Ban Cloning? Why NBAC is Wrong
Hastings Center Report, Vol. 27, No. 5, pp. 12-15, September-October 1997
4 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2011 Last revised: 27 Apr 2012
Date Written: September-October 2007
With the emergence of mammalian cloning (by somatic cell nuclear transfer), and specifically the reported cloning of Dolly the sheep, fears of human cloning emerged. The National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) was asked to advise the President and country on how to respond. Working under great time pressure, the Commission agreed that human cloning is currently unsafe, but failed to achieve further consensus on the ethics of cloning in human subjects research and in reproductive technologies. Based on the current dangers to the human being (indeed, any mammal) created by reproductive cloning, NBAC recommended a Congressional ban of unprecedented scope, involving statutory prohibition throughout the public and private sectors of all somatic cell nuclear transfer with the intent of creating a child.
This article argues against the grain, maintaining that NBAC was wrong to urge such a ban. Cloning undoubtedly warrants regulation. Like any technology, cloning needs to be safe before used. But that counsels regulation, not a ban, which merely slows development of safe procedures. In fact, significant federal regulation already applies to cloning , through the oversight of human subjects research and the prohibition of use of federal funds for cloning. The gaps that need to be addressed are failure to oversee all privately funded research and weak oversight of reproductive technologies. This article advocates extending human subjects protections throughout the private sphere and greater regulation of reproductive technologies. To deepen and advance consideration of cloning over time, the article recommends the model embodied by the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) at NIH, an appointed expert body to review proposed protocols in full public view and vet difficult ethical issues raised. Such a body is needed to address the core issue that NBAC failed to resolve – whether there are any limited circumstances in which reproductive cloning, if ever safe, could justifiably be used.
Keywords: cloning, human cloning, reproductive cloning, assisted reproduction, reproductive technology, human subjects research, research ethics, research regulation, bioethics, law and science, law and technology, genetics, NBAC
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