Dolly the Sheep Cloner Backs Killing Human Embryos for Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 19, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Dolly the Sheep Cloner Backs Killing Human Embryos for Research

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 19, 2004

London, England ( — The scientist who led the team that cloned Dolly the sheep now says he favors the destruction of human embryos "under certain circumstances" to advance scientific research into reducing the effects of or curing human diseases.

Professor Ian Wilmut, from the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, wrote in New Scientist magazine saying, "While I remain implacably opposed to reproductive cloning per se, I do envisage producing cloned babies would be desirable under certain circumstances, such as preventing genetic disease."

Wilmut said, "Cloning promises such great benefits that it would be immoral not to do it." He said the benefits include scientists being able to correct defective genes.

However, pro-life groups condemned Wilmut’s support for human cloning as a form of genetic engineering.

Paul Tully of the British-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said Wilmut’s position for genetic engineering would result in "the deliberate and calculated destruction of human embryos."

"It was irresponsible of a respected scientist to support publicly a proposal that is profoundly unethical on so many levels," Tully added.

David Stevens, MD, director of the Christian Medical Association, agreed, saying, "To duplicate a living human being for the sole purpose of exploitative research and destruction is singularly morally unconscionable."

Stevens said Wilmut should know from the failures of animal cloning — including Dolly’s subsequent death — that human cloning would result in the deaths of hundreds of tiny unborn human beings every time human cloning is attempted. It took 277 attempts to produce Dolly.

"We know from animal cloning that the technical problems and dangers associated with cloning will never produce therapies that these researchers speculate could be applied to human beings," Dr. Stevens explained.

Meanwhile, the Roslin Institute will apply for a license to clone stem cells from people with motor neuron disease. They are hoping to research to research Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).