National Report Recommends Ban on Human Cloning
By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, January 22, 2002 (ENS) - A new report by the National Academies argues that the United States should ban human reproductive cloning aimed at creating a child, but permit cloning that creates embryonic stem cells for clinical and research purposes. The report is intended to address only the scientific and medical aspects of cloning, plus ethical issues that pertain to research with human subjects.
"Data on the reproductive cloning of animals demonstrate that only a small percentage of attempts are successful, many of the clones die during all stages of gestation, newborn clones often are abnormal or die, and the procedures may carry serious risks for the mother," said Irving Weissman, chair of the panel that wrote the report and a professor of pathology, cancer biology and developmental biology at Stanford University.
"The proposed ban on human cloning should be reviewed within five years," added Weissman, "but it should be reconsidered only if a new scientific review indicates that the procedures are likely to be safe and effective, and if a broad national dialogue on societal, religious, and ethical issues suggests that reconsideration is warranted."
The report was issued by a panel of scientists sponsored by the National Academies, which includes the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.
To date, five mammalian species - sheep, cattle, pigs, goats and mice - have been used in reproductive cloning studies. Data from these experiments illustrates the problems involved, and the fact that very few cloning attempts are successful.
Many clones die in utero - even at late stages or soon after birth - and those that survive frequently suffer from severe birth defects. In addition, female animals carrying cloned fetuses may face serious risks, including death from cloning related complications.
Human reproductive cloning is likely to have similar negative outcomes, the report concludes.
Some proponents of human reproductive cloning have argued that voluntary, informed consent would give people the option of making their own decisions about participating in research. But when critical information is lacking, as it would be in this case, fully informing patients of potential health effects is difficult or impossible.
Moreover, cloned offspring - who would face the greatest risks of abnormality and death - would not be in a position to offer consent. These circumstances provide additional reasons to exercise caution, the report says.
The report said that their proposed ban on human cloning should be reviewed within five years, but should be reconsidered only if a new scientific review indicates that the procedures are likely to be safe and effective.
The full report, called "Scientific and Medical Aspects of Human Reproductive Cloning," is available at: http://www.nas.edu/