Grieving families seek clones

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The Independent Online
The scientists in Scotland who cloned Dolly the sheep have been approached by two families seeking to use the technique to produce exact copies of relatives, it emerged yesterday.

Dr Ian Wilmut, the team leader said that both requests had been turned down.

"One inquiry was from a lady shortly to lose her father and the other was from a couple who lost their daughters in an automobile accident," he told a news conference at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "I can't thing of any embryologist I know who would be interested in cloning a human being."

But despite fears that the idea of cloning an existing human being might take hold among the bereaved, the famous or the scientifically curious, Dr Wilmut said those were the only two inquiries he had received.

The birth of Dolly last February was the first time anyone had produced a clone from an adult animal and it raised the frightening possibility of cloning humans.

Dr Wilmut caused a storm of outrage when he said that human clones could be created in less than two years.

An exclusive Harris poll carried out for The Independent shortly after Dolly was born found that 72 per cent of the public thought such work "should never be allowed, and all research into it should be stopped".

A hastily-assembled session of the Commons Science and Technology Committee then published a report on an inquiry into Dolly, saying that despite the hysteria, it could envisage situations where the technique would be useful in human medicine.

It criticised the Government, then Conservative, for cutting funding for cloning research.

In America President Bill Clinton appointed a commission of scientists, lawyers and theologians to review the legal and ethical ramifications of cloning.

The group was faced with trying to reconcile the views of opponents of cloning who regard it as an affront to nature and demand a complete ban, and supporters who see it as a stunning scientific breakthrough with promising medical repercussions. Their solution was to propose a five-year ban on cloning a human being, but to allow the cloning of human embryos for private laboratory research.

"I share the concern, almost universal, that this technique should not be misused ... it should not be used to produce a copy of a person who is already here." said Dr Wilmut.