British Scientists to Clone and Kill Unborn Humans for Diabetes Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 15, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Scientists to Clone and Kill Unborn Humans for Diabetes Research

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
June 15, 2004

London, England ( — A team of British scientists is threatening to launch a highly controversial human cloning experiment in the name of diabetes research.

The move is being roundly condemned by a number of ethicists and pro-life groups, who say it is wrong to destroy human life to advance questionable research.

The researchers want to clone embryos in order to harvest their stem cells for diabetes patients.

The leader of the experiment, Dr. Miodrag Stojkovic of the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University, told the Observer newspaper, "We are focusing on diabetes, but believe our work could lead to cures for other diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Our intention is not to create cloned humans."

However, a number of bioethicists have condemned such practices, noting that experiments which employ cloned embryos run the risk of turning human beings into commodities that can be discarded at will.

Also, embryonic stem cells have shown little promise in treating diseases. Adult stem cell research, which does not involve the destruction of human embryos, has proven far more effective.

A number of British public officials are outraged at the prospect of research involving human clones.

"This is the start of a slippery slope," Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe told the British press. "It is unnecessary to use embryo stem cells when many scientists believe stem cells taken from adults could be used."

Stojkovic’s application to carry out the experiment is scheduled to be heard before the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Wednesday. However, the Observer has reported that the proposal has already been given tacit approval.

Cloning human embryos for scientific experimentation is legal in Britain, although cloning for reproduction is still banned. Those convicted of reproductive cloning face the possibility of a ten-year jail sentence and unlimited fines.

Yet, support for cloning experiments is far from universal. Stojkovic could not get approval for his research at his previous job at Munich University in Germany. He also failed to receive funding for his projects there.

Stojkovic’s Newcastle group has already produced a line of embryonic stem cells now stored at the UK Stem Cell Bank near Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.

In February, scientists in South Korea cloned the first human embryo, in an experiment that involved some 242 eggs taken from 16 volunteers.

Yet, a number of scientists have insisted that cloning for research is both unethical and unnecessary.

Dr. John Wyatt, an expert in neonatal pediatrics in London, said, "I and many of my fellow health professionals share a profound disquiet about the introduction of therapeutic cloning. Many of us are actively involved in research to find novel therapies for life-threatening and disabling conditions."

Related web sites:
Society for the Protection of Unborn Children –