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Human Cloning and Human Dignity: The Report of the President's Council On Bioethics Paperback – October 22, 2002
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Tina Neville, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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This 350-page book presents the findings of the Council. The Council was comprised of 18 experts in science, medicine, public policy and ethics. Some were secular, some religious. Some were fully against any form of human cloning - even for research purposes - while others were much more open to therapeutic research involving embryos, whether deliberately created for that purpose, or "surplus" from assisted reproduction programs. The majority however seem quite concerned about all types of human cloning.
The report begins with an overview of the debate, including scientific, historical and ethical components. Terminology is also clearly defined. Then the pros and cons of the ethics of reproductive cloning are examined in detailed. Similarly, the ethics of therapeutic cloning, both for and against, are closely discussed.
The book concludes with public policy options and recommendations. Finally, thirteen Council members contribute personal statements on the proceedings. These include William Hurlbut, Charles Krauthammer, Gilbert Meilaender and William May. In these statements the various authors are allowed to express personal preferences, disagreements, or endorsements of the Council report. Many of these alone are worth the price of the book.
But as I mentioned, the great majority of Council members seem to have a strong ethical basis on which they make their pronouncements. Thus the report, while allowing various sides to be heard, often gives room for extensive moral reasoning and reflection.
For example, in the discussion on cloning for research, the Council acknowledges that we should not ignore the needs of the suffering, but even this must be kept in balance: "the relief of suffering, though a great good, is not the greatest good". It continues, "As highly as we value health and longer life, we know that life itself loses its value if we care only for how long we live, and not also for how we live."
On the issue of the moral status of the human embryo, again, differing points of view are expressed. But it does deserve special respect, and should not be treated as a means to another's end. It is more than a clump of cells, and it clearly is the means by which all of us began. The report recommends that all embryo research be subject to a new and thorough review and be part of a larger regulatory scheme.
Because this report is a collection of viewpoints, and an assemblage of differing options and proposals, it cannot come out with clear-cut and definite conclusions. But the overall direction and tone of the report is one of balance, prudence and caution. It realises the limitations of science and medicine, and recognises the importance of a comprehensive ethical underpinning of any discussion on the issue. It thus makes for an important contribution to the overall debate.
If you favor such research, for whatever reason, whether it be the development of tissues for the cures of disease or for other reasons, the Human Cloning and Human Dignity report will definitely give you an idea regarding the ideology of those who composed the report. The position of many of the members is common and frequently theological in nature, with much of the discussion concerning the subject of the earliest cell divisions, before recognizable human features have developed.
The position against human cloning in the report is recognizable, honest, and thorough so someone hoping to change public opinion in favor of cloning and stem cell research can determine what they need to do to address public opinion on the subject.
I found the report very informative.
At the heart of such a perception is a belief that limitation is wisely built into the human situation. And that an opening up of 'reproduction' in this way will ultimately undermine our common humanity.
'Cloning' would probably lead to a promotion of a false hope of immortality on the part of those who could afford to have themselves have themselves cloned many times. It will lead to an undermining of our whole sense of family life, and human relations.