented the science of cloning by rolling all cloning, therapeutic and reproductive, into a single sinister science at a "politically precarious moment". It plays into the hands of "conservatives who believe that life begins at conception and oppose all cloning," he says.