More MS news articles for Nov 2001

Editorial: Cloning to improve lives

Updated: Mon, Nov 26 12:00 PM EST
Staff Editorial
The Chronicle
Duke U.

(U-WIRE) DURHAM, N.C. -- Saving and extending life represents a fundamental pursuit of the medical community, and Sunday's announcement of the first cloning of a human embryo serves as a stepping stone to that goal. The new capability -- which may facilitate procedures like growing transplantable organs using the patient's own DNA and treating such debilitating conditions as multiple sclerosis -- faces a myriad of ethical issues. But public officials must realize that stopping live-saving research may be unethical in itself.

This new scientific frontier has encountered understandable reluctance, even from some of its supporters. Although not human beings -- embryos are destroyed when scientists collect the necessary cells -- tissue made from human DNA deserves a certain degree of respect. Such tissue should not be created, left unused and carelessly discarded; research on cloned material must have a clear purpose, and scientists should not focus on this new medium for experimentation in cases where other, non-human testing will suffice.

These fears have prompted the Senate to consider adopting a ban on human cloning, following the lead of the House of Representatives. But officials must realize that scientists have only facilitated the creation of multiple human cells. Completely banning cloning, a reactionary measure, is shortsighted and takes the United States out of the new field at a crucial time in its development; even if U.S. scientists are unable to proceed, cloning research will continue elsewhere.

If anything, the government should assert itself in creating a strong set of regulations and assigning this responsibility to a well-defined organization that will enforce those rules. Only by involving themselves in the process can U.S. officials hope to steer human research in a responsible manner. These regulations should not be the outgrowth of a congressional committee or a convention of scientists; they should involve a conglomeration of input from professionals coming from many different fields that considers the medical, moral and social implications of cloning research and its medical applications.

Too many lives could benefit from this research to let extremists bring it to a grinding halt. Cloning's vast menagerie of possibilities must be directed so that it can benefit the health of many while preserving the dignity of the lives its beneficiaries lead. As long as this legitimate scientific benefit exists, research into uses of cloned human cells should continue.

(C) 2001 The Chronicle via U-WIRE