Bioethics: Cloning concerns must be addressedby David PerrinNews Weekly
, February 23, 2002
Prime Minister John Howard and the state and territory leaders have ordered a major review of Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) laws because of the possibility of human cloning and community concern about unethical practices of destroying human embryos to obtain stem cells.
As a result, all state and territory Health Ministers have until June 2002 to come up with satisfactory new laws.
Before last year’s federal election a large number of community leaders signed a statement opposing human cloning and also using stem cells from human embryos that cause the embryo to die. They recommended that stem cells for new medical research be obtained from adults.
Anglican Archbishops from Sydney and Adelaide; Catholic Archbishops from Melbourne, Sydney and Perth; together with religious leaders from the Uniting Church, Baptist Church, Orthodox and Jewish communities, all signed the statement.
A submission to Prime Minister John Howard from a number of pro-family groups is pressing politicians to bring in laws that respect the dignity of human beings. They want any new laws to include the following principles:
Cloning of humans must be prohibited.
- Human life be defined in legislation as beginning at the formation of an embryo.
- Every human life is unique and must be protected from this formative embryonic state until natural death.
- That medical research be conducted in an ethical manner.
- That the public interest should be served and not the interest of the scientific community.
- The elected representatives acting on behalf of the people of Australia should supervise and regulate ART.
- That legislation should be uniform throughout Australia.
- That scientists not import into Australia embryonic stem cells obtained by unethical procedures that are prohibited.
- That medical research be based on evidence and accurate disclosure of the outcomes of that research.
The cloning of human beings is unethical and against the dignity of the human race. Accordingly, cloning of babies must be banned.Human embryos must not be destroyed to obtain stem cells.
Scientists must not be allowed to destroy human embryos in order to obtain stem cells for medical research even if they claim therapeutic benefits for other humans. That is, the end does not justify the means. The Senate Select Committee Report on Human Embryo Experimentation
concluded that the human embryo should not be used for experimental purposes except where the intervention is therapeutic for the embryo itself. Accordingly, the dignity of the human embryo must be respected and its life protected.Medical research must use stem cells from ethical sources.
Alternative, safer and longer established medical technology using a patient’s own tissue, placental or adult tissues as a source of stem cells has proven to be more successful in providing therapeutic value. These stem cells have the potential to advance medical knowledge without the ethical problem of destruction of the human embryo.Accurate terminology must be used.
Some scientists have used deceptive terminology to disguise techniques and the lethal effect on the human embryos. Terms such as "pre-embryo", "therapeutic cloning" and "reproductive cloning" are examples.
The European Parliament has declared the distinction between therapeutic and reproductive cloning a "sleight of hand" and the Australian Health Ethics Committee described it as "lacking in transparency" and "concealing" the truth.Transfer of reproductive material between human and animals must be prohibited.
The transfer of eggs, sperm and embryos between humans and animals must be prohibited. Animal/human hybrids are against the dignity of the human species.Using human embryos to assist the sick must be prohibited.
Each human embryo and child is unique in its own right and must not be exploited for the treatment of others. To produce human embryos and later children for the purposes of the provision of medical material for the treatment of a sick child or adult is unethical.Commercialisation of human embryos, eggs and sperm must be prohibited.
The buying and selling of human embryos, human sperm and human eggs is unethical and is against the dignity of the human species and must be prohibited.ART must be controlled.
As the federal government funds medical research and IVF through Medicare they should legislate. Alternatively, identical laws in each state may be effective.
A new federal authority that is not
dominated by medical scientists must control the guidelines and the administration of legislation. It must be adequately funded, with powers to issue and revoke licences and report to Parliament.
Accordingly, citizens who want to stop cloning and human embryo destruction must support the community leaders and tell John Howard to act.