This article originally appeared in Christianity Today on January 10, 1994.
It finally happened. Researchers at George Washington University successfully cloned human embryos last October. The experiment, the first of its kind to be reported, was intended to enhance current in-vitro fertilization methods. The result, however, has reinforced our greatest fears about biomedical research: It can—and will—do anything, regardless of moral or ethical questions. It is time to insist that a deliberate and careful process be established to guide biomedical technology.
Cloning may attract the most attention, but other questionable biomedical practices have become almost commonplace. For example, in Virginia, a child born a year ago without most of her brain is being kept alive on a ventilator. The child, dubbed "Baby K," cannot think, see, hear, or feel, yet receives care at her mother's insistence (against the advice of hospital officials). The hospital has taken the matter to court.
In 1991, the National Institutes of Health sought to patent over 2,000 gene sequences from human brain DNA. Many of us were astounded to learn that the United States Patent Office, aided only by centuries-old patent law, could offer such protection. The requests are still pending.
Almost daily we learn of startling and wondrous developments in our ability to control nearly every facet of human life. Such control—whether through efforts to lengthen life (or end it) or to create it in controlled laboratories—is becoming more readily available at a rapid pace. Despite the obvious benefits, some developments have begun to alarm researchers, ethicists, religious groups, and laypeople across the country. Each technological ...1