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Cloned baby saga is an ugly circus, says doctor
January 6, 2003 3:47am

Jacqui Goddard in Miami

Claims by an alien-worshipping chemist to have created a second human clone were denounced as a hoax yesterday as America's scientific community likened her to the ringmaster in an "ugly circus".

Brigitte Boisselier's announcement that a cloned baby had been born to a Dutch lesbian couple was met with scepticism because of her continued failure to submit "Eve" - another cloned child who she claims was born to an American couple last month - for independent genetic tests.

When she announced the birth of Eve last month, US television networks screened her rambling Florida press conference live, scrambling pundits to debate whether she really had created the world's first human clone.

Most doubted it, as Dr Boisselier's involvement with the bizarre Raelian cult has clouded her credentials. But her promise to provide proof still tantalised her detractors.

So, nine days later, news of the alleged birth of a second Boisselier-created clone drew little but scepticism.

"To me, the failure to produce test results signals one thing - that she is a fraud and this cloned baby claim is a hoax," said Art Caplan, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine's Centre for Bio-Ethics. "She can claim a clone on every continent, but no one will believe her."

Panayiotis Zavos, a Kentucky-based expert in reproductive medicine and cloning - who until last year worked in association with Severino Antinori, an Italian fertility expert who also claims to have a clone on the way - said he had no faith in Dr Boisselier.

"Anyone can stand up and look pretty in front of a camera and say: ``We have got it, we've cloned a baby', but where's the beef? In science, you don't cut corners, you don't tell untruths, you don't come up with these things without proof."

He added: "This is too ugly a show . . . it's an ugly circus."

Dr Boisselier says the delay in having the child independently examined is down to a lawsuit launched in Florida last week that calls for Eve to be placed under court protection - if indeed she exists - because she may be at risk and is the subject of a "dangerous medical experiment".

Miami-based child advocacy lawyer Bernard Siegel said: "Who does that child have who will speak up for her? She is being used like a guinea pig."

But Robert Lanza, who in 2001 became the first scientist to clone human embryos as a source of stem cells for research into potential cures for disease, accused Dr Boisselier of using the lawsuit as an easy excuse.

"This woman has a complete lack of credibility. She could have run these tests without revealing the identity of the baby or the parents to anybody. The lawsuit was just a convenient excuse that doesn't stand up," he said.

Rael, the leader of the cult who founded Dr Boisselier's Clonaid research company, has abandoned his Florida holiday and fled back to his headquarters in Montreal, Canada, following Mr Siegel's threat to serve him with papers ordering him to produce Eve in court.

Another crucial player in the cloning drama was also lying low yesterday. Michael Guillen, a former US television science editor chosen by Dr Boisselier to oversee "independent" DNA tests on the mysterious Eve, is revealed to have been working on the story in league with Dr Boisselier for some months. It emerged that he had been making a documentary on her work and hawking it around the major networks for more than US$100,000.

Friends say Dr Guillen is worried about his situation as Dr Boisselier has reportedly pulled the plug on his plans.

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