Clone rangers give the hard cell

May 20, 2005

Spaced-out aliens making human babies, copies of a castrated race horse, a Danish clinic selling three grades of sperm, the burning of twins and Xeroxed people were some of the ideas aired at The Times Higher's debate on how history will judge cloning.

The UK is one of the only countries where experiments with embryonic stem cells are allowed. Nevertheless two Australians, David Oderberg and Julian Savulescu, were called on to guide the audience through the issue at the National Portrait Gallery in London last Thursday.

Professor Oderberg, a moral philosopher at Reading University, said children were a gift not a purchase. He argued that researchers should not be able to produce embryos to cannibalise for spare parts. Although some form of human cloning was inevitable, a moral line had to be drawn.

Professor Savulescu, an Oxford University professor of practical ethics, argued that thousands of lives in future would be saved and much suffering alleviated thanks to cloning. Society was hypocritical to condemn embryonic stem-cell research while accepting the waste of embryos through IVF and abortion, he added.

The audience seemed unconvinced by Professor Savulescu's arguments. One woman asked if embryonic stem-cell experiments would lead to such an increase in human-egg harvesting that women would become like battery hens.

History, it was agreed, may in the long run be just as divided about cloning as the panellists.

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