"Therapeutic" Cloning: The Great Divide in International Community

Along with Vatican, Many Countries Insist That It Be Banned

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NEW YORK, MARCH 1, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Human cloning continues to divide the world community. The U.N. Committee for an International Treaty Against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings was faced this week with two opposing positions.

While all major voices favor a prohibition on reproductive cloning (to produce children), opinions differ when it comes to so-called therapeutic cloning (for research).

Along with the Vatican, the United States, Spain, Italy, Uganda and other countries requested that no distinctions be made on the objectives of cloning, and that therapeutic cloning be prohibited altogether, given that it entails the destruction of embryos after stem cells are removed.

France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, Israel, Russia, China, and Japan, on the contrary, proposed that therapeutic cloning be permitted, sacrificing embryos to advance research.

The Holy See´s position was expressed by Archbishop Renato Martino on Feb. 26 when he addressed the Committee Against Reproductive Cloning.

The archbishop, who is the Vatican´s U.N. permanent observer, emphasized that the Catholic Church “supports a worldwide and comprehensive ban on human cloning, no matter what techniques are used and what aims are pursued.”

This position is based on “biological analysis of the cloning process and anthropological, social, ethical and legal reflection on the negative implications that human cloning has on the life, the dignity and the rights of the human being,” the archbishop explained.

Expressing the Church´s position, Archbishop Martino said the distinction between reproductive and therapeutic (or experimental) cloning is “unacceptable.”

Yet, “the Holy See supports research on stem-cells of postnatal origin since this approach is a sound, promising and ethical way to achieve tissue transplantation and cell therapy,” he said.

The U.S. position, expressed by Carolyn Wilson, was similar to that of the Vatican. Wilson said that to allow therapeutic cloning means to authorize the creation and destruction of human embryos solely for the purpose of experimentation.

This point of view, Wilson stressed, is repugnant to many, including some who do not believe the embryo is a person.

She warned that the prohibition on cloning must be total in order to be effective. Production of embryos for research would be virtually impossible to control — all kinds of abuses would be within a researcher´s reach, Wilson said.

Therapeutic cloning is a moral aberration, she continued, because cloned embryos are created but their implantation in a womb is prohibited, necessitating the destruction of a new human life, and penalizing efforts to preserve and protect it once created.

Wilson added that the results of research on animals do not support the thesis that the stem cells of cloned embryos are effective for medical therapy. Total prohibition, on the contrary, would encourage research on stem cells of adult individuals, which have proved to be effective, Wilson concluded.

The U.N. General Assembly is expected to decide in August whether to call for talks with a view toward an international treaty to ban all cloning.

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