Testimony in Support of “Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2006” before the Health and Government Operations Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates

Date: 03/17/2006

March 17, 2006

William Saunders, Jr., JD

Senior Fellow in Bioethics and Human Rights Counsel, Family Research Council

I welcome the opportunity to testify before you today.  The issues with which this Committee is concerned are perhaps the most important ones facing our society.

The Family Research Council is opposed to the cloning of human beings.  Our position is not based on theology or theory.  Rather, it is based on straightforward scientific facts, and the necessary ethical implications that flow from those facts.

Cloning is often discussed as if there were two different kinds of cloning, sometimes described as “therapeutic cloning” and “reproductive cloning.”  Both terms are, however, seriously misleading.  If we do not use accurate language, it is unlikely we will be able to think clearly about the issue.

All successful cloning is reproductive. That is, once cloning results in a living single-cell human being, reproduction, by definition, has occurred. It does not matter for what purpose this cloning was accomplished – another member of the human species exists.

If a living human being has been created, then we must face this crucial question: how are we ethically obligated to treat that human being?  One purpose for which cloning is pursued is to produce a subject for research experiments.  Proponents call this “therapeutic cloning.”  This is a serious misuse of language.  For even if the aim of the experiment is to produce a therapy for a disease or injury that was suffered by someone else, the research is lethal for the subject of the research (i.e., the human embryo) and is, thus, not therapeutic at all.  It is, in its essence, non-therapeutic.

Such experiments have been rejected throughout Western history, and condemned by an ethical consensus expressed after World War II in the Nuremberg Code, which stated: “No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will result.”

However noble the ultimate purpose for which it is done, we have always agreed it is wrong to kill one human being to benefit another.  Yet “therapeutic” cloning would do just that.

As counter-intuitive as it may at first appear, the reason these ethical prohibitions apply to the case of “therapeutic cloning” is because all human beings begin life as a single cell organism.  Each one of us did.

Certainly, every cell in the human body is not a human being.  And left to themselves, none of those cells would become a human being.  But once a single-cell embryo or zygote has been created, whether by sexual reproduction (the exclusive means until now) or by asexual reproduction (as with cloning), that embryo is a living, distinct, genetically complete human organism which, unless interrupted, will direct its own integral growth and development through all the stages of human life–from embryo to infant to teenager to senior citizen.

Thus, as I have discussed, all cloning, for whatever purpose undertaken, is reproductive.  All cloning is also unethical because it reduces a human being to an object manufactured by another.  If cloning results in a live birth, excruciating problems of kinship and inheritance are posed.  However, cloning for the purpose of lethal experiments is, in fact, the most unethical of all.

Whether such experiments will be permitted is an issue of great importance.  The resolution of the issue will go far in determining the kind of society in which we live.  Would it not destroy the hope for achieving a true human community if we permit some humans to be cloned and those cloned human beings to be destroyed in order to benefit others?  Likewise, would any of us wish to live in a society where one class of human beings is manufactured to suit the preferences of others?  What, indeed, will it mean to be “human” in such a society?

These are the great questions that confront you.  I urge you to use this opportunity to remind the citizens of Maryland that science is, as is every other human endeavor, subject to ethical limits.  Science can tell us what might be done.  But it is up to citizens in a democracy to decide what will be done.

I urge you to pass HB 1462, the “Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2006.”

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