(RNS) News that scientists had for the first time recovered stem cells from cloned human embryos prompted dire warnings from religious leaders who say the research crosses a moral red line and could lead to designer babies.
Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, point man for the U.S. Catholic bishops on bioethical issues, said Wednesday (May 15) that “this means of making embryos for research will be taken up by those who want to produce cloned children as ‘copies’ of other people.”
Human cloning “treats human beings as products,” O’Malley said on behalf of the bishops, “manufactured to order to suit other people’s wishes. … A technical advance in human cloning is not progress for humanity but its opposite.”
Critics argue there are other ethical techniques for creating stem cells that may help cure illnesses like Parkinson’s disease and diabetes and that the alternatives do not require cloning human embryos or destroying them. The most popular alternative is harvesting adult stem cells from the same patient.
“Given that science has passed cloning by for stem cell production, this announcement seems simply a justification for making clones, and makes reproductive cloning and birth of human clones more likely,” said David Prentice of the Family Research Council.
The cloning breakthrough was accomplished by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University and was announced Wednesday in the journal Cell. It followed 15 years of failed experiments and the infamous case of fraud when a South Korean biologist falsely claimed to have cloned human embryos.