| Q1. What Is Cloning? Human cloning is the creation of a human being, or a number of human beings, who is/are genetically identical to another. In the current debate, you are likely to hear cloning referred to in one of two ways: • Reproductive cloning refers to the creation of a new person with the same genetic make-up as someone who is alive or has lived. • Therapeutic cloning refers to using cloning techniques to initiate the growth of embryos in order to create new organs or cells for medical and research purposes. Q2. How Does Cloning Occur? Artificial cloning can be carried out by one of two techniques: • Embryo splitting is similar to the natural process which creates identical twins - the embryo's cells are separated at a very early stage of development to create one or more clones. • Nuclear replacement is the process that was used to create "Dolly" the sheep 1. It works by taking a cell nucleus from one person (eg from a skin cell) and putting it into the egg of another, whose nucleus has already been removed. The egg is then stimulated to divide, for example, by treatment with bursts of electric current, thus starting the growth of an embryo. The egg's nucleus contains all the chromosomes (genetic information) for the cell to start dividing and become a fully developed child (or lamb!) in due course.
Q3. Does Uk Law Currently Allow Human Cloning? Yes and No. The law currently does not allow any form of reproductive cloning to be licensed, but there is no explicit ban on cloning. The Government have made it clear that they believe "human reproductive cloning is ethically unacceptable and cannot take place in this country." 2 This is a very welcome statement. Nuclear replacement of an embryo, or any cell that is part of any embryo, is also prohibited. Nuclear replacement of an egg (like the process that led to Dolly the sheep) and embryo splitting are currently allowed in human embryos under the jurisdiction of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) only for short-term experimental use. However, the HFEA "has made it crystal clear that it will not licence cloning by embryo splitting for treatment purposes." 3 The HFEA also regulates the legislation which allows embryos up to 14 days old to be destroyed, frozen or researched on for specific purposes (laid out in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990). There would need to be an extension of the Act to allow the HFEA to license embryo research into "therapeutic approaches to disease or tissue damage"4, ie extending the Act for a new purpose. However, prior to the HFEA Act being in place, the Warnock Report of 1984 made it clear that human cloning should not be permitted, so any change in this policy would be contrary to the spirit of the law. Discussion about the law on cloning has not been restricted to the UK. • In March 1997, the European Parliament voted in a resolution to ban cloning of human beings. However, the resolution carries no legal weight. This policy area remains more obviously a matter for individual Member States, with national politicians bringing in legislation on human cloning. • In December 1997, UNESCO 5 published the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights. Article 11 bans "practices which are contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive cloning of human beings...". • In Strasbourg, the Council of Europe, with 40 Member States, produced a protocol banning human cloning which has been added to their Convention on Biomedicine and Human Rights, and was signed on 12 January 1998 by 19 Member States. However the UK has not yet ratified this Convention so cannot sign the Protocol 6.
Why Should Christians Be Concerned About The Possibility Of Reproductive Cloning? CARE believes that each one of us is made uniquely in God's image with genetic inheritance from both our parents. Reproductive cloning would change this because: • An individual would not have a unique genetic make-up (although this does not diminish the personhood of identical twins) and would be created for a specific purpose (eg to be a replacement copy of a sibling), rather than being valued for being their own unique personality. There would be considerable pressure on the child to suit or fulfil the desires of their parents. • Human life would be treated as just another 'product' or 'commodity', undermining the intrinsic worth and dignity of each individual if the characteristics of people were deliberately selected and chosen. • It would promote asexual human reproduction using a single cell. Cloning would not require the coming together of a man and a woman to create a new life. • It would confuse family relationships by blurring the distinctions between parent, child, sister and brother. For example, if a clone were created of a man in order to have a child, the clone, A, would genetically be the man's twin (brother), not his son. If the man's female partner also had a clone, B, this child would not have any genetic relationship to A, unlike normal biological siblings. The psychological consequences of cloning for the children created in this way are likely to be immense. We should also be concerned about the health implications of reproductive cloning. Recent research on Dolly the sheep suggests that she is ageing genetically faster than she should.7 How cloning affects the body is not known, although animal cloning has been associated with deaths before and after birth, and with unusually large foetuses.8 Finally, and very importantly, we should be concerned that successful cloning will mean the unacceptable destruction of numerous embryos. (The creation of Dolly is believed to have taken 277 attempts, but with some recent reports suggesting that it may have been over 400). It will also require the donation of hundreds of eggs from women who are prepared to have their eggs used to produce embryos that can be cloned. If insufficient eggs can be donated, then it is likely that animal eggs will be used as alternatives, eg cows eggs.9
Why Not Allow Therapeutic Cloning If It Will Lead To A Cure For Cancer? Sadly, a cure for cancer is the less likely use of therapeutic cloning, it is much more likely to be used to generate spare parts to replace tissues which are destroyed by degenerative diseases. The motivation to heal people of all sorts of diseases and pain is of course good. However, that does not mean that the end justifies the means. CARE is concerned about therapeutic cloning for the reasons we outlined above. In addition, the nuclear replacement technique is still at a very early stage and requires further development work. In fact, the most recent work on Dolly the sheep, created using this technique, has shown that she is not a pure clone. Dolly has genes from both the egg and the separate nucleus
Q9. Are There Alternative Approaches To Finding New Treatments That Do Not Involve Cloning? Yes. Current research suggests that adult stem cells from bone marrow can be transformed into other types of cell, eg, fat or bone. Other work suggests that neural stem cells taken from living human nerve tissue could in the future be used for the treatment of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Researchers in Canada and Italy have turned neural stem cells taken from an adult mouse into new blood cells. If this technique could be applied to humans, it would be a major step forward because use of a patient's own stem cells would greatly reduce the likelihood of rejection of cells from a embryo.13 The British Medical Journal remarked that the use of embryonic stem cells "may soon be eclipsed by the more readily available and less controversial adult stem cells."14
Q10. What Has The Government Done About Considering Cloning? In 1998 the Government asked the HFEA and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission (now called the Human Genetics Commission) to explore the ethical issues and the potential applications of human cloning. The conclusions of this review were published in the report Cloning Issues in Reproduction, Science and Medicine. This recommended that no human reproductive cloning should be allowed, but that 'therapeutic' cloning should be permitted. Following this report, in June 1999 the Government announced that more evidence of the potential benefits to human health from therapeutic cloning was needed before legislation should be introduced. An independent advisory group, chaired by the Chief Medical Officer Dr Liam Donaldson, was set up and reported a year later, in August 2000. The key recommendations made by the Donaldson group15 are: • Stem cell research using embryos created by IVF and using embryos created through cloning techniques (ie therapeutic cloning) which would increase understanding about human disorders and their treatment should be permitted. This would require an extension to the HFEA Act 1990, which currently only allows research for other, limited purposes. • Reproductive cloning should remain a criminal offence and if necessary a new Act of Parliament should be introduced to ensure this remains the case. • Another Act of Parliament may be required in the future to allow the application of this new embryo research on patients, in order for it to be used in treatment. • The mixing of human adult cells and live eggs of animals should not be permitted.
Q11. What Happens Now? It is likely that the debate on legislation to allow therapeutic cloning will take place in the autumn of 2000. The Government have said that they will give Parliamentarians a free vote on the regulations that will be needed to extend the HFEA Act. The regulation will be an affirmative instrument which means that both Houses will debate it and vote 'yes' or 'no'. There will not be an opportunity to amend the details of the regulation. The time allocated for this type of debate in the House of Commons will only be one and a half hours, which will not enable any real consideration or debate on the significant ethical and practical implications of changing the law to permit human (embryo) cloning. There is no time limit in the Lords. It is unlikely that there will be time for the primary legislation needed to outlaw any human reproductive cloning. However the Government has agreed that this legislation, and any other needed, will be introduced 'when the Parliamentary timetable permits'.17 There will be a short debate on using embryos for research into treatment on 31 October when Evan Harris MP, a Liberal Democrat, puts forward a Ten Minute Rule Bill on Stem Cell Research. This will allow Mr Harris ten minutes to persuade MPs of the case for this research and an opposing MP will also have ten minutes to speak. This Bill has no chance of becoming law, but will be the first indications of the views of MPs.
Q12. Where Can I Find Out More About Cloning? The Donaldson report, Stem Cell Research: Medical Progress with Responsibility, is available free from Department of Health, PO Box 777, London SE1 6XH, or from their website www.doh.gov.uk/cegc The website also contains details of the Government response to the Donaldson report, which has been printed as official paper, CM 4833. This is available from The Stationery Office (tel: 0870 600 5522) at a cost of £2.40. Further details on the safety and ethical issues raised by therapeutic cloning can be found in CARE's submission to the Donaldson review. The Movement Against the Cloning of Humans (MATCH) have a website, www.match.org.uk A group of distinguished America scientists, doctors and ethicists issued a statement in Washington on cloning in July 1999. Details of the statement and related papers can be found at www.stemcellresearch.org They can also be obtained from CARE. For information about why some people support the idea of cloning, go to the Human Cloning Foundation's web site, www.humancloning.org This information is also available from CARE.