1.0.2 At the dawn of the twenty-first century, which promises ever greater advances in scientific understanding, our primary concern is to ensure that these new advances are placed at the service of humanity, and are not allowed to become its master.
1.0.3 The moral outlook that informs our response is respect for the essential dignity of human life in all its stages. We do not assume a religious perspective. We hope the arguments we employ will be comprehensible to those of all religions and none.
1.0.4 We will argue that the manufacture of human beings by cloning is a threat to human freedom and dignity, and that this is the case whether the cloned embryos are intended to be used for research or for reproductive purposes.
1.0.5 We draw attention to the fact that the bodies conducting this consultation process may not be in a position to provide a balanced or impartial appraisal of some arguments. Membership of the HFEA excludes anyone who does not accept that it is ethical to manufacture, and indeed to experiment upon, embryonic human beings, and the chairman of the HGAC, Professor Colin Campbell is a former chairman of the HFEA.
1.1.2 We do not accept (as is sometimes implied) that our position on the issues of embryo research and abortion disqualifies us from participation in this debate. In addition there are many new issues raised by the prospect of cloning, in which our views may well coincide with those of others who do not agree with us on the issues of embryo research and abortion.
1.2.2 We also distinguish between fertility treatment which restores fertility to an infertile person (e.g. fallopian tube surgery) and fecundity treatment which allows the creation of a child without curing the underlying infertility (e.g. sperm donation, IVF).
1.2.3 We note that the distinction of reproductive cloning (specified in the consultation document as "human reproductive cloning") from "therapeutic cloning" is not a 'value free' terminology. While it distinguishes the production of human embryos intended to develop to maturity from the production of embryos destined to be used as a source of stem cells, for example, it implies that the moral status of the embryos themselves depends on what the technicians plan to do with them. This is an untenable position.
1.3.2 We would note that the clear intention of Parliament was to prohibit the creation of cloned human embryos, both for research and for reproductive purposes.
1.3.3 We also note that the HFE Act defines an embryo as "a live human embryo where fertilisation is complete." Since a cloned embryo has not undergone fertilisation, it might be argued that a cloned embryo is not an embryo for the purposes of the Act. If the courts were to adopt this interpretation, it would follow that the HFEA has no power to regulate the creation or keeping of cloned embryos.
1.3.4 In the light of this we would question the basis for the Government's assertion (consultation document, 6.2) that work which would create cloned human beings cannot lawfully be carried out.
1.3.5 The consent of the clonee to being used would not provide any kind of legitimacy for the procedure. Consent does not address the basic ethical objections to cloning, and given the novelty and uncertainty of the procedure, it is questionable whether the clonee's consent would be meaningful. Consent would in effect be simply a fig-leaf for the conscience of the scientists involved.
2.1.2 We believe there is reason to doubt the plausibility of some of these scenarios, and to think that other areas of research are more likely to advance these goals. But since this is not our field of expertise we will leave detailed criticism of the scientific proposals to others. We do not believe that these questions have any fundamental relevance to the moral acceptability of cloning since if the research involves fundamentally unethical practices, then the possibility of benefits arising can not make it acceptable. These issues are addressed more fully in our answers to Q1 and Q2 in section 4.
2.1.3 It follows from our stated position on the status of the human embryo that we would not accept the creation of embryos as a source of donated tissue, for any purpose, irrespective of the stage at which the tissue was used.
2.1.4 For reasons discussed below, we do not accept manipulation of the human germ line (which would include the mitochondrial genes of an embryo), for any purpose.
2.2.2 A defence of the argument against reproductive cloning might seem hardly to be necessary. The overwhelming consensus of opinion, both in the scientific community and generally, has hitherto been firmly against cloning and germ line gene therapy. But in the recent debate following from the birth of Dolly the sheep it is beginning to be suggested that human cloning could be of positive benefit to humanity. Indeed some go further. An American lawyer suggests that to deny infertile people the right to be cloned is 'tantamount to forced sterilization' (1), and that cloning must be regarded as a constitutional right in the United States (2).
2.2.3 While open support for cloning is still limited, we have seen how quickly opinion may be swayed by emotional appeals to the rights of infertile couples, and exaggerated claims about the likely benefits of research. Those with a principled objection to human reproductive cloning should therefore waste no time in spelling out the nature of that objection, and we intend to take this opportunity to do so.
2.3.2 The degree of control implied by cloning by nuclear transfer alone should not be underestimated. A woman would not necessarily be restricted to cloning herself or her sexual partner. A small tissue sample from any adult is all that is required. It is possible to envisage certain individuals offering themselves as cloning 'templates', for a small fee, based upon their looks and the results of psychological tests. This would enable a prospective 'parent' to browse through a catalogue of adult templates and in the expectation of giving birth to a child with looks very close to, and mental abilities fairly close to, the selected model.
2.3.4 Cloning by nuclear transfer alone might still seem to allow control over the genome only with a fairly broad brush - the clone must be genetically identical to a previously existing individual. This represents 100% accuracy, but limited specificity. But if the pool of potential clonees is large enough, the restriction becomes less important, and the scope for selecting required characteristics in the clone becomes considerable. This is why we consider the ethical problems of simple cloning to be essentially the same as that of genetic manipulation of embryos.
2.3.5 Since the issues of cloning and of germ line genetic manipulation are so closely linked, and since the ethical concerns raised by them are often identical, we intend to treat these issues together.
2.3.6 In the longer term it seems likely that artificial wombs will become possible. Since the problem we are considering is essentially that of increasing control over all aspects of human reproduction, we consider this possibility also.
2.4.2 A clone of an adult human being would be a copy of the adult only to the extent of being genetically identical. It would certainly be no more similar to the clonee, in appearance or personality, than an identical twin. (Since the clone would not share its mitochondrial DNA, womb, or childhood environment with the clonee he/she might be expected to be rather less similar than an identical twin). A clone would be born in the normal way and require to be raised as a normal human child. A clone would not be, in itself, any different from any other human being. (Unless, of course, radical genetic alteration had been attempted).
2.4.3 Since we do not hold to a naive genetic determinism, we do not share some stereotypical concerns about cloning; for instance that it might become possible to clone Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussain. Even if this were done, there is no reason to believe the resulting child would grow up to be an evil dictator. He would have no inherited knowledge of the life or deeds of the clonee and, if he had a radically different upbringing and early environment, could perhaps turn out to be a model citizen. Even if the clone grew up with similar moral deficiencies, lacking the particular circumstances that gave rise to Hitler and Saddam, he would be more likely to end up as a petty office dictator than a global menace.
2.4.4 Similarly, a man who wished to be cloned in order that his own life would continue after his death would almost certainly be disappointed. He would raise a child that would be his genetic double, but that would very likely (as children do) grow up with different interests, different politics, and his own ideas about how to conduct his life.
2.4.5 We hold that a clone, if one were ever produced, whether legally or illegally, would certainly have to be accorded the same rights as any other human being. It would be an individual in its own right, not an adjunct to or chattel of the clonee. Nor would the clone be the child of the clonee. (The problems associated with a clonee wishing to act as the parent of a clone are discussed below).
2.4.6 Our concerns about cloning do not arise from the nature of a clone itself (except for some very long term considerations which we discuss below), but from the effects upon the clones, and upon society, of turning the parent child relationship into that of manufacturer to product.
2.5.2 In the evolving democratic tradition of the western world the ideal of equality between human beings has assumed a fundamental importance. It is perhaps most memorably stated in the American Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..."; and is affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights".
2.5.3 Equality of dignity and rights does not imply equality of capabilities. But it is hard to see how equality of dignity and rights could survive the fact of certain human beings being created according to the specifications of others.
2.5.4 We reiterate that we do not hold to a simplistic genetic determinism. But to determine a person's genome is, to a large extent, to determine some of the major constraints within which their capabilities and aptitudes, both physical and mental, will lie. More so if (as would presumably be the case) the instigators of the cloning also have control of the child's upbringing.
2.5.5 It is inevitably difficult to assess how society might develop if this technology were to become available. So we will discuss a number of scenarios in order to demonstrate the reasons for our concerns.
2.6.2 Aldous Huxley does not in fact describe slavery in the ordinary sense. The people of the Brave New World said, and believed, that they were free. The lower castes did manual labour because they were not capable of doing, or wanting to do, anything else. People were pretty much free within their capabilities. It was the capabilities themselves that were constrained.
2.6.3 On a crude utilitarian analysis you can not fault this kind of society. Happiness is maximized. It is better to have stupid, happy road sweepers that clever, frustrated ones. But the conclusion most people draw is that these people were not truly free. (Freedom is, of course, a non-utilitarian value).
2.6.4 So the problem we are faced with in the Brave New World scenario is not that someone might breed an army of slaves (which is illegal), but that they might breed people who, even when given the full panoply of democratic rights, are incapable of taking advantage of them. That their capabilities have been so constrained that, even when free to choose what to do, they are almost certain to make the choices that those who created them intended them to make.
2.6.5 Some contend that what is obnoxious about the Brave New World
scenario is simply that reproduction is controlled by the state. In order
to explore these issues we should like to construct a similar scenario
in which the cloning is carried out by a rich private individual. For the
purposes of this example we postulate not only cloning, but an artificial
An industrial tycoon, Mr Rich, ascertains that Joe's condition is genetic. He obtains Joe's consent and pays him to use his cells to produce clones in artificial wombs. Mr Rich contends that he is the legal parent of all these children, on the basis that he created them as an exercise of his fundamental human right to to reproduce.
Of course, he will not mistreat the children or they will be removed by the state. He will employ professional staff to care for them, though no more, and no better qualified, than necessary. He will provide schooling suitable to their special needs. He will want to reinforce the mental traits he liked in Joe. Of course, these will not be entirely genetic, but a result of Joe's particular experiences. But he knows the potential for those attitudes is there.
When old enough, the clones start work in the factory. Mr Rich has to abide by laws about working conditions and the minimum wage. But most workers choose to live in the factory village, and pay rent to Mr Rich, and shop in the company shop. They are all free to leave, free to get other jobs, live elsewhere, shop elsewhere. Quite likely some do. But are we surprised if most do not?
2.6.7 In terms of genetics they are identical to Joe (except for mitochondrial DNA). So how can their genetics be an issue? The statement that human beings are 'born equal' never meant that we all have the same capabilities. We are all constrained by our genetics and environment. But freedom in the political sense means freedom from constraints imposed by other human beings, not freedom from natural constraints. If you go for a walk in the woods and get to a river you can't cross that restricts your ability to go on, but not your freedom. A fence restricts your freedom (whether justifiably or not).
2.6.8 We think this justifies the common sense view that people produced
in the Brave New World scenario are not truly free. We all operate within
natural constraints. But in the case of cloned or genetically engineered
people, those constraints have been placed by others. Joe was a free man.
But his clones are not.
2.6.9 But how, it may be asked, can it be a violation of a person's rights to bring them into existence? It would not be said (at any rate by us) that a mildly retarded person such as Joe would be better off not to have existed. Why should that not apply to his clones also? Indeed this question has already been raised by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which requires that "A woman shall not be provided with treatment services unless account has been taken of the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of the treatment ..." (13.-(5)). Does this imply that, in some circumstances, the welfare of a child might require it not to exist?
2.6.10 This interpretation is indeed paradoxical. But we do not hold that a person's rights can be violated by bringing them into existence. We resolve the paradox by noting that not every wrong need be a violation of a right. To use technology to bring into existence a child with deliberately imposed disadvantages would be wrong, not because it violated the rights of the child (which would not exist otherwise) but because it would be an offence against human dignity.
2.6.11 The offence arises because the capabilities of the child have been constrained by those who decided upon its characteristics before it was created. This not a power that any human being should have over another. It follows that to create a child with enhanced capabilities is equally an affront to human dignity. This is surely one reason why we are repelled by the idea of breeding a master race. It is not, after all, that we do not like blue-eyed blond-haired, intelligent, beautiful people. It is that we recognize the affront in presuming to determine in advance people's genetic characteristics.
2.6.12 This is essentially the point made by one formulation of Kant's
categorical imperative: that a person should never be used solely as a
means to an end, but always as an end in itself. The degree of control
exercised over the creation of a clone makes this impossible.
2.6.13 The Brave New World scenario, and our variation upon it, requires not only cloning but artificial wombs. (Since it does not seem plausible that Mr Rich would persuade hundreds of women to take part in his scheme). If cloning is followed by normal pregnancy does that not reduce the potential for abuse? We answer that point in two ways. First, that artificial wombs seem no more outlandish today than human cloning did ten years ago. If cloning were to come to be accepted as a part of the human right to reproduce, artificial wombs would logically come into the same category. Second, and more importantly, that the essential objection still stands. The degree of power that those creating a clone exercise over that clone is unacceptable. This is so even if the clone is borne by a woman who intends to raise it as her own child, and it applies whether or not simple cloning is employed, or whether genetic manipulation is used.
2.7.3 We consider that while people have the right to have children, and to raise them as they see fit with minimal interference from the state, they do not have the right to exercise control over their genetics.
2.8.2 We would recommend extreme caution about using the terms parent and child to refer to a clonee and a clone. Genetically the clone is a twin of the clonee, not his or her child. Since the clonee is genetically neither the mother nor the father of the clone we doubt that the term parent is applicable. A clone has been created asexually and does not have parents in any normal sense. Your clone is simply your clone. This is not a relationship that has ever existed, and the usual terminology is not applicable.
2.8.3 All one can truly say is that it that the clone is a manufactured creature without any definable family relationships. Who are its grandparents, siblings and cousins? If a woman gives birth to her own clone, is her father the clone's grandfather? Genetically he is her father too. This need not prevent a clone being accepted into an extended family, as indeed many genetically unrelated children are. But the clone's lack of relationships that we all take for granted must be considered significant. Family relationships based upon kinship are the basis of our personal lives and of society. Medical technologies which sever those ties or treat them as of no consequence must in our view always be questionable.
2.8.4 Those who advocate the creation of a clone in order to fulfil the desire of a clonee to have a child gloss over this point. The term 'parent' is used in these cases rhetorically and aspirationally simply because that is what the clonee intended by being cloned. It is not an objective fact. The term 'older sister' could be used with greater plausibility. The fact that the clonee is able to define this relationship however she sees fit is surely further evidence of its abusive nature.
2.8.5 What are the implications of a clone being raised by the clonee
alone, or by a couple, one of whom is the clonee? We now consider a scenario
in which cloning is available, but without genetic manipulation.
2.8.7 We hold that parents have a duty to love their children unconditionally, whatever their abilities. Cloning goes directly against that. One can hope that ones children will have certain abilities and that they will choose to lead their lives in a particular way. But this is not something that a parent can demand or seek to ensure.
2.8.8 The point here is not whether a clone is simply a copy of clonee. (It would not be). The point is rather that it would be intolerable to have been created for that reason.
2.8.9 Ordinary sexual reproduction imposes a kind of balance of power between parents and offspring. Parents have enormous control over the environment in which a child is raised - but almost none over the child's genetics. We believe that to give parents untrammelled power over their offspring's genes is not an extension of freedom but a denial of it.
2.9.2 If, as has been proposed, cloning is adopted as a means of infertile people producing a child, then in cases where the cause of infertility is genetic, the clone too will be infertile. This implies that the only means the clone will have to reproduce will be by cloning also. Unlike naturally occurring twins, there will be no limit to the number of identical individuals eventually produced. This has a number of implications.
2.9.3 It is known that genetically homogeneous populations are susceptible to epidemics of disease. (Indeed this is thought to be one reason why sexual reproduction is advantageous (4)). If a large proportion of the population came to be made up of a small number of identical clones, this could become significant.
2.9.4 Why should clones ever become very common? It is generally accepted that asexual reproduction is twice as efficient as sexual reproduction, in the sense that it passes on all of an individuals genes to the next generation, rather than just half of them (5). Suppose a woman has two children, and each of them has two children, and so on. After ten generations she would have 1024 descendants. If this was achieved through sexual reproduction, each will have 1/1024 of her genes: each is descended from 1023 other people of her generation. This is the break-even point for sexual reproduction. But if she and all her descendants were clones, all would be genetically identical to the original woman. She would have increased her representation in the gene pool by a factor of one thousand in just ten generations. And that is without having any more children than average.
2.9.5 Biologists believe that when a mutation for parthenogenesis (natural cloning) occurs in a sexually reproducing species, the clone will, by virtue of this reproductive advantage, swamp the sexually reproducing population. There are species consisting entirely of a single clone in which this is believed to have happened.
2.9.6 What could prevent this? The answer, in general, is that the clone will be kept in check by outbreaks of disease, to which the genetically differing sexual population will be more resistant (4). In a human population, using medical cloning, other possibilities arise. A woman who could reproduce only by cloning might well marry and produce a clone of herself and a clone of her husband, instead of two clones of herself. So we do not predict a doomsday scenario. We do say that the full implications of creating an entirely new means of human reproduction should be fully understood.
2.9.7 Each clone, that itself reproduces through cloning, is effectively a new sub-species. The clones would be otherwise normal, and there is no reason to suppose members of a clone would choose to live together in a separate community, and take charge of their own reproduction. But they might. If they did, how would this fledgeling sub-species evolve? It seems likely that human social relations, and even moral instincts, arise in part through kin selection (6). In the long term, there is no reason why these instincts should remain the same in a population that does not reproduce sexually. To go further than this would be enter the realm of science fiction. We might postulate the evolution of human populations with a social structure akin to that of an ants nest. We simply observe that the long term implications are even more difficult to predict than the short term problems.
3.1.1 It is possible to propose safeguards intended to prevent, say, the production of a large number of clones in artificial wombs; or to regulate strictly the kinds of genetic modifications that can be made to an embryo. We think it would be difficult to draft such laws: there are too many plausible reasons for exceptions to be made.
3.1.2 But this objection misses entirely the main force of our argument. The small number of scenarios we have described were not intended to be exhaustive. Many more such cases could be constructed. They point to the general principle that cloning and genetic modification of embryos are inherently wrong. Since these procedures do not yet exist and we have no experience of them in practice, there has been no opportunity to form clear moral intuitions about them. The examples we give are intended thought experiments to help the formation of moral judgements on these issues.
3.1.3 Anti-slavery campaigners gained much support by exposing the appalling treatment of slaves in transportation and on the plantations. But it would not have been sufficient to regulate to improve the treatment of slaves. The relationship of master to slave is inherently abusive, and is morally wrong however good the condition of the slaves.
3.1.4 The argument we advance is that the relationship between a clone, or otherwise genetically modified human being, and its creator is inherently abusive (though for subtly different reasons) and should not, in principle, be tolerated.
3.2.2 We addressed this question in our response to the HFEA report
on donated ovarian tissue (7). We wrote:
3.3.1 It is not the fact that a clone is genetically identical to another human that is objectionable, but the fact that the genome of the clone has been determined to suit the purposes of others.
3.3.2 Moreover there are never naturally more identical individuals than can arise from one pregnancy. The number of identical clones is unlimited.
3.4.1 This is not a good analogy. Adoption is a humane institution designed to provide a new family for children who have (for whatever reason) been separated from their own family. It is not done primarily for the benefit of adoptive parents, and the adoptive parents have not caused the circumstance of the child's separation from the original family. To create a child with the intention that it should not be raised by its own parents, or that it should not have parents in the ordinary sense, is an entirely different matter.
3.5.1 Article 16.1 of the United Nations Declaration of Human rights states "Men and women of full age without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion have the right to marry and to found a family."
3.5.2 We do not accept that this implies an unlimited right to create human beings by any technological means available (as for example in the Brave New World scenario). The wording of the above clause implies that the right to reproduce is the right of a consenting couple, not the right of an individual in isolation, and that the right in question is, therefore, the right of the couple to have their own genetic children. We do not support any wider interpretation.
3.5.3 We also note that this right is a freedom, not an entitlement. The freedom to do anything does not imply a right of access to each and every possible means of achieving it. All rights and liberties are constrained by norms of moral permissibility. For instance, there is a general freedom to acquire and to hold property. But one can not do so by, say, selling illegal drugs. So the right to "found a family" does not imply the right to have children by every possible means. (As a further example, incestuous marriages may be illegal, without breaching the declaration).
3.5.4 We doubt that technology has the power to create new fundamental rights. Fundamental rights arise from the human condition, and are therefore valid in principle anywhere at any time. To postulate a fundamental right to asexual reproduction is like postulating a right to breathe water.
3.5.5 The right to reproduce is, essentially, the right to exercise a natural capacity, namely to beget and to bear children. We would support any fertility treatment that allows a couple to do that, and would include it within the exercise of the freedom to reproduce. We would not include any form of fecundity treatment (see 1.2.2), in which embryos are created outside the human body, as being guaranteed by the right to reproduce. This interpretation is supported by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which imposes restrictions upon fecundity treatment, which do not apply to fertility treatment or to natural conception. This implies that, even if these treatments are legal, they are not a fundamental right.
3.5.6 There is a freedom to beget and to bear children. There is no right to manufacture people. As reproductive medicine advances, we must distinguish clearly between these two concepts.
3.6.1 We fail to see that a libertarian argument can carry much weight in the case of cloning or genetic manipulation of an embryo, since this does not involve an individual controlling his or her own genome, but that of another person. The rights of parents over their children are not unlimited, and this is not a power parents generally have over their children. And we have already pointed out that a clone is not actually anyone's child.
3.6.2 We reject also the argument that banning cloning would amount to state control over reproduction. To ban something is not equivalent to state control. There is not, for instance, state control over selling heroin, or keeping slaves. These activities are simply illegal.
3.6.3 We have argued that the use of cloning and genetic manipulation are (like slavery) a threat to human freedom and dignity whether they are exercised by the state or the individual, and we conclude this this power should be exercised by neither.
3.7.1 We discuss our attitude to scientific research in our response to Q1 in section 4. We note here that there are in fact many legal restrictions upon medical research. A scientist who attempted to perform an LD50 (lethal dose 50%) test upon human subjects would go to prison. Strict procedures exist to ensure that research on human subject is carried out ethically. There is of course no suggestion that certain kinds of knowledge should be banned. The question is the means employed to obtain the knowledge.
3.7.2 There are many instances where the application of technological and/or medical procedures have subsequently attracted censure on moral or social grounds: routine use of lobotomy and ECT for psychiatric patients, use of lead in paint, anti-personnel land-mines. If there are good moral reasons to object to a technology it can be challenged and rejected.
3.7.3 It is hardly possible to think of any activity that, because it has been banned, has entirely ceased to exist. Is this an argument against the illegality of slavery, rape, or bank robbery? It is certainly possible that cloning will happen somewhere in the world. But that is no reason it should happen here, if the British people and Parliament find it unacceptable. One of the functions of fundamental legislation is to give expression to the values of society. Thus even if it is the case that members of that society can escape its jurisdiction that is not a reason not to make the laws in question let alone not to enforce them.
3.8.1 There is an increasing tendency for people to feel blighted by nature in respect of matters that would not previously have occasioned resentment. The more it is suggested that the human lot might be transformed, the more people tend to regard the circumstances in which they find themselves as something about which they have a right to be resentful.
3.8.2 The US NBAC (National Bioethics Advisory Commission) in response to the request from President Clinton to consider the issue of cloning, reported that in thinking about these issues it is very important to take account of two distinct sorts of considerations: first, the harms and benefits that might arise from cloning, and second, and more subtle, the impact upon the customs, traditions and legal principles that underlie society's values.
3.8.3 These were wise observations and they make way for a further kind of ethical consideration. Not only must we be concerned with harms and benefits, and with rights and respect for persons, we should acknowledge the value of living a good life under conditions one has not chosen. 'Philosophy' derives from the Greek for 'love of wisdom' (philosophia), and traditionally the goal of wisdom has not been to redesign human life but to live well within the limits of it.
3.8.4 We can never guarantee that things will go well and we should resist the temptation to resent the limitations we encounter. The philosophers of Greece and Rome, of the Middle Ages and of the Enlightenment, all agree in commending virtue, where this includes attitudes, sentiments and ways of thinking and acting cultivated in response to limits and adversity. Courage is an attitude developed in response to danger, fortitude on cultivated in response to disappointment. The idea that policy should be directed towards overcoming the limitations of nature, and that scientific and economic resources, and social values and law, should be oriented towards transforming patterns of human reproduction so as to bypass the fact of infertility or of necessary nonfertility, so that they are no longer obstacles to desire, is on the one hand foolish since there will always be some obstacles to the fulfilment of desires, and on the other hand dangerous because it encourages the commodification of human life and disregard for those whose circumstances cause them to be regarded as inferior.
a) promoting advances in the treatment of infertility,
b) increasing knowledge about the causes of genetic disease,
c) increasing knowledge about the causes of miscarriages,
d) developing more effective techniques of contraception, or
e) developing methods for detecting the presence of gene or chromosome abnormalities in embryos before implantation,
or for other such purpose as may be specified in regulations."
4.1.3 The first consideration in making an ethical evaluation of a scientific experiment is whether the means employed are themselves morally acceptable (destructive experiments on adult subjects would be unacceptable whatever the possible benefits) and we reject all destructive experiments upon human embryos on that basis. The implication that research on embryos involves some degree of moral wrong, but this this may be traded against possible benefits, is not only incoherent but contrary to all accepted principles of medical ethics as applied to research on human subjects (see Appendix A).
4.1.4 We note however that the areas of research that have been mentioned in connection with human cloning, such as growing tissue for transplantation, do not appear in the above list. Anyone who seriously believed that this clause embodied a moral principle would presumably reject cloning research. Piecemeal addition to the list of allowable research topics will simply reveal the emptiness of this approach.
4.1.5 The creation of human clones for research purposes would represent a further instrumentalisation of the human embryo, which has already gone too far.
4.1.6 These objections would not apply to research involving nuclear material, eggs or sperm which did not involve the creation of an embryo.
4.2.2 However we are not persuaded that cloned embryos offer significant advantages as research subjects in any field of inquiry. Once it is accepted that a cloned embryo is, in itself, no different from any other embryo, the utility of this kind of research (other than for reproductive cloning) appears limited. We note that cells from a number of human tissues can be grown through many generations in vitro, and that the vast majority of advances in molecular biology are made through the study of tissues in, or taken from, adult subjects.
4.2.3 We add one proviso: that in any research in human embryos it might be considered methodologically advantageous to conduct the research on genetically identical embryos. However this statistical advantage would probably be outweighed by the wastage of egg cells due to clones failing to develop.
4.3.2 We also consider there to be a moral distinction between this and other kinds of medical risks. The criteria for clinical experiments on human subjects are set out in the Declaration of Helsinki (see Appendix A). It is not clear how to apply these criteria when it is the existence of the subject which is itself the experiment. We consider that to create a human individual as an experiment is inimical to human dignity.
4.3.3 We note that long-term follow up of children born through IVF had to be abandoned after opposition from clinicians shortly after the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (8). In the light of this, the question may never admit of a full answer.
4.5.2 The possibility of inflicting unknown physical, psychological, spiritual and social suffering should be a further ethical barrier to creating clones.
4.6.2 Nevertheless we do think there is some value in the common sense distinction between the natural and the unnatural. It seems to make sense, for example, to say that that breast feeding is more natural than bottle feeding, or that some western diseases are caused by an unnatural diet and lifestyle.
4.6.3 The traditional goal of medical science is to heal the sick and, secondarily, to promote and preserve health. Medical technology, however simple or advanced, from spectacles to antibiotics to organ transplants, has had the goal of restoring normal human function to the patient. The means may be 'unnatural' but the ends - a normally function human being - are 'natural'.
4.6.4 Yet recent medical developments have begun to extend (or remove) human capabilities: for example the contraceptive pill, IVF and the possibility of cloning. The abilities to suppress ovulation, to bear a genetically unrelated child, or to reproduce asexually, are not natural human capabilities. They do not restore, preserve, or promote health. In this respect these medical procedures are different in principle from even the most sophisticated cancer treatments or heart bypass operations.
4.6.5 It may be that the underlying criterion here is not so much whether a medical development is natural or unnatural, but whether its purpose is to promote health or otherwise. This distinction would help to explain some common and fairly uncontroversial moral distinctions: That the use of opiate drugs to relieve pain is acceptable, but as a recreational drug is unacceptable; that growth hormone may be used on children with a natural deficiency to achieve normal height, but not on healthy children to make them taller; that the use of steroid drugs is acceptable for treating asthma, but not to train for the Olympic games.
4.6.6 So we do think there is a significant distinction between treatments that restore, preserve or promote health, and ones which attempt to improve upon innate human capabilities. Once this distinction has been made, there is no inconsistency in wholeheartedly supporting medical treatments in the former category while demanding the utmost scrutiny of those in the latter.
4.6.7 We doubt that the power to control human nature itself, to change human biology, is just one more power humanity can utilize for good or evil, like nuclear power or chemistry. We doubt that it is meaningful to talk about improving humanity in the same way that we can talk about improving sanitation or transport. What constitutes an improvement? C. S. Lewis addressed the logical dilemma in The Abolition of Man (9): If we redefine human nature we lose our yardstick for determining what good and bad, desirable and undesirable mean.
4.6.8 The ability to reproduce asexually, and to determine the genetic characteristics of ones children (except by the highly uncertain means of choosing a particular mate), is certainly an addition to human capabilities for which there is no natural parallel, and for all the reasons we have given we do not consider that it would be for the overall benefit of humanity.
2. Mark D. Eibert- Human Cloning, Infertility, and Reproductive Freedom <http://www.reason.com/opeds/eibert.html >
Mark D. Eibert - Clone Wars, Reason, June 1998
3. Aldous Huxley - Brave New World, Chatto & Windus, 1932
4. Hamilton W. D, Axelrod R, Tanese R, Sexual reproduction as an adaption to resist parasites (A Review), Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol 87 pp3566-3573, May 1990
5. Williams G. C. Sex and Evolution, Princeton University Press, 1975
6. Matt Ridley - The Origins of Virtue, Viking, 1996
7. A response from the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-life Group to the Report of the HFEA on Donated Ovarian Tissue in Embryology Research and Assisted Conception, October 1994
8. Dangers to test-tube babies totally ignored, Robin Mckie, Observer 9 January 1994.
9. C. S. Lewis - The Abolition of Man, Oxford University Press, 1943
The Geneva Convention Code of Medical Ethics (WMA in 1949)
"The doctor can combine medical research with professional care, the objective being the acquisition of new medical knowledge, only to the extent that medical research is justified by its potential diagnostic and therapeutic value for the patient."