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What Would You Do to Have a Baby?

Send in the Clones
WebMD Feature

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 Raël, the leader of an international religious group that claims life on Earth was created scientifically through genetic engineering by extraterrestrials.

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 illegal."

"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.

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