Massachusetts scientists announced on Sunday that they had conducted the first successful human cloning—successful as in "the operation was a success, but the patient died."
But that doesn't bother them because these scientists were not interested in the clones' survival. They considered these cloned human embryos as a step on the journey toward new medical therapies. Therefore, these were not persons. Therefore, the fact that they didn't survive isn't an ethical problem. "Biologically, scientifically, the entities we're creating are not an individual," said Michael West, president of Advanced Cell Technology. "They're only cellular life. They're not a human life."
People have been wondering about Advanced Cell Technology's ethical sensibilities for some time. Earlier this year, two prominent ethicists resigned from ACT's ethics advisory board because the company was paying for the use of their names, but wasn't seeking their advice.
ACT's impaired ethical sense reflects the disappearance of the Hippocratic vision for medicine. That abandonment of that vision was described by Nigel Cameron in The New Medicine: Life and Death after Hippocrates and in a 1995 Christianity Today editorial. In the inflated rhetoric about therapeutic cloning, ACT's scientists seem to have forgotten Hippocrates' first rule: First, do no harm.
Harm, of course, is exactly what came to the human embryos they tried to clone.
The U.S. Congress is not so sanguine about human cloning, and a bill to ban cloning was on the agenda before the September 11 atrocities. We understand why that bill has been ignored in recent months, but this announcement spur cautious denunciations from both sides of the aisle. Perhaps it will also spur ...1
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