Dolly the Sheep Scientist Flip-Flops, Favors Human Cloning for Reproduction

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 5, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Dolly the Sheep Scientist Flip-Flops, Favors Human Cloning for Reproduction Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 5, 2006

London, England ( — The leading scientist on the research team that cloned Dolly the sheep has flip-flopped his position and now favors the use of human cloning for reproductive purposes. Most Americans and most nations around the world frown on the grisly practice.

Professor Ian Wilmut previously said he was "implacably opposed" to cloning a human being to create perfect babies for couples.

But in his forthcoming book After Dolly, he argues that human cloning for reproduction should be considered once the science has advanced to the point that the procedure is safe.

Wilmut says he favors human cloning in order to eliminate the birth of mentally or physically disabled babies.

"Doctors should be able to offer at-risk couples the opportunity to conceive with IVF methods, break down the resulting embryos into cells, correct any serious genetic defects in these cells then clone demonstrably healthy cells to create a new embryo that can be implanted to start a pregnancy," Wilmut writes.

Wilmut uses verbal gymnastics to claim that human cloning does not create a unique human being. He says he sees no problem with destroying an unborn child born with disabilities and using any health cells to create a new person.

"[A]n early embryo is not a person and I see the use of nuclear transfer to prevent a child’s having a dreadful disease as far less controversial," he claimed.

Wesley J. Smith, an attorney and author of several books that monitor bioethics issues, criticized the British scientist.

"The slippery slope is sliding away even before we know whether humans can actually be cloned," Smith said.

"And of course, even if we could do ‘therapeutic’ reproductive cloning, it wouldn’t be very long before the solipsistic began to demand the right to enhance their offspring to fit parental desires–backed by many bioethicists and members of the scientific establishment who only oppose reproductive cloning now because it isn’t ‘safe,’" Smith explained.

A new poll conducted by International Communications Research last month found Americans strongly oppose human cloning.

Some 83 percent said they oppose human cloning to provide children for infertile couples and another 81 percent oppose it to produce human embryos who would be destroyed in medical research.

Meanwhile, the United Nations, last year, voted by a 3-1 margin to oppose human cloning.

It approved a statement urging member nations to "prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are compatible with human dignity and the protection of human life."

Smith explained Wilmut’s newfound interest in human cloning.

"Wilmut has always been interested in genetic engineering. A veterinarian, he first worked on cloning to permit animals to be genetically engineered so as to provide therapeutic substances in their milk," Smith said.

"He once said he had no interest in human cloning, but that assertion became inoperative when his animal cloning project went bust. Now he works in human cloning research at Edinburgh University," Smith added.

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.

Pro-life advocates worry that the same phenomenon will happen when Wilmut and or other scientists attempt to clone human embryos. Eventually hundreds, if not thousands, of unborn children will be killed in the process.