Cardinal Murphy-O´Connor Assails Human Cloning

´Therapeutic´ and ´Reproductive´ Procedures Are the Same, He Says

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LONDON, NOV. 23, 2001 ( Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O´Connor of Westminster sharply criticized the United Kingdom government´s bill on cloning as a squandered opportunity.

In an essay in today´s Daily Telegraph, the cardinal states: «If the Government is serious about wishing to ban human cloning — whether for research or for birth — then it must ban it altogether.»

The High Court last week rejected the government´s proposal to allow human cloning only for experimental reasons. The cardinal states that the government´s emergency bill fails to address the fundamental issues:

«The Government´s proposed Bill does nothing to stop the creation of a human clone: it merely prohibits the transfer of the cloned human embryo to the body of a woman. The clone may be treated in any conceivable way, with no time limit on experimentation, as the High Court judgment makes clear. Experimental cloning is left wholly unregulated. The Bill merely prevents an attempt, in this country, to give the clone a chance of being born.»

The cardinal begins his essay stating: «I am convinced that the systematic manipulation of life through cloning, namely creating new lives for scientific research, is a dereliction of our ethical responsibilities. There has rarely been a stronger case for serious political attention to be given to a scientific issue.»

«Last week´s High Court judgment revealed a disturbing chasm in our legislation, by rejecting the Government´s intention to allow cloning only for experimental reasons. The Government has now introduced an emergency Bill in response to this judgment. There is indeed a need to act quickly, but the legislation must be well focused.»

At another point the cardinal writes: «The Government, meanwhile, has wished to argue in favour of cell nuclear replacement for such a purpose, while opposing ´human cloning´, suggesting that this would be banned.

«This court judgment makes clear that the technique of cell nuclear replacement — whereby a nucleus from an adult cell is inserted into an egg from which the nucleus has been removed — is itself the cloning of a new human organism. In other words, the Government is in favour of human cloning, provided the newly created cloned embryo is not permitted to survive.»

Cardinal Murphy-O´Connor adds: «Cloning results in the creation of a human life — an embryo that, if implanted in the womb, would grow up to be a baby. It is a way of creating new human lives, totally and radically divorced from the human act of love. A clone will have no father, as no sperm is used, and the ´mother´ will be reduced to the provider of an almost empty ovum.»

He then raises a question: «How many women will come under pressure to allow their eggs to be used to make a clone, with the promise that this will help to find a cure for a sick family member?

«To sanction the creation of new human lives with no genetic parents is an innovation with massive ethical and long-term social implications. The late Cardinal Winning was surely right to regard human cloning as crossing ´a moral Rubicon´.»

To advocates of cloning who point to the benefits of research on embryonic stem cells, the cardinal states: «There are two responses to this approach: it is unnecessary, and it is wrong.»

«It is unnecessary because human embryos are not the only source of stem cells for research,» he points out. «Science in this area is advancing with astonishing speed, and treatments using adult stem cells are already being carried out successfully on patients. In contrast, there are no existing treatments using early embryonic stem cells.

«Embryonic stem cell research has been much hyped, not least for commercial reasons. However, the fact that there are significant commercial interests involved through investments made in embryo research in this country should not dictate our laws in this area.»

The cardinal continues: «Experimental cloning is wrong because the end does not, in fact, justify the means. The end — medical treatment — is good, but the means involve the creation and destruction of new human lives. This is intrinsically immoral.

«An embryo is not an accidental collection of cells. … The embryo and the human adult are the same organism at different stages of growth and maturity. The embryo may not evoke the same emotional reaction as the picture of a developed foetus in the womb. But from a moral point of view, does size or appearance matter? Are not all of us ´collections of cells´?»

He adds: «When it considers the emergency legislation this week, Parliament needs to avoid all ambiguities and recognise that, far from banning cloning, the Government in fact proposes to allow cloning, provided the clone is destroyed. ´Therapeutic´ and ´reproductive´ cloning are the same procedure: the only difference lies in how we plan to treat the clone.»

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