Review: We should stop worrying and learn to love the clone
By Alasdair Palmer
(also Sunday Telegraph, Jan. 18, 1998 in the U.K.)
January 18, 1998
ALMOST exactly 11 months ago, scientists in Scotland announced that they had successfully cloned a lamb from a single cell of an adult sheep. It was hailed as a major scientific breakthrough. Last week Richard Seed, an American scientist, said he was about to begin work on cloning a child from a single cell of an adult human being. Dr Seed's claim elicited horror and repugnance.
Twenty years ago IVF was enormously controversial. A substantial majority thought it was "wrong". Today that majority has diminished to a small minority. Probably most people know of someone who has tried IVF. It is an option chosen by thousands of couples unable to have children by any other method. The benefits it has brought can only be measured by the lives it has made possible: several hundred thousand world-wide, according to the most recent estimate. Like other techniques that involve creating new ways in which human beings can reproduce, cloning has the potential to confer large and significant benefits.
They have been described by Lee Silver, a professor of molecular biology at Princeton, who discusses the pros and cons of cloning in detail in his remarkable book Remaking Eden. In order to persuade you that the benefits of cloning are not like the benefits of torture - a "good" purchased at a price no moral individual could contemplate paying - Professor Silver considers the case of Mary and Abe Ayala, whose daughter Anissa was diagnosed in 1988 with myelogenous leukemia. The only available treatment for this otherwise fatal cancer involves a bone marrow transplant. That requires finding a donor whose tissue matches that of the patient. The chance of an unrelated person being a suitable match is about 1 in 20,000. Unable to find a suitable donor, the Ayalas decided to have another child. As a result, Anissa was saved by her younger sister, Marissa: she was able to donate the bone marrow needed.
Now, says Professor Silver, suppose human cloning were feasible. It is certain that, in many cases, the only way in which a suitable bone marrow donor could be found for a child with leukemia would be by cloning an infant from a single cell belonging to the mother. In that situation, he says, anyone who prefers life to death ought to be in favour the sick child's parents taking advantage of the new technology, and cloning a new individual. Two healthy, living children are better than one dead one.