Science & Fiction

Last August, President George W. Bush announced his decision banning federal funding for stem-cell research that involved the destruction of living human embryos. At that time, Bush also announced the formation of a National Bioethics Commission to advise him and the nation on such difficult questions. Leon Kass, a well-known and respected bioethicist, was appointed chairman.

The full seventeen-member commission met for the first time in January to discuss human cloning. The House of Representatives has already passed a bill banning cloning, both so-called "therapeutic" cloning as well as the explicit cloning of a human being, usually referred to as "reproductive" cloning. Therapeutic cloning, which advocates claim holds the promise of one day helping to develop cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and spinal cord injuries, is widely supported within the scientific research community, and has recently been given the imprimatur of the National Academy of Sciences. This spring the Senate will consider a bill sponsored by Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) that would ban cloning aimed at creating a child, but unlike the House bill, would permit therapeutic cloning.

Kass opposes all cloning, and there seems little chance that his commission, which is weighted heavily with thinkers who express similar skepticism about the direction and pace of biogenetic research, will issue a report approving therapeutic...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.