Call for a Worldwide Ban on Human Reproductive Cloning
General Assembly 2006 of the National Council of Churches USA
Presented by the
Human Biotechnologies Policy Development Committee
"Genetic Science for Human Benefit" (1986); "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made" (2006)
In 1997 scientists at the Roslin Institute in Scotland announced that they had cloned the first large mammal, Dolly, a sheep. Since that announcement, hundreds of other mammals have been cloned. In this context speculation centered immediately on the prospect of an eventual human clone.
News of successful cloning, across a variety of species, has obscured a troubling fact: there were thousands, even tens of thousands of failures before a single successful clone survived. The successful cloning of Dolly occurred after 276 experimental embryos failed. Dolly died of premature old age. Embryonic clones might appear to succeed, but eventually develop fatal problems, or exhibit other gross abnormalities in later stages of development. Failed attempts resulted in:
· grossly deformed fetuses that do not survive,
· grossly deformed fetuses that survive but only in a variety of severely compromised states,
· animals that developed "inside-out" or of gigantic proportions,
· animals that age and die prematurely,
· a high frequency of animals that die from a variety of cancers,
· a variety of other genetic anomalies.
As many as two thousand human eggs were extracted surgically from otherwise healthy women for the experiments of Woo-Suk Hwang, the scientist who fraudulently claimed to have cloned a human embryo. Moreover, it came to light that women egg "donors" were in fact employees who had been coerced to participate.
In our current deregulated environment, tens or hundreds of thousands of failed human clones" could be created in the interest of someday cloning a human being that develops into adulthood. This future offends our moral sensibilities and diminishes us all as human beings. Human beings are not a means to an end, and certainly not experiments along a path to a dubious future. The prospect of even a single human embryo serving as a mere instrument in a cloning experiment (failed, or not) is morally, ethically, and theologically repugnant. The prospect that an apparently "successful clone" might be allowed to develop, but only long enough to die of developmental or other unforeseen genetic aberrations is abhorrent.
Many countries have already enacted comprehensive cloning bans, including Canada, Australia, and Germany. The United Nations General Assembly in 2004 passed a resolution opposing both research and reproductive cloning of human embryos. The President of the United States has stated that he would sign a ban on human reproductive cloning. The House of Representatives of the United States passed a bipartisan bill banning human cloning in the USA. The U.S. Senate failed to pass its own version, and as a result it remains legal at the federal level to experiment with, and create, human reproductive clones, as long as no federal funding is utilized. While several state legislatures have banned human reproductive cloning within their jurisdictions, still many states have not acted, leaving a legal opening for privately funded cloning experiments to proceed unhindered within the United States.
A) The Member Communions of the National Council of Churches USA recognize the urgent need to enact a ban on human reproductive cloning within the entire United Stales, and in all nations; and whereas,
B) The National Council of Churches USA is committed to advocating for a Moral, just, and safe development of biotechnologies for human benefit; and whereas,
C) The cloning of Dolly, the sheep, was achieved only after 276 experimental sheep embryos failed, and died' of premature old age; and whereas,
D) The experience of previous research results suggest any apparently successful human clones will eventually exhibit severe genetic problems, die young, or live lives compromised by cancers and other health problems; and whereas,
E) Even if experimental animals were used to ever perfect cloning techniques, there is never an absolute certainty that animal models adequately represent what would occur with human beings. The risk will always exist that experiments involving cloning of humans will fail horribly; and whereas,
F) Bringing even a single human being into the world as the experimental subject of a human cloning experiment offends our sense of human worth and dignity. Such experimentation is unethical, immoral, and theologically repugnant; and whereas,
G) At the present time, there are no known medical benefits to human reproductive cloning, nor is there any evidence that human reproductive cloning has any future potential for alleviating human suffering, Nevertheless, the threat that reproductive cloning presents to human-life and our moral and ethical values is such an extraordinary risk that prudence is the only proper course. Little will be lost by taking a cautious path, for instance by instituting a ban on human reproductive cloning, and using experimental animals as models as long as possible (perhaps forever); and whereas,
H) The number of laboratories with the equipment and expertise to conduct cloning experiments grows every day. Specifically, human fertility clinics currently have the equipment to carry out nearly all the techniques involved in human reproductive cloning. The-vast majority of these clinics, in the USA and around the world are unregulated and unsupervised by any authority.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Member Communions of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA call on the United Slates Congress to enact federal legislation that would attach criminal penalties to the creation of human reproductive clones. Likewise, we call on governmental agencies around the world to regulate and oversee laboratories with the capacity to create human reproductive clones. Moreover, we resolve to work in conjunction with Regional Ecumenical Organizations to urge the involvement of international agencies to establish standards for such regulation.