Therapeutic Cloning to Obtain Embryonic Stem Cells Is Immoral
"The point is to cause each of us to think deeply about whether there is any essential difference between the reality of [World War II] Nazi experiments and 'therapeutic cloning.'" In this two-part viewpoint, David A. Prentice and William Saunders discuss the science and the ethics of therapeutic cloning. In the first part, Prentice argues that creating clones for the purpose of embryonic stem cell research, called "therapeutic cloning," is no different from reproductive cloning, which creates a living human child. Also, he points out, therapeutic cloning is not therapeutic for the embryo. In the second part of the viewpoint, Saunders builds on Prentice's argument and goes even further. He argues that therapeutic cloning is really no different than the horrific experiments performed by the Nazis during World War II. Saunders notes that supporters of embryonic stem cell research contend that the research is beneficial to humankind; however, Saunders argues, the Nazis used this same reasoning to justify research on the mentally ill, the disabled, and the feeble-minded. Prentice and Saunders are senior fellows at the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian think tank and lobbying organization. As you read, consider the following questions:
Why does Prentice claim that therapeutic cloning will lead to reproductive cloning? 2.
What was the point of the Nuremberg Code, according to Saunders? 3.
Why does Saunders say that therapeutic cloning violates the Nuremberg Code? Part I
Cloning always starts with an embryo. The most common technique proposed for human cloning is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This cloning is accomplished by transferring the nucleus from a human somatic (body) cell into an egg cell which has had its chromosomes removed or inactivated. SCNT produces a human embryo who is virtually genetically identical to an existing or previously existing human being. Proponents of human cloning hold out two hopes for its use: (1) the creation of children for infertile couples (so-called "reproductive cloning"), and (2) the development of medical miracles to cure diseases by harvesting embryonic stem cells from the cloned embryos of patients (euphemistically termed "therapeutic cloning"). All Human Cloning Produces a Human Being
All human cloning is reproductive. It creates—reproduces—a new, developing human intended to be virtually identical to the cloned subject. Both "reproductive cloning" and "therapeutic cloning" use exactly the same technique to create the clone, and the cloned embryos are indistinguishable. The process, as well as the product, is identical. The clone is created as a new, single-cell embryo and grown in the laboratory for a few days. Then it is either implanted in the womb of a surrogate mother ("reproductive cloning") or destroyed to harvest its embryonic stem cells for experiments ("therapeutic cloning"). It is the same embryo, used for different purposes. In fact, the cloned embryo at that stage of development cannot be distinguished under the microscope from an embryo created by fertilization joining egg and sperm. Trying to call a cloned embryo something other than an embryo is not accurate or scientific. Biologically and genetically speaking, what is created is a human being; its species is Homo sapiens. It is neither fish nor fowl, neither monkey nor cow—it is human.... Created in Order to Be Destroyed
"Therapeutic cloning" is obviously not therapeutic for the embryo. The new human is specifically created in order to be destroyed as a source of tissue [, as Robert P. Lanza and colleagues report in a 2000 JAMA article]: "[Therapeutic cloning] requires the deliberate creation and disaggregation of a human embryo." Most cloned embryos do not even survive one week, to the blastocyst stage, when they are destroyed in the process of harvesting their cells. Experiments with lab animals show that even...
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