What Would You Do to Have a Baby?
Send in the Clones
July 9, 2001 -- The urge to reproduce -- to pass on one's own
genetic material at any cost -- can lead animals to attack and kill rivals,
mates, and unrelated young.
But humans have evolved beyond all that -- haven't we? Not so
fast. We may not be killing to create, but read the headlines and you may be
surprised at the lengths to which some people are prepared to go to ensure
their shot at genetic immortality.
Immortality -- or immorality?
"Adoption is always an option, but many couples want a
child with their own genes, even if that means cloning," says Panayotis
Zavos, EdS, PhD, associate director of the Kentucky Center for Reproductive
Medicine. Exhibit A: a couple who hope to replace their dead baby daughter with
an infant cloned from her genetic material.
Eager to help fill the void is Clonaid, a human-cloning company
created by RaÃ«l, the leader of an international religious group that claims
life on Earth was created scientifically through genetic engineering by
Still others make no bones about their own bid for immortality,
wanting to re-create themselves in miniature.
"Having babies is fun, and having clones would be even more
fun," Richard G. Seed, PhD, tells WebMD. "Having a little Richard Seed
in the house would be great!"
When Zavos, Clonaid, and others announced plans to attempt
human cloning within two years, American politicians introduced legislation to
prohibit it, fearing that the FDA might be powerless to exercise its
jurisdiction over this emotionally charged issue. The House is now debating a
bipartisan bill imposing a minimum $1 million civil fine for any efforts at
human cloning. President Bush has made it clear he would sign any bill
outlawing cloning in the U.S.
"In the last 20 to 30 years, the Supreme Court established
reproductive rights that the government can't interfere with," says Seed, a
physicist with expertise in infertility treatment. "You would have to go
through difficult contortions of logic to make abortion legal, but cloning
"We're not as revolutionary as the so-called ethicists call
us," says Zavos, president of his own company, which markets infertility
technology worldwide. "Like any novel pioneering development, people are
afraid of it, but they're going to have to learn to live with it."
To Clone or Not to Clone?
As in the case of the atom bomb, say cloning critics, just
because we have the technology doesn't mean we should use it. With human
cloning, experts raise serious practical as well as ethical issues that call
the technology itself into question.
"Cloning mammals has been thus far a dismal record of
failures -- dead, dying, and deformed clones, and threats to the health and
life of the females bearing cloned fetuses," Thomas H. Murray, PhD,
president of the Hastings Center in Garrison, N.Y., tells WebMD.