Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Panayiotis Zavos: I've Cloned a Human!

Whether the news stories on Panayiotis Zavos’ latest efforts to clone a human embryo are a hoax or not, there is no doubt that a tremendous amount of scientific progress has been made since the 1997 announcement that a sheep had been successfully cloned; cloned primates and pets and the creation of induced pluripotent stem cells and human-nonhuman chimeras are just a few of the scientific discoveries that get us closer everyday to the prospect of a cloned human being. The ability to radically alter human reproduction raises fundamental questions regarding the nature of our humanity and the character of our society.

Thousands of scientists, scholars, journalists, religious leaders, and policy makers have debated and discussed the ethical implications of a wide range of reproductive technologies, citing ethical concerns from safety, kinship disruption, and the commoditization of reproduction to concern for genetic diversity and the threat of eugenic application. While the benefits of many reproductive technologies – genetic testing, therapeutic cloning, genetic germline modification, and chimeric modeling, to name a few – are still being debated, reproductive cloning is nearly universally opposed. Most believe it currently poses unacceptable safety risks.

The opposition to reproductive cloning has led to a growing effort to ban the practice at a state, national, and international level. All this activity led us to consider the question: Is there a consistent theme in the ethical language used to justify banning reproductive cloning? Does the language reflect the moral values and common goals of the world community or does it unwittingly set the stage to undermine procreative liberty and scientific progress by appealing to vague ethical principles that serve a broader political agenda?

Before we support a worldwide ban on cloning, we need to carefully examine the ethical language used and be sure it reflects the common good. We must watch carefully as human dignity is employed to ban human reproductive cloning, for it can set the stage for banning other reproductive technologies such as IVF, genetic testing and genetic modification as well as therapeutic cloning.

You can read our full analysis here.


Valerie Tarico said...

I read the full analysis and share your concerns about the "human dignity" standard. “Do no harm” seems much closer to a universal ethical principle (based on the research I’ve been reading) than “human dignity.” (some good brief essays are linked under Universal Ethics at or google Jonathan Haidt or Marc Hauser) I have a very strong investment in human dignity – which underpins my support for abortion, death with dignity, population control, the arts . . . all of which is to say we obviously do not have a consensual definition for the term.

nurse triage said...

Aweeesoomee... Wish i could clone my dog... :)

Sue Trinidad said...

Great article on Jonathan Haidt's ideas in the latest issue of Miller-McCune ( publication, btw, I highly recommend.

Kathryn Hinsch said...

Thanks for the pointers to Haidt’s research. I found this insight particularly useful to the topic at hand:

...As part of that early research, Haidt and a colleague, Brazilian psychologist Silvia Koller, posed a series of provocative questions to people in both Brazil and the U.S. One of the most revealing was: How would you react if a family ate the body of its pet dog, which had been accidentally run over that morning?

"There were differences between nations, but the biggest differences were across social classes within each nation," Haidt recalls. "Students at a private school in Philadelphia thought it was just as gross, but it wasn't harming anyone; their attitude was rationalist and harm-based. But when you moved down in social class or into Brazil, morality is based not on just harm. It's also about loyalty and family and authority and respect and purity. That was an important early finding."

While our key point about the misuse of the concept of human dignity stands, I can see how people with different worldview’s may reject our suggestion that opposition to reproductive cloning be based primarily on the ethical value of “do no harm.” Others may wish to emphasize the risk cloning could pose to kinship, religious authority, and purity of the human species.

Linda MacDonald Glenn said...

NBAC, under the Clinton administration, also referred to the notion dignity, but if I remember correctly, chose to recommend ban cloning for a variety of reasons, including because it "undermines important social values and will always risk causing psychological or other harms to the resulting child."
The full NBAC report can be found here:

Anonymous said...

I arrived here via author Christy Raedeke's blog. This will be on my Favorites from now on. Very interesting information.
Thank you.

Wyman Stewart said...

It's all coming! Cloned people, human-animal and human-insect. Memory erasing and memory enhancement, suggested by another post. If we can imagine it, then figure out how to do it, mankind will do it. We will see genetic hybrids never seen or imagined before; some with military implications. Compared to what is to come, Dr. Zavos is an ethical man!!!