Cloning for dollars

Posted: May 31, 2005 12:00 AM

Last year, researchers at South Korea?s Seoul  National University became the first scientists to successfully clone a single human embryo. And just days ago, the team in Seoul raised the stakes again. They announced that they had found a way to clone embryos in bigger batches: eleven this time, possibly more in the future.

But instead of being chilled by the prospect of producing people on a kind of assembly line, many of our leaders have decided to throw all moral caution to the wind.

As soon as lead researcher Hwang Woo-suk announced the results, many in the media called for an end to President Bush?s policy on stem-cell research. The New York Times lamented that ?leadership in ?therapeutic cloning? has shifted abroad.? It blamed ?political and religious opposition? for ?hamstringing? American scientists by denying them ?federal support.?

The Washington Post was more measured, but it still concluded that the president?s policy ?has outlived its usefulness? and called on Congress to act if the president did not. To his great credit, President Bush has courageously promised to veto such a measure, which is soon to pass in Congress.

Lost in all the hand-wringing are some inconvenient facts for advocates of embryonic stem-cell research: ?Any potential therapy [using embryonic stem cells] is years away from being tested in humans.? That statement is not my assessment. It?s the assessment of that bastion of a secular business worldview: Investor?s Business Daily.

In its May 23 edition, the publication noted that there have been more than 250 clinical trials using adult stem cells. These trials have produced eighty therapies. One of these enabled a Korean woman who had been paralyzed for twenty years to get out of her wheelchair and take a few steps. This was after only six weeks of the treatment.

To date, there have been?read closely?no clinical trials and no therapies produced by embryonic stem-cell research. Unlike embryonic stem-cell research, obtaining adult stem cells doesn?t require destroying human embryos.

Now, if you?re thinking, ?Why not pursue both the adult and embryonic stem-cell research???think again. Besides destroying human life, the embryonic research being pursued by the Korean team and others involves human cloning.

And even the New York Times and the researchers admit that. But the phrase they use, therapeutic cloning, is a euphemism. As with so-called ?reproductive cloning,? a human embryo is being manufactured. As the Investor?s Business Daily put it, ?Attempting to make a distinction between ?therapeutic? and ?reproductive? cloning is like trying to say that eating for nutrition and eating for pleasure are somehow different.?

In both cases, we cross that line between human life as an end in itself and human life as a means to an end. As in the upcoming movie The Island, we are creating a class of human beings whose sole purpose is to provide the rest of us with spare body parts. That there?s little evidence that this monstrosity will even work is fittingly ironic.

This is why we need to support the president?s policy and to work to educate Congress. Human life is sacred, not something to be manufactured, used, and thrown away. What matters is doing right by life itself?and we can start by not believing everything we hear on the news.

For further reading and information:

Today?s BreakPoint offer: The BreakPoint Christian Response to Cloning resource kit includes information to help you make an informed argument for protecting the sanctity of human life.

David Stout and Timothy Williams, ?House Votes to Reverse Ban on Funding for Stem Cell Research,? New York Times, 24 May 2005. (Article costs $2.95 to retrieve when archived.)

Read a transcript of President Bush?s remarks on bioethics and stem cell research.

?Now Playing: Attack of the Clones,? Yahoo! News, 23 May 2005.

?Next Step on Stem Cells,? Washington Post, 21 May 2005, A18.

?Korean Stem Cell Success Stokes U.S. Debate,? Chosun Ilbo, 24 May 2005.

Learn more about the upcoming film The Island.

Bill Bishop, ?Partisan fractures reach into the countryside,? Austin American-Statesman, 23 May 2005.

Eric Cohen, ?Unorthodox Endorsement: Why Judaism Is Wrong on Stem Cells,? National Review, 24 May 2005.

William Saletan, ?Clone of Silence,? Slate, 19 May 2005.

See the Council for Biotechnology Policy website for more information on bioethics and biotechnology.

Charles Colson and Nigel M. de S. Cameron, eds., Human Dignity in the Biotech Century (InterVarsity, 2004).