January 22, 2018

Guest Column

The dangers of human cloning

By Eileen Haupt

In the May 13 Guest Column, “The medical solution we’ve been waiting for,” a seventh grade student lauded the benefits of human cloning for the purpose of providing our personal supply of spare organs for transplants, and as a resource for cells, to treat disease without the complication of rejection. I find it troubling that this young student considers something as nightmarish as producing headless human clones for spare body parts as the solution for treating disease.

Treating diseases is a very good thing, but this country has historically respected the dignity of the human person in experimentation. A human clone is essentially a genetic twin of another human being. Using clones for “spare parts” hardly respects the human person. If human cloning ever becomes reality, the “cure” would be more horrific than the disease.

Cloning is fraught with ethical problems. It is unsafe, especially for women. It is also not necessary for the advancement of legitimate medicine.

Because producing human clones requires an enormous supply of human eggs, it will lead to the exploitation of women, as the eggs become a commodity. To acquire the eggs, women are given high doses of powerful hormones to stimulate the ovaries, forcing them to ovulate about a dozen eggs, and then undergo surgery to extract them. This retrieval process can lead to Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, which can be life-threatening or lead to long-term health issues.

According to Dr. David Prentice of the Family Research Council, cloning would require about 50 to 100 eggs to produce one cloned embryo. It is estimated that 850 million to 1.7 billion human eggs would be needed to treat those with diabetes in the United States alone! This would require about 85 million women of childbearing age to donate their eggs. Since the demand for eggs could never be met, coercion is a real possibility. It is impoverished women from third world countries who would be most at risk for exploitation.

Producing clones for disease treatment is simply unnecessary, because adult (non-embryonic) stem cell research is already leading to treatments of many diseases. Most importantly, adult stem cells, which are derived from body cells, usually from the patients themselves, do not violate human dignity.

Here are just a few of the many amazing treatments using adult stem cells:

> A 10-year-old British boy recently had a trachea transplant, using stem cells derived from his own bone marrow to cover a “scaffold” created from a donor’s trachea.

> Doctors at Boston Medical Center have treated patients with degenerative hip disease using the patient’s own stem cells, which were injected into the hip to generate new bone.

> Dr. Carlos Lima in Portugal treats patients with severe chronic spinal cord injuries, using stem cells derived from the patients’ own nasal tissue, which are injected into the site of injury. Many patients experience increased mobility, and some are even able to walk with assistance.

> A recent study showed that adult stem cells injected into patients who have had heart attacks repaired heart damage.

> Although not yet used in treating patients, scientists at Columbia University have created a jawbone in the lab using adult stem cells.

Much progress has been made employing ethical science. It is simply unnecessary to go down the road of Frankenstein science to treat human beings.

Incidentally, it is wrongly assumed that pro-lifers oppose all stem cell research. We do not oppose adult stem cell research. We oppose embryonic stem cell research because extracting embryonic stem cells always requires the killing of a living human embryo. Fortunately, all remarkable stem cell advances in disease treatment are the result of ethical adult stem cell research. Despite the hype, embryonic stem cell research has not yielded one successful human treatment!

Another point of clarification: we are misled to believe that so-called “reproductive cloning” and “therapeutic cloning” are two different processes. But they are not. The difference lies in how the cloned embryo is utilized. If the cloned human embryo were implanted into a uterus (not yet possible) for the purpose of being brought to birth, it would be considered “reproductive.” If destroyed for deriving stem cells or for experimentation, it would be considered “therapeutic.” In either case, the cloning process is exactly the same.

Finally, I’d like to address the student’s point about cloning leading to other scientific discoveries. Human cloning will lead to such horrors as fetal farming and genetically engineered human-animal hybrids. This is the kind of “scientific discovery” we can expect to come from human cloning.

Far from being “the medical solution we’ve been waiting for,” human cloning is the science fiction nightmare we must prevent.

Eileen Haupt lives in Jericho.

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