The Cost of Cloning
It's a matter of time--a very short time--we're told by an infertility specialist, before a human being will be cloned, just the way Dolly the sheep was born four years ago. And for anyone who raises ethical questions, Panayiotis Zavos of the University of Kentucky, who is working on the project with Dr. Severino Antinori of Rome, explains that ethics has nothing to do with it. It's a medical issue, he says, and the experiment must be pursued in all fairness to people who need it in order to reproduce.
The genie is out of the bottle in the matter of cloning research, we're told. There's no stopping its progress.
Significantly, the strongest argument against it comes from the Scotch scientist who let the genie out of the bottle when he cloned Dolly the sheep. Ian Wilmut says it is "criminally irresponsible" to carry the experiment to human beings. He knows the cost: 98 percent of the embryos used in animal experiments are destroyed. It took 277 to clone Dolly, and the jury is still out on her life expectancy, since the cells from which she was cloned were six years old. A sheep cloned in December had abnormalities that made it an act of kindness to euthanize it, Wilmut told Time magazine, and he said it is almost a certainty that cloned human children would have similar afflictions.
Grieving parents are looking to cloning as a way to replace a child who has died. A lock of the lost child's hair is expected to yield the DNA. Infertile couples hope the DNA from one partner will fulfill their yearning to reproduce. People without partners anticipate a kind of immortality achieved by way of a scientifically produced offspring.
Absent from these scenarios is the act of love and self-giving that creates a child and makes parents. Absent also, apparently, is concern for the physical, emotional and psychological welfare of a child given life in this artificial way. Wilmut cites the irony of trying to make a copy of a dead child when the likely outcome is another dead child.
Experimentation is going on in many places, often in unregulated secret laboratories. The possibilities of nefarious motives evoke science fiction nightmares of robot armies and reincarnated master villains. So far, only one motive is certain: profit from a procedure with a big price tag. And that carries the very real horror of slipshod disregard for the dignity of human life.
We live in a time of scientific achievement. God is most always excluded from the dialogue when a project amounts to tinkering with the divine design. Some proponents point out that God gave humanity the intelligence to do new and wonderful things. True. But God also implanted the principles of natural law to guide human decisions. Just because something can be done is not a reason that it should be done. To find a reason why experiments in human cloning should not be done, we have only to consider the cost. How many thousands of human lives will be destroyed in order to produce one fragile clone?
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