British Government Allows U.K. Scientists to Clone and Kill Unborn Children

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Government Allows U.K. Scientists to Clone and Kill Unborn Children

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
August 12, 2004

London, England ( — Pro-life activists say the British government has made a critical mistake in permitting human cloning for scientific experimentation.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has given researchers at Newcastle University in northern England the go-ahead for the controversial research, in which human embryos cloned for their stem cells, then killed.

"It is very worrying indeed," Josephine Quintavalle of the pro-life group Comment On Reproductive Ethics (CORE) told the British press.

"No human life should be sacrificed for the benefit of anybody else, no matter how dramatic the promises are," she added.

"In this case it (the embryo) is only going to live for 14 days, but that is because we are only allowing it to live for 14 days," Quintavalle said. "The pro-life position on the human embryo is that no matter how you created it, it is a human embryo, it is a member of the human species, and therefore it has as much right to life as anybody else."

The head of the Newcastle research team, Professor Alison Murdoch, told the British press, that scientists hope to use the embryonic stem cells to cure diseases.

"The goal we are trying to achieve is to help people who have got serious debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, to potentially provide cures for them," Murdoch said.

However, a number of noted scientists say embryonic stem cell research shows little promising in curing diseases. They say that adult stem cell research, which does not involve the destruction of human embryos, has proven to be far more effective in combating illness.

And even a member of the British cloning team, Miodrag Stojkovic, admitted that isolating embryonic stem cells will take time.

"Even with ESCs [Embryonic Stem Cells] from fertilized embryos, it takes a year to get a fully characterized stem line," Stojkovic told the British press.

Cloning to create human babies for reproductive purposes is outlawed in Britain but "therapeutic cloning," or cloning for scientific experimentation, has been legal since 2002.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) warns that British authorities will regret permitting "destructive experimentation on embryonic human beings created through cloning."

SPUC spokesman Anthony Ozimic said, "As the dangers of so-called reproductive cloning loom ever larger, Britain will regret giving approval to the unethical, dangerous and unnecessary practice of so-called therapeutic cloning."

Ozimic added that Dr. Harry Griffin, one of the creators of the cloned animal known as Dolly the Sheep, has conceded that "Therapeutic cloning is clearly not therapeutic for the embryo."

Meanwhile, LIFE, another pro-life group in the United Kingdom’s, conceded that the decision to permit cloning was not a surprise, given the HFEA’s history.

"This decision is not unexpected, given the HFEA’s track record. Even though the HFEA has not granted all that was requested, this is a deplorable further step down the slippery slope. We should be ashamed of it," said LIFE’s national chairman, Jack Scarisbrick.

"We are all in favor of conquering terrible diseases. But we do not need cloning to do so. Stem cells taken from adults are likely to be just as good, if not better," Scarisbrick said.

Scarisbrick recommended that the British take a cue from some of their European neighbors and ban cloning altogether.

"We should do as the French and Italians have just done — namely, forbid all cloning. That is the civilized thing to do. As the French have said, cloning is a crime against the human species," he said.