Cloning and experimentation on human embryos must be rejected primarily as an abuse of humanity, argues Charles Francis QC.
When the New York Times – bastion of the pro-abortion movement and of embryo experimentation – starts quoting scientists who admit that cloning and embryonic stem cells have yet to help a single patient, and that cures may be a very long time in coming, if at all, we see how the Australian public – and our own Prime Minister – are being conned into crossing an ethical line allowing the creation of embryos destined for destruction.
“Many of us feel that, for the next few years, the most rational way forward is not to push cell therapies,” Thomas M. Jessell, neurobiologist at Columbia University Medical Center, told the New York Times.
Christopher E. Henderson, another neurobiologist at Columbia, told the paper: “Scientists thought embryonic stem-cell research would produce cures, but have realised it’s not happening.” Dr Evan Snyder, director of the stem cell program at Burnham Institute, San Diego, admitted to the New York Times that scientists thought they could move embryonic stem-cell research ahead quickly, but have found out that wasn’t the case.
Even the proposed research value of cloning – for genetic studies and drug discovery – has been superseded by advances in adult (as opposed to embryonic) stem-cell therapy.
Professor Alan Mackay-Sim of Queensland’s Griffith University Adult Stem Cell Centre says their patient-specific stem-cell lines, derived from patients with the diseases under study – including patients suffering Parkinson’s – can achieve the exact research tasks proposed by the cloning lobby: “It is probable that such stem-cell lines as these will render therapeutic cloning irrelevant and impractical.”
Embryonic stem cells remain medically useless and dangerous – a conjurer’s side-show – good for doing tricks in rats, but completely unusable in humans, because of immune rejection, genetic instability and tumour formation.
Dr David van Gend, Australian spokesman for DO NO HARM: Australians for Ethical Medical Research, an international association promoting stem-cell science but opposing embryo destruction, says:
“It’s official – multiple MPs misled the people in 2002 when they all put their hands on their hearts and unanimously voted for the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002.
“That unanimity has proven to be fake – it confirms the suspicion that MPs who voted against cloning in 2002, but now support it, were following the cynical strategy of certain scientists to get hold of spare embryos now, and we’ll go for cloning at the next round of legislation.”
Absolutely nothing has changed since 2002 in the science of cloning. Embryonic stem cells remain unused and unusable in humans, because of their tumour potential (which won’t be fixed by cloning), and no animal studies have shown any level of safety or effectiveness that could possibly justify human experiments. That remains the true state of embryonic stem-cell science and cloning.
Dr van Gend says he has learned from scientists here and in the U.S. that what is really motivating the cloning lobby is more cultural than scientific – the compulsion to oppose social conservatives‚ who object to the dehumanisation of the embryo into mere laboratory material.
Cloning is at the cutting edge of the culture wars. Scientists demand that nobody, not even Parliament, will tell them what they can and cannot research. As one U.S. scientist said: “If you let them limit us on cloning, where will it stop?”
The demand for embryonic cures puts pressure on government to give more money to research – a strong financial motivation for scientists to hype this new field, such as the hype that embryonic cells could offer a cure for Hazel Hawke’s Alzheimer’s – as implied in a recent ABC television 7:30 Report. Such ulterior motives must not prevail in this debate.
Dr van Gend says the Australian Government’s Lockhart Committee – appointed to review 2002 legislation banning human cloning and restricting embryo experimentation – has degenerated into an elite lobby group: ignoring the convention that advisory committees disband after their report is tabled. This allegedly neutral committee shows its true bias, writing a joint opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The Lockhart Lobby has failed not only on protocol,” says Dr van Gend, “but also on the weightier matter of science. Cloning is not needed, because disease-specific stem cells have already been developed for research at Griffith University and elsewhere.”
Cloning will also require the massive coercion of vulnerable women to donate eggs (as has taken place under South Korea’s Dr Hwang Woo-suk). To overcome this hurdle, the Lockhart Committee have approved the creation of animal-human hybrids, e.g., implanting human DNA in rabbits’ eggs.
We must reject cloning primarily as an abuse of humanity, but also as a waste of public funds. Every dollar invested in useless embryonic experimentation is a dollar taken from adult and cord stem cells, which have helped in tackling 72 different diseases.
Investment analysts advise clients to stay away from embryonic stem cells but to invest in adult stem-cell research. That is the real reason embryonic experimenters are after government – i.e., taxpayers’ – money.
– Charles Francis QC is a retired Melbourne lawyer and former Victorian MP.