Position Statement on Human Cloning

Date: 11/02/2001

Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, opposes human cloning (i.e., human somatic cell nuclear transfer) because it is unethical and unnecessary for medical progress. We oppose use of cloning to produce human embryos, whether for live birth or for experimentation that will harm or destroy them.

Human cloning, if successful, uses a laboratory procedure to manufacture a new living member of the human species according to preset specifications. This is sometimes done with the intent to transfer the resulting embryo to a womb and attempt a live birth, and sometimes with the intent to perform medical experimentation or tissue harvesting on the embryo. Some have therefore proposed to distinguish “reproductive cloning” from “therapeutic cloning,” generally in order to justify the latter. Do No Harm rejects this distinction and this terminology as misleading and prejudicial. We hold that creating a new human life for destructive experimentation is, at a minimum, as unethical as creating it for live birth, not less so.

All Cloning is Reproductive Cloning

The term “reproductive cloning” is redundant. All human cloning is reproductive, in the sense that it creates – reproduces – a new developing human intended to be genetically identical to the cloned subject.

No Cloning is Therapeutic Cloning

In medical ethics, “therapeutic research” is defined as research that could provide therapeutic benefit to the individual subjected to research risks. So-called “therapeutic cloning” obviously fails this test: The new human is specifically created by cloning in order to be destroyed as an object of research or a source of tissue. Nor have any benefits been realized from such unethical experiments for other humans. For clarity’s sake this practice should be called human experimental cloning.

Human cloning for whatever purpose is unethical and unnecessary, and should be banned.

Live birth cloning should be banned. The use of cloning to create new human beings reduces people to mere commodities, to products manufactured according to the specifications of others. It also has an enormous failure rate, with animal data indicating that 90 to 95 percent of cloned embryos will die. It took over 270 attempts to produce Dolly the sheep, and even this “successful” clone is beset with abnormalities.

Scientists expect that of those few cloned humans who survive to live birth, most will die shortly thereafter and the others plagued by genetic abnormalities caused by the cloning process. Because of the abnormalities produced by cloning, carrying a clonal pregnancy to term may also pose unique threats to the woman involved. Even when intended for live birth, human cloning is a lethal and unethical form of human experimentation.

Experimental cloning should be banned. Creating new human life solely to destroy it for potential benefit to others is unethical. It is a grotesque and unacceptable commodification of human life which should be forbidden by law. Human experimental cloning is also unnecessary for medical progress. Numerous promising alternatives, including but not limited to use of adult stem cells, are available for producing the therapies that cloning advocates can only speculate about. Indeed, the obstacles to cloning as a source of medical benefits may well prove insurmountable. According to one recent overview in Nature (4/5/01), “the idea of therapeutic cloning …is falling from favour” because researchers are finding it to be costly, inefficient and unnecessary.

There are no valid or compelling grounds — ethical, scientific, or medical — to proceed with human cloning. Indeed, no matter the purpose or rationalization offered, the devaluing and commodification of human life that cloning represents provide compelling reasons not to proceed with it. Therefore, Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics calls for a comprehensive ban on human cloning.