Dolly Scientist Can Use Human Cloning for Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 8, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 8, 2005

London, England ( — The British scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep has been given a license by British officials to engage in human cloning. The news has pro-life groups concerned that hundreds of unborn children will die just as hundreds of sheep died before Dolly was cloned.

Professor Ian Wilmut, of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh and a team from King’s College, London, plan to clone embryos to study motor neurone disease. They received permission from the British the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority.

The decision is the second occasion on which the British agency has allowed researchers to engage in human cloning. Last August the HFEA gave permission to a team of scientists from the University of Newcastle to use human cloning to destroy human embryos for their stem cells for research.

Dolly was finally created after 300 failed attempts, resulting in miscarriages and malformed offspring. Ultimately, the "successful" result, Dolly, aged too rapidly and had to be euthanized.

Wilmut plans to use the same technique, cell nuclear replacement, that he used to create Dolly.

Pro-life groups and other scientists decried the decision.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) referred to the decision as "a license to clone and kill" because days-old unborn children would be destroyed for their stem cells.

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, said, "Any license to clone and kill strikes at the very heart of our society’s basic rule for living together in peace, which is ‘do not kill the innocent,’ because the cloning process kills many embryonic human children at their most vulnerable stage of life.

A representative the British pro-life group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) told the BBC, "Human cloning remains dangerous, undesirable and unnecessary."

"Alternative therapies and research with adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells are already providing safe and ethical solutions in this field of medicine," she said.

Meanwhile, Professor Richard Gardner, chair of the Royal Society working group on stem cell research and cloning, told the BBC that "extending these techniques to attempt to produce a cloned baby is scientifically unsafe, ethically unsound and socially unacceptable."

Dr. Donald Bruce, of the Church of Scotland’s Society Religion and Technology Project, told the British Daily Mail newspaper that there was a "significant danger" that maverick scientists would misuse technology to engage in reproductive cloning.

"The decision to grant the Roslin Institute a license to create cloned human embryos poses ethical problems beyond the strict legality of the proposed research," he said.

In an announcement about the authorization, Wilmut admitted the cloning process destroys human life.

"Once the stem cells are removed for cell culture, the remaining cells will be destroyed," he said.