Human Cloning Just Not Ethical

Published in the Courier Mail 11 September 2007

OVARIAN hyper-stimulation isn’t exactly a hot topic at the dining table. However, the Queensland Parliament Cafeteria may be abuzz soon with talk of such things, as our parliamentarians discuss the human cloning legislation soon to be before them.

The reason that ovarian hyper-stimulation should figure in the conversation is that it is the only realistic method to allow the mass harvesting of women’s eggs. And if we legalise and encourage cloning research on human embryos, such harvesting will be needed to ensure we have enough eggs for research. The problem is that it carries significant health-risks for women.

Studies cited by David Magnus and Mildred K. Cho, of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, suggest anywhere up to 10 per cent of women who undergo ovarian hyper-stimulation will develop a range of symptoms including “renal failure, intrauterine polyps, ovarian cysts, thromboembolism, adult respiratory distress and haemorrhage from ovarian rupture and infertility”. Long-term health risks are also an issue of note, precisely because the scientific and medical community know so little about what they could be.

Herein lies a problem for the proponents of human cloning. Women would be required to pay the price to ensure a large supply of eggs. And this price is not acceptable.

Researchers in the UK have encountered just this problem of supply, and their solution should make all of us, including politicians, very nervous. Britain’s fertility regulator has just given the go-ahead to create embryos which are a hybrid of human and animal cells. The “it would never happen” scenario just has. And the opponents of cloning may not have just been scaremongering after all.

However, we in Queensland do not have to start down this path. Our politicians can ensure that human cloning stays prohibited here. They can vote against the Research Involving Human Embryos and Prohibition of Human Cloning Amendment Bill, which is due before the current sitting of Queensland Parliament.

This Bill, for the sake of highly dubious scientific research, would allow the creation and subsequent destruction of cloned humans. This is an abhorrent thought. To create a human being to be experimented upon is ethically wrong, and its morality is not defined by whether they are alive for 14 days or 14 years. We devalue our own humanity if we allow this.

We need to ask our State Parliamentarians to take a strong ethical stand against such a morally wrong proposal. Do we have politicians who can do so?

Perhaps we do. After all, retiring Premier Peter Beattie was happy to tell us recently about his Christian philosophy, explaining it helped him forgive former minister Merri Rose for trying to blackmail him.

It’s true that any Christian philosophy seemed strangely missing in action when his Government decriminalised prostitution, or tried to effectively remove religious education in schools. It’s understandable that we have been unsure what place Christian philosophy had been given, when under Beattie’s watch, Education Queensland discouraged schools from celebrating the Christian meaning of Christmas in favour of celebrating the “end of year and upcoming holidays”.

However, perhaps there has been some quiet reflection in Queensland Cabinet and such a philosophy is back in ethical vogue. A Christian philosophy recognises the ethical and moral repugnance of the commodification and destruction of something as sacred as human life, so perhaps moral consistency could soon bring us a stunning denunciation of human cloning from State Parliament.

However, for those who get nervous when we speak of Christian philosophies and politicians in the same sentence, they can be assured that the science alone is a good enough reason to say no to human cloning.

With the promised “cures” from embryonic stem cell research failing to materialise, as well as problems with tumour formation and immune rejection, it’s no wonder that some research companies are halting work on embryonic stem-cell research due to lack of results and prohibitive costs. The reason we are even having this debate is questionable. Adult stem cell research is providing therapeutic treatments and does not require human cloning.

There are many reasons to vote no to human cloning. It may be concern for women’s health. It may be the determination to stand against unethical practices. It may simply be because of the science involved.

Whatever the reason, the message is loud and clear. Human cloning is not OK – and politicians need to say so.

Ruth Limkin is a Brisbane pastor and writer