WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- There are scientific, political and moral lessons to be learned from the human cloning scandal in South Korea, a U.S. bishops’ conference spokesman told a congressional panel.
Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of pro-life activities at the bishops’ conference, presented testimony Tuesday to the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources of the House Committee on Government Reform.
The hearing was entitled “Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research after Seoul: Examining Exploitation, Fraud, and Ethical Problems in the Research.”
The first lesson to be drawn from the scandal is a scientific one, Doerflinger said.
“Cloning researchers must go back to the drawing board,” he said. “After eight years of effort to clone human embryos, no one has achieved even the first step in using this procedure for human treatments” — so-called therapeutic cloning.
“This is the third time in eight years we have heard of success in cloning human embryos for their stem cells, only to find that the claim has little basis in fact,” Doerflinger observed.
“The other false starts were announced, in 1999 and 2001, by Americans,” he noted. “South Korea has no monopoly on misleading hype in this field.”
Doerflinger said the political lesson is that there should be “no more free ride for the cloning bandwagon.”
“The political agenda for cloning has long been divorced from the facts,” he said. “To win public support and government funding, advocates for human cloning and ESC research have long made hyped claims and exaggerated promises to legislators and the public.” ESC refers to human embryonic stem cells.
“The third and most important lesson is a moral lesson: Utilitarianism is not useful,” Doerflinger continued.
“Researchers have long been tempted to ‘cut corners’ on ethics, including the ethics of protecting human research subjects, to achieve their admittedly important goals,” he said.
“Therefore society, through instruments like the Nuremberg Code, has had to insist on moral absolutes such as ‘No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or a disabling injury will occur,'” the bishops’ aide contended.
“What is new is the dominance of a ‘new ethic’ that justifies such abuses in principle — a utilitarian calculus that relativizes and demeans human life and other values if they get in the way of the research prize,” Doerflinger added.
“Tragically,” he said, “this new ethic of ‘the end justifies the means’ has become virtually the official ethic of those seeking to justify destructive human embryo research and human cloning in the public and private sectors.”