Human baby clones: "Mini me, maxi problems"

AMA Vice President, Dr Trevor Mudge, warned today that, hoax or not, the Raelian cloned babies raise serious safety and ethical issues that must be debated in the Australian community.

Dr Mudge - a senior obstetrician and Chair of the AMA's Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee - said the Raelians and other groups are reportedly attempting human cloning in the absence of an ethical framework or acceptable safety standards.

"The Australian Parliament passed The Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002 in November but this does not mean that human cloning will not have an impact in Australia," Dr Mudge said.

"By their actions, the Raelians have shown that national laws are not an impediment to cloning experiments.

"The practice of cloning human beings is dangerous and unethical.

"First and foremost, we must question the safety and efficacy of human cloning.

"Indeed, the first successfully cloned mammal, Dolly the Sheep, is only six years old and it took well over 200 attempts to create her.

"Although a range of mammals has now been cloned, their success rates are staggeringly low.

"The Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, where Dolly was created, has stated that 'on average, only about one per cent of reconstructed embryos lead to live births.'

"Even more important are concerns about safety.

"It is way too early to tell how cloning affects the ageing process and disease development in those mammals who have been successfully cloned.

"Are we willing to create a cloned human being with little or no idea as to how the cloning process will affect their health and ageing?

"Even if human cloning were perfectly 'safe', there are very serious moral and ethical considerations that society must weigh up before forging ahead with the science.

"Just because we can, doesn't mean we should.

"Most arguments in favour of human cloning are inherently flawed, such as the desire for immortality, or the desire to replace a lost child. In fact, cloning does not fulfil this desire. Cloned individuals may be genetically identical but they are still individuals.

"Human beings are a product of both their genes and their environment. You can replicate the genes, but you can't recreate the environment and experiences that are unique to every individual.

"Arguments that consider human cloning as a means to produce a 'future organ donor' are beyond comprehension.

"All human beings are individuals in their own right and deserve to be treated, and indeed created, with respect, dignity, and equality.

"Some may argue in favour of human cloning on the grounds that it may allow infertile couples, who have otherwise been unsuccessful in fertility treatments, to have a child genetically related to at least one of its parents.

"Or perhaps that cloning may allow couples at risk of producing a child who will develop a serious genetic disease to avoid passing on that disease.

"As a society, however, we must carefully consider the risks and benefits of allowing human cloning under these circumstances.

"As a society, are we truly ready to accept human clones as individuals and not just replicas? Or as individuals and not just a means to an end?

"If not, we have no business attempting to clone human beings, even when and if science 'gets it right'," Dr Mudge said.

CONTACT: Dr Trevor Mudge (0413) 733 701

                John Flannery (02) 6270 5477 / (0419) 494 761

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