Imagine if a new procedure were developed that could lead not only to a cure for cancer, but would provide an unlimited source of organ donors and could lead to the first effective treatment of nerve damage. Now adding to this scenario, imagine our government was taking action to ban this new procedure because of a few myths and exaggerations. This scenario is true and is taking place with human cloning at this very moment. If action is not taken, this crowning achievement of medical science could be lost forever.
It all began with the team from the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland led by Dr. Ian Wilmut. Wilmut and his colleagues wanted to see if specialized cells could be reprogrammed into thinking that they were not specialized and develop all over again, thus creating a clone (Wilmut et al. 810). Cloning, as defined by the Cloning Prohibition Act of 1997, "means the production of a precise genetic copy of a molecule (including DNA), cell, tissue, plant, animal, or human" (4).
Before this experiment, it was known that once an egg cell from a mammal was fertilized, it would begin to divide and differentiate, first into an embryo, and then into other specialized cell types like skin and organs. Once specialized, scientists assumed that the cell could never become anything else. For example, skin cells could never divide and turn into organ cells (Wilmut et al. 810). To answer their question, Wilmut's team took a test cell from an ewe and starved it of nutrients to the point where the cell stopped dividing and making DNA. In effect, all the cell's functions, except those necessary for life, stopped. Dubbed G0, this state is the genetic equivalent of suspended animation and the heart of Wilmut's procedure. The team then extracted the cell's nucleus and transplanted it into an unfertilized egg with no nucleus using electrical pulses. Finally, the egg was transplanted into a surrogate mother so it could develop. A few months later, Dolly was born. Thus, Wilmut and his team proved that cells that had already been specialized could be reprogrammed and made to develop all over again (Wilmut et al. 810-813).
Not everyone is thrilled about Dr. Wilmut's discovery, though. During the past two years, various commentators - scientists and theologians, physicians and legal experts, talk-radio hosts and editorial writers - have been busily responding to the news, some trying to calm fears, while others fuel the controversy.
One argument against cloning comes from animal rights groups who say that animal experimentation or anything that causes "unnecessary distress to animals is inhumane" (Cunningham 92). Other arguments against cloning involve humans. The National Bioethics Advisory Commission wonders if a cloned human will be "regarded as less of a person" and treated as a scientific specimen rather than a human being (29). The media makes "inflated claims" and talks of so-called "superhumans"...