Cloning: A Policy Analysis

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Title: Cloning: A Policy Analysis
Author: Javitt G, Suthers K; Hudson K
Abstract: Cloning is a scientific term used to describe the process of genetic duplication. Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is the cloning technique that has drawn attention in recent years. This technique, in which the nucleus from a body cell is transferred to an egg cell to create an embryo that is virtually genetically identical to the donor nucleus, has the potential to be used for research, therapy, and reproduction. The term cloning invokes strong responses among Americans. Opposition to cloning arises from several concerns, including concerns about the destruction of human embryos, usurping Divine authority, interfering with the natural order, the exploitation of the women from whom human eggs are obtained, and the impact of cloning human beings on those who are cloned. Support for cloning originates primarily from its potential to yield fundamental new research insights and to lead to new therapies to treat devastating illnesses. A minority of Americans also would support the use of cloning to produce children. Within the United States, different religious, political, and academic organizations, as well as government advisory panels, have issued statements or recommendations regarding reproductive, research, and therapeutic cloning. These entities have reached divergent conclusions on these issues – with some advocating a ban on all cloning activities and others maintaining that cloning should be allowed, and even encouraged, for research and therapy only. These divergent views in turn are based on different underlying values, including the view of the moral worth of a human embryo, conceptions of human personhood and human dignity, the importance of human individuality, the imperative to heal the sick, the right to reproductive autonomy, and the proper role of government in socially charged and ethically complex issues. Currently, the federal government does not explicitly prohibit SCNT. Because it requires the destruction of embryos, SCNT to create human embryos cannot be undertaken using federal funds, regardless of whether the research is undertaken for the purpose of research, therapy, or reproduction. The Food and Drug Administration has stated that human reproductive cloning would be unlawful unless an application were first submitted to the agency. FDA also would need to approve the clinical use of any therapies derived from SCNT research before they were administered to humans. Several bills have been introduced in Congress to prohibit reproductive cloning. Some of these bills also would prohibit research and therapeutic cloning, while others would permit it. None of these bills has been enacted. In addition, twelve states have enacted laws explicitly addressing reproductive, research, and therapeutic cloning. Some of these states prohibit all cloning whereas others permit research and therapeutic cloning while prohibiting reproductive cloning. Many states currently are considering legislation addressing cloning. Many other countries have also entered the debate over human cloning and, unlike the United States, have passed laws that either ban all uses of cloning or permit research and therapeutic cloning while prohibiting reproductive cloning. The United Nations has been unable to pass a binding Convention against reproductive cloning because of disagreement among member countries concerning the inclusion of research and therapeutic cloning. Considerable media attention has depicted public opinion as fixed and relatively stable over time, occupying primarily distant ends of a philosophical spectrum – there is little media discussion of shades of grey in this debate. While it is true that a majority of the American public opposes the use of cloning for reproduction, and that this view is relatively consistent over time, opinions regarding the appropriateness of research and therapeutic cloning are more fluid. In 2004, the Genetics and Public Policy Center conducted a survey of 4,834 Americans about their attitudes concerning reproductive genetic technologies including cloning. The survey found that many Americans have incomplete or incorrect knowledge concerning the status of cloning technology. Consistent with the findings of previous surveys, the survey found that the vast majority of Americans disapprove of cloning for reproduction, and a smaller majority disapprove of the use of cloning to create embryos for research. Americans’ opinions about cloning are not firmly held and likely are being influenced by their positions on more familiar issues such as abortion and the value of biomedical research to develop new therapies and treatments for the sick. Given this situation, it is not surprising that lawmakers in Washington and in various state legislatures have not been able to reach consensus on laws to regulate cloning or on how cloning ultimately might be used in medicine. While human cloning technology is still in its infancy, the science is outpacing the public’s understanding and the formulation of coherent public policy. Therefore, the time is now to engage the public in discussions about the legal, ethical, and societal issues cloning raises. We hope this report will contribute to public understanding and to the development of sound public policy.
Date: 2005
Subject: Cloning, Organism/ethics

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