Singapore Allows Human Cloning for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 2, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Singapore Allows Human Cloning for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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by Paul Nowak Editor
September 2, 2004

Singapore ( — Human cloning has been prohibited for reproductive purposes in Singapore. However, the clone and kill process condemned by pro-life groups is allowed and the human embryo must be destroyed in 14 days, according to a law that passed Thursday.

Penalties for those who break the law were increased to 10 years in prison.

"There is almost unanimous agreement from the international community, local scientific and religious groups as well as our general public that reproductive cloning of human beings is abhorrent," said junior health minister Balaji Sadasivan in an address to the parliament.

Singapore, which has been attempting to attract stem cell researchers to the country, has some of the most lenient restrictions on biomedical research, and has recently spent over $1.8 billion into grants, tax breaks, and facilities for scientists.

But such measures have also attracted researchers on the fringe of biotech, such as Alan Colman, who cloned "Dolly" the sheep. Colman moved to Singapore in 2002.

Some parliament members expressed concern over allowing the cloning even for research purposes, referred to as therapeutic cloning.

Dr. Lily Neo warned the fellow MPs that therapeutic cloning "is a thin wedge to eproductive cloning" and that research should be closely monitored lest it be abused "by maverick scientists and researchers." Neo suggested that adult stem cells, such as those collected from cord blood, be used in lieu of embryos.

The law specifically prohibits the implantation of a cloned human embryo into a human or animal womb, as well as the developing of an embryo outside of a womb for more than 14 days. Penalties include up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to S$100,000 ($58,000 USD).

By prohibiting implantation, reproductive cloning can be banned. However, the law also mandates that any cloned human embryo must be destroyed. Pro-life groups say that means unique human beings will be killed.

Pro-life organizations have criticized the growing interest in embryonic stem cell research, as it invovles the destruction of a human embryo to harvest stem cells that have not shown any scientific evidence of being medically useful. Adult stem cells, however, have proven to be useful in treating various diseases, and do not require the destruction of a human life.

Focus on the Family founder and chairman Dr. James Dobson recently called the media’s coverage of stem cell research a "scandal."

"To ignore the scientific realities, to fail to report that embryonic stem-cell research is the less promising course of action, to allow people who are suffering to develop false hope about possible treatment breakthroughs, is an unconscionable betrayal of the public trust," Dobson said.

In the United States, President Bush put forward an executive order preventing taxpayer funding of any new embryonic stem cell research. Despite presidential candidate John Kerry saying the policy amounts to a ban on funding, the Bush administration has backed adult stem cell research with $190 million of federal funds..

Currently, New Jersey has the most extreme pro-cloning legislation in effect in the U.S., allowing for the cloning, implantation, and destruction of human life from the embryonic through the newborn stages of prenatal development, funded by state taxes.