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Ban Human Cloning: Introductory Letter
Monday, November 28, 2005 - By John O'Keefe

American Bioethics Advisory Commission


Ban Human Cloning:  Report of the American Bioethics Advisory Commission

Introductory letter:

June 21, 1997

William J. Clinton
President, United States of America
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President,

     The field of genetics is exciting and promising, but brings with it some serious challenges. The promises and challenges of the field were brought to public attention very dramatically in February this year, with the report from Scotland of successful cloning of a mammal. If the experiment at the Roslin Institute can be repeated, it would be an event of immense importance.

     The excitement and joy of this scientific breakthrough (if the experiment can be repeated) may be overshadowed by legitimate and grave concerns about the future, unless this nation and indeed all nations move quickly to protect legitimate science and to ban dangerous and irresponsible abuses. Fortunately, with regard to cloning, the line between the two is very clear: we should encourage responsible experiments in animal cloning, but ban all human cloning. The bright line dividing legitimate and exciting scientific research and development from dangerous and dehumanizing manipulation is easy to see: it is the line between animals and humans.

     To be sure, animal cloning has some hazards, and human cloning has some attractions. But the hazards of animal cloning (such as possible threats to biodiversity) can be handled responsibly, and the attractions of human cloning (human embryo research) can be foregone. Seeing the bright line, and ensuring that all scientists see it and respect it, will protect legitimate scientific endeavors while preventing assaults on human life and dignity.

     The American people and indeed all people everywhere have a right to the legitimate excitement and joy that accompanies scientific breakthroughs. But the report from Scotland raised grave concerns about the future of humanity. Many people have compared the promise and threat of cloning to the promise and threat of nuclear power. For the good of the nation and the world and science, we must embrace what is good and reject what is evil.

     Science and technology throughout the United States and the world will operate under a cloud of suspicion unless we can explain clearly how to distinguish real benefits from momentous harms. Scientists and bioethicists have a grave responsibility to understand the distinctions, to respect them, to articulate them fully, and to communicate them to the general public. Conversely, if any scientist or bioethicist should overlook or blur key distinctions, that person would be doing immense disservice to the nation, the world and to science.

     In February 1997, you asked the National Bioethics Advisory Commission to help you and the nation to think through an appropriate response to the report of sheep cloning and the prospect of human cloning. They have worked to respond to your request. At the same time, the American Bioethics Advisory Commission was established to ensure that the voices of grassroots Americans would also be represented in national debates, and we have also worked to understand how to separate the good from the evil. We are pleased to present this report to you and to all interested individuals. Our advice is very simple:

     1. Encourage responsible animal cloning.

     2. Ban human cloning immediately, completely and permanently.

     It is not often in the history of science that a breakthrough brings dramatic promise and grave dangers of the magnitude associated with mammalian cloning. It is the task of the leaders of this nation and of the world to embrace the benefits and avoid the calamities. The dividing line is obvious, and we urge you to protect that line scrupulously.

     Throughout the history of this nation, people have pondered te wisdom found in Scripture, including the sharp challenge in the words of Moses. He said that the command of God is not mysterious or remote, that it was not up in the sky or across the sea. Rather, it is very near to us, in our mouths and in our hearts; we have only to carry it out. Moses said (Deut 30: 19-20):

     "I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your children may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him."

     Mr. President, with regard to the promise and danger of cloning, there is a bright line between the blessing and the curse. Encourage animal cloning, but ban all human cloning immediately, completely and permanently. Hold the line.

C. Ward Kischer, PhD,University of Arizona, Chairman, American Bioethics Advisory Commission
Paul A. Byrne, MD, President-elect, Catholic Medical Association
Ronda Chervin, PhD, Sedona, AZ
William F. Colliton, MD, Bethesda, MD
Donald J. DeMarco, PhD, St. Jerome's College
Eugene F. Diamond, MD, Chicago, IL
Rev. Joseph Howard, Shreveport, LA 71101
Bernard Nathanson, MD, New York, NY
Dr. Joseph Pastorek II, MD, Louisiana State University Medical Center
Prof Charles Rice, Notre Dame Law School
Dr. Jerome T.Y. Shen, MD, FAAP, University City, MO

(Click here for full text of Ban Human Cloning): Report of the American Bioethics Advisory Commission)

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