These moral qualms must not stop medical progress

Share

An American biotechnology company's announcement that it has created an embryonic human clone has initiated the usual tirade of condemnation from those opposed to the whole idea of using human embryos for medical research. Opponents range from the Vatican to non-religious groups with more humanistic objections, such as Human Genetics Alert, a pressure group keeping an eye on the influence of big business on reproductive medicine.

An American biotechnology company's announcement that it has created an embryonic human clone has initiated the usual tirade of condemnation from those opposed to the whole idea of using human embryos for medical research. Opponents range from the Vatican to non-religious groups with more humanistic objections, such as Human Genetics Alert, a pressure group keeping an eye on the influence of big business on reproductive medicine.

Advanced Cell Technology said that it created a human embryo by the same "cell nuclear transfer" technique used to produce Dolly the sheep. It did it as part of the international effort to generate the "totipotent" (literally "all-powerful") embryonic stem cells that can be made to grow into any type of tissue. The intention is that, one day in the not-too-distant future, doctors might be able to treat many of the most intractable and debilitating illnesses of our age, from Parkinson's to cardiovascular disease, using the stem cells of cloned embryos.

An overwhelming majority of informed opinion argues that creating human clones in this way heralds a revolution in medicine. But what makes this technology so appalling for some is that it could also technically result in the birth of a baby "conceived" by the fusion of a nucleus from an adult skin cell with an unfertilised egg.

For the moment, at least, nobody, save for one publicity-hungry Italian doctor, wants reproductive cloning. However, an embarrassing loophole in British legislation, which the Government is now taking measures to close, means that there is nothing in law to prevent it happening.

It is vital that we allow human cloning to go ahead in order to allow the properly regulated "harvesting" of embryonic stem cells under the auspices of the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. An embryo up to 14 days old – the age beyond which it cannot legally be allowed to survive outside the womb – demands respect; it does not, however, demand equality with a child crippled by illness or an adult struck down in the prime of life by a degenerative condition.

The medical establishment strives to alleviate suffering. It is invidious to argue that a microscopic ball of cells devoid of any specialised nervous system or sentience in some way commands the same rights as a fully formed human being in pain and distress. The latest development in cloning should be welcomed, not condemned.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Science versus religion in the three-parent baby debate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee