Therapeutic Cloning to Obtain Embryonic Stem Cells Is Immoral “The point is to cause each of us to think deeply about whether there is any essential difference between the reality of [World War II] Nazi experiments and ‘therapeutic cloning. ‘” In this two-part viewpoint, David A. Prentice and William Saunders discuss the science and the ethics of therapeutic cloning. In the first part, Prentice argues that creating clones for the purpose of embryonic stem cell research, called “therapeutic cloning,” is no different from reproductive cloning, which creates a living human child. Also, he points out, therapeutic cloning is not therapeutic for the embryo. In the second part of the viewpoint, Saunders builds on Prentice’s argument and goes even further. He argues that therapeutic cloning is really no different than the horrific experiments performed by the Nazis during World War II. Saunders notes that supporters of embryonic stem cell research contend that the research is beneficial to humankind; however, Saunders argues, the Nazis used this same reasoning to justify research on the mentally ill, the disabled, and the feeble-minded. Prentice and Saunders are senior fellows at the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian think tank and lobbying organization. As you read, consider the following questions: 1. Why does Prentice claim that therapeutic cloning will lead to reproductive cloning? 2. What was the point of the Nuremberg Code, according to Saunders? 3. Why does Saunders say that therapeutic cloning violates the Nuremberg Code? Part I Cloning always starts with an embryo. The most common technique proposed for human cloning is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This cloning is accomplished by transferring the nucleus from a human somatic (body) cell into an egg cell which has had its chromosomes removed or inactivated. SCNT produces a human embryo who is virtually genetically identical to an existing or previously existing human being. Proponents of human cloning hold out two hopes for its use: (1) the creation of children for infertile couples (so-called “reproductive cloning”), and (2) the development of medical miracles to cure diseases by harvesting embryonic stem cells from the cloned embryos of patients (euphemistically termed “therapeutic cloning”). All Human Cloning Produces a Human Being All human cloning is reproductive. It creates—reproduces—a new, developing human intended to be virtually identical to the cloned subject. Both “reproductive cloning” and “therapeutic cloning” use exactly the same technique to create the clone, and the cloned embryos are indistinguishable. The process, as well as the product, is identical. The clone is created as a new, single-cell embryo and grown in the laboratory for a few days. Then it is either implanted in the womb of a surrogate mother (“reproductive cloning”) or destroyed to harvest its embryonic stem cells for experiments (“therapeutic cloning”). It is the same embryo, used for different purposes. In fact, the cloned embryo at that stage of development cannot be distinguished under the microscope from an embryo created by fertilization joining egg and sperm. Trying to call a cloned embryo something other than an embryo is not accurate or scientific. Biologically and genetically speaking, what is created is a human being; its species is Homo sapiens. It is neither fish nor fowl, neither monkey nor cow—it is human…. Created in Order to Be Destroyed Therapeutic cloning” is obviously not therapeutic for the embryo. The new human is specifically created in order to be destroyed as a source of tissue [, as Robert P. Lanza and colleagues report in a 2000 JAMA article]: “[Therapeutic cloning] requires the deliberate creation and disaggregation of a human embryo. ” Most cloned embryos do not even survive one week, to the blastocyst stage, when they are destroyed in the process of harvesting their cells. Experiments with lab animals show that even these early embryos have abnormalities in genetic expression…. Beyond the abnormalities caused by the cloning procedure, embryonic stem cells from cloned embryos will still face problems for their use, including the tendency to form tumors, and significant difficulties in getting the cells to form the correct tissue and function normally…. Therapeutic Cloning Leads to Reproductive Cloning Because there is no difference in the nuclear transfer technique or the cloned embryo, allowing “therapeutic cloning” experimentation to proceed will inevitably lead to “reproductive cloning. ” The technique can be practiced and huge numbers of cloned embryos produced. In fact, the lead scientist of the South Korean team that first cloned human embryos in February 2004 in a press conference on their experiments that the cloning technique developed in their laboratory “cannot be separated from reproductive cloning. ” His statement affirms what others have pointed out before: allowing therapeutic cloning simply prepares the way for reproductive cloning. Human cloning is unsafe and unnecessary. There are no valid or compelling grounds—scientific or medical—to proceed. A comprehensive ban on human cloning is the only sufficient answer. Part II As Dr. Prentice has shown, cloning indisputably destroys innocent human life. This basic truth should lead the world to reject human cloning. However, in an effort to extricate human cloning from this ethical vise grip, its supporters attempt to draw a distinction between human life, which begins at conception, and human “personhood,” which begins only at their say-so. Unfortunately, the arbitrary denial of “personhood” to human beings has a long and cruel history. The Nuremberg Code, formulated in the years after World War II, is particularly instructive with regard to the current debate on human cloning. For instance, when the principal author of the report on human cloning issued by the National Academy of Sciences testified before the President’s Council on Bioethics, he stated that “reproductive cloning” would violate the Nuremberg Code: “The Nuremberg Code, with which I am in full agreement, outlines those kinds of things you would not simply [do] for the sake of knowledge that involve human subjects. ” The Nuremberg Code The Nuremberg Code is a body of ethical norms enunciated by the Nuremberg Tribunal, which, after World War II, had the responsibility of judging the actions of the Nazis and their allies. The point of the code was to restate and apply the established ethical norms of the civilized world. Nazis Deemed Some Life Unworthy Nazi laws had defined Jews and other “undesirables” as non-persons. Eventually, between six and nine million of these “undesirables” were sent to extermination camps and killed. However, before the killing in the camps began, the Nazis had engaged in an extensive campaign of euthanasia against the mentally and physically handicapped, which not only foreshadowed but also prepared the way for the extermination camps. In his book The Nazi Doctors, Robert Jay Lifton draws our attention to a book titled The Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life, written during the campaign. Lifton writes: [It was] published in 1920 and written jointly by two … German professors: the jurist Karl Binding … and Alfred Hoche, professor of psychiatry at the University of Freiburg. Carefully argued in the numbered-paragraph form of the traditional philosophical treatise, the book included as “unworthy life” not only the incurably ill but large segments of the mentally ill, the feeble-minded, and retarded and deformed children…. T]he authors professionalized and medicalized the entire concept; destroying life unworthy of life was “purely a healing treatment” and a “healing” work. The Nazis were determined to “cleanse” the genetic pool to produce “better” Aryans. Nazi officials announced that “under the direction of specialists … all therapeutic possibilities will be administered according to the latest scientific knowledge. ” The result of this therapeutic treatment of “inferior” lives was that “eventually a network of some thirty killing areas within existing institutions was set up throughout Germany and in Austria and Poland. In their book, The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code, George Annas and Michael Grodin reveal that: At the same time that forced sterilization and abortion were instituted for individuals of “inferior” genetic stock, sterilization and abortion for healthy German women were declared illegal and punishable (in some cases by death) as a “crime against the German body. ” As one might imagine, Jews and others deemed racially suspect were exempted from these restrictions. On November 10, 1938, a Luneberg court legalized abortion for Jews. A decree of June 23, 1943, allowed for abortions for Polish workers, but only if they were not judged “racially valuable. ” Later, the Nazis created the extermination camps for the Jews and other “inferior” races. In the camps, Nazi doctors engaged in cruel experiments on the Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and others. They exposed them to extreme cold to determine the temperature at which death would occur. They injected them with poisons to see how quickly certain lethal elements moved through the circulatory system. They subjected twins to all manner of disabling and brutal experiments to determine how genetically identical persons reacted to different conditions. Some of the experiments were nonetheless designed to preserve life—not of the subject, but of, for example, German pilots who were forced to parachute into freezing ocean waters. Everyone agrees the Nuremberg Code prohibits “reproductive cloning. What relevance does it have for “therapeutic cloning? ” If human embryos are human beings, then “therapeutic cloning,” which creates an embryo only to destroy it in the process of exploiting its stem cells, violates a cardinal principle of the Nuremberg Code: There is to be no experimentation on a human subject when it is known that death or disabling injury will result. Regardless of the good that might be produced by such experiments, the experiments are of their very nature an immoral use of human beings…. Subverting the Meaning of Healing Recall how the Nazis subverted the meaning of healing. Recall how they used the term “therapeutic” to describe not the helping of suffering people, but the killing of them. Recall that the Nazis eliminated those “unworthy of life” in order to improve the genetic stock of Germany. Recall how the Nazis undertook lethal experiments on concentration camp inmates in order, in some cases, to find ways to preserve the lives of others. The point is not to suggest that those who support “therapeutic cloning” are, in any sense, Nazis. Rather, the point is to cause each of us to think deeply about whether there is any essential difference between the reality of those Nazi experiments and “therapeutic cloning. ” As we have shown, each case involves a living human being, and that human being is killed in the aim of a perceived “higher” good. Cloning proponents try to distinguish between the two cases by saying that the cloned human being has no “potential. But in each case, it is the actions of other human beings that rob the first of “potential” (in the first case, the actions of Nazi executioners; in the second, the laboratory technicians). In either case, the human subject is full of potential simply by being a living human being. Of course, almost miraculously, many of the inmates of the camps did survive when the allies rescued them. Equally miraculously, frozen embryos have been implanted in a woman’s womb and brought to live (and healthy) birth. As we have shown, every embryo is not merely “potentially” a life, but [is an] actual life, a human being from the first moment of existence. Furthermore, any living human embryo has the inherent “potential” to develop into a healthy baby. It is disingenuous for supporters of cloning to claim the cloned human embryo is only “potential life” because they plan to mandate by law that it be destroyed before it can come to birth. Regardless of its location, the human embryo, by its nature, is full of potential, unless the actions of adult human beings deprive it of the opportunity to realize that potential. Guard Against Inhuman Acts [Russian author] Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a man who chronicled and suffered under another ideology that denied the dignity of each and every human being, observed, “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right though every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates. ” Solzhenitsyn did not regard the perpetrators of brutal crimes in his own country as inhuman monsters. Rather, he saw the essential truth—they were human beings, engaged in immoral acts. They engaged in those acts by dehumanizing the persons on whom their brutality was inflicted, and they did so in the name of (perhaps in the passionate belief in) a greater good. But Solzhenitsyn reminds us that, unless we are willing to admit that, for the best as well as for the worst of motives, we are also capable of inhuman acts, we will have no guard against committing them. No one is safe from brutality so long as we think that it is only inhuman others who are capable of inhuman acts. Rather, we will be secure when we are willing to look honestly at the objective reality of our acts, while realizing that we, too, are capable of acts that violate the inherent dignity of another, and refuse to engage in such acts despite the good we believe would result from doing otherwise. In the debate over the cloning and destruction of embryonic human beings, this essential truth must be our guide. FURTHER READINGS Books •Brian Alexander Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion. New York: Basic Books, 2003. Michael Bellomo The Stem Cell Divide: The Facts, the Fiction, and the Fear Driving the Greatest Scientific, Political, and Religious Debate of Our Time. New York: American Management Association, 2006. •Laura Black The Stem Cell Debate: The Ethics and Science Behind the Research. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2006. •Andrea L. Bonnicksen Crafting a Cloning Policy: From Dolly to Stem Cells. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2002. •John Bryant, Linda Baggott la Velle, and John Searle Introduction to Bioethics. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005. •Eileen L. Daniel, ed. Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Health and Society. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill, 2006. •Andrew Goliszek In the Name of Science: A History of Secret Programs, Medical Research, and Human Experimentation. New York: St. Martin’s, 2003. •Suzanne Holland, Karen Lebacqz, and Laurie Zoloth The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001. •Judith A. Johnson and Erin D. Williams CRS Report for Congress: Stem Cell Research. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 2005. •Ann Kiessling Human Embryonic Stem Cells: An Introduction to the Science and Therapeutic Potential. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2003. Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer, eds. Bioethics: An Anthology. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006. •Robert Lanza et al, eds. Essentials of Stem Cell Biology. Boston: Academic, 2005. •Jane Maienschein Whose View of Life? Embryos, Cloning, and Stem Cells. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. •Steven Paul McGiffen Biotechnology: Corporate Power Versus the Public Interest. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto, 2005. •Jeff McMahan The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. •Chris Mooney The Republican War on Science. New York: Basic Books, 2005. •Jonathan Morris The Ethics of Biotechnology. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2006. •National Research Council and Institute of Medicine Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2005. •Joseph Panno Stem Cell Research: Medical Applications and Ethical Controversy. New York: Facts On File, 2005. •Ann B. Parson The Proteus Effect: Stem Cells and Their Promise for Medicine. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry, 2004. •President’s Council on Bioethics The Administration’s Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Policy: Moral and Political Foundations. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 2003. President’s Council on Bioethics Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 2003. •Bernard E. Rollin Science and Ethics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. •Michael Ruse and Christopher A. Pynes The Stem Cell Controversy: Debating the Issues. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2003. •Albert Sasson Medical Biotechnology; Achievements, Prospects and Perceptions. New York: United Nations University Press, 2005. •Christopher Thomas Scott Stem Cells Now: From the Experiment That Shook the World to the New Politics of Life. New York: Pi, 2006. •George Patrick Smith The Christian Religion and Biotechnology: A Search for Principled Decision-Making. Norwell, MA: Springer, 2005. •Wesley Smith Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World. San Francisco: Encounter, 2004. •Nancy E. Snow, ed. Stem Cell Research: New Frontiers in Science and Ethics. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004. •Jennifer Viegas Stem Cell Research. New York: Rosen, 2003. •Brent Waters and Ronald Cole-Turner God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2003. Wendy Wagner and Rena Steinzor Rescuing Science from Politics: Regulation and the Distortion of Scientific Research. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. •Ian Wilmut and Roger Highfield After Dolly: The Uses and Misuses of Human Cloning. New York: Norton, 2006. Periodicals •Susan Kerr Bernal “A Massive Snowball of Fraud and Deceit,” Journal of Andrology, May/June 2006. •Alan Boyle “Stem-Cell Pioneer Does a Reality Check,” MSNBC. com. , June 22, 2005. www. msnbc. msn. com. •Malcom Byrnes and Jose Granados “ANT-OAR Fails on All Counts,” Science & Theology News, July 13, 2006. Joe Carter “Hype and Hypocrisy: Kinsley, IVF, and Embryo Destruction,” Evangelical Outpost, July 10, 2006. •Michael Cook “To Clone or Not to Clone,” Mercatornet. com, December 6, 2005. www. mercatornet. com. •Rebecca Dresser “Stem Cell Research, the Bigger Picture,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Spring 2005. •Steven J. DuBord “Heading for the Island,” New American, August 22, 2005. •Robert P. George and Patrick Lee “Acorns and Embryos,” New Atlantis, Fall 2004/Winter 2005. •Nicholas Jackson “Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Shades of the Third Reich,” Sierra Times, June 27, 2005. Nancy L. Jones “The Stem Cell Debate: Are Parthenogenic Human Embryos a Solution? ” Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, June 2, 2003. www. cbhd. org. •Ann A. Kiessling “What Is an Embryo? ” Connecticut Law Review, vol. 36, 2004. •Michael Kinsley “False Dilemma on Stem Cells,” Washington Post, July 7, 2006. •Paul R. McHugh “Zygote and ‘Clonote’—the Ethical Use of Embryonic Stem Cells,” New England Journal of Medicine, July 15, 2004. •Liza Mundy “Souls on Ice: America’s Embryo Glut and the Wasted Promise of Stem Cell Research,” MotherJones, July/August 2006. Jason Scott Robert “The Science and Ethics of Making Part Human Animals in Stem Cell Biology,” The FASEB Journal, 2006. •Wesley J. Smith “Pro Life Challenge: Biomedical Ethics, the Radical Depth and Scope of the Cloning Agenda,” National Right to Life News, January 2004. Source Citation: David A. Prentice and William Saunders. “Therapeutic Cloning to Obtain Embryonic Stem Cells Is Immoral. ” Opposing Viewpoints: Stem Cells. Ed. Jacqueline Langwith. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2007. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Brisbane City Council Library Service. 19 May. 2010 .
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