Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown) has introduced bipartisan and Senate-supported legislation that would prohibit the use of cloning technology to initiate development of human beings at the embryonic stage of life and to prohibit human cloning for therapeutic or reproductive purposes.
"The distinction between therapeutic and reproductive cloning is a false scientific distinction because both begin with the creation of a human being at the embryonic stage of life," said Fitzpatrick. "The difference is that one is destined for implantation in a womb and the other for destructive farming of its stem cells. Regardless of its ultimate destiny, all human embryos are human beings. It is illogical and simply wrong to ban attempts at one form of cloning while allowing the other."
The Massachusetts-based biotechnology firm Advanced Cell Technology in 2001 announced it had cloned human embryos. The company did not intend to implant cloned embryos for the purpose of creating life. According to a statement from company officials, they sought only to create a new source of stem cells for research. Other scientists and groups have announced they will try to produce children through human cloning.
"This development has captured the public’s interest on this issue. Successful attempts at animal cloning have pushed the scientific envelope, and the next progression may be the attempted cloning of a human. We are approaching a slippery slope and once science has started down this path, we may not be able to reverse or stop it. That’s why I have proposed legislation that would prohibit human cloning for scientific research and reproductive purposes," said Fitzpatrick.
"Given the grave moral uncertainty at this time, erring on the side of caution seems prudent," urges Amy Campbell, JD, senior instructor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Rochester, bioethicist and board member of Majority for Life of New York State. "This legislation strikes the right balance between preserving human dignity and promoting science. And through it, we recognize that which is all too often forgotten in these discussions: that science – as applied to society – is not value-free, and that the means and not simply the ends of science matter."
Scientists maintain there are three types of cloning technologies: recombinant DNA technology or DNA cloning; reproductive cloning; and therapeutic cloning. DNA cloning is the transfer of a DNA fragment from one organism to a self-replicating genetic element, and has been around since the 1970s. Reproductive cloning generates an animal that has the same nuclear DNA as another currently or previously existing animal. Therapeutic, or embryo, cloning is the production of human embryos for research. The goal of this process is not to create cloned humans, but to harvest stem cells that are used to study human development and treat diseases.
This legislation in no way inhibits legitimate scientific research that could lead to diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and disorders, noted Fitzpatrick, nor would it alter the legal status of gene therapy, cloning of plants and animals, cloning of human organs for transplantation, or adult stem cell research.