Without a Clone

A diabetic friend has said, "I would give everything I own for a way to make my body produce insulin again. But I'm not going to let people kill babies so I don't have to be a diabetic. I don't want embryonic stem cells even if they promise a cure."   Well, the debate going on in the Senate over a total ban on human cloning is all about curing disease using stem cells harvested from cloned human embryos. Is it right to create and kill tiny humans so that other humans may be cured?   From a Christian point of view, it is clearly not right and -- here's the good news -- it's also unnecessary.   On January 23, New Scientist published an article entitled "Ultimate Stem Cell Discovered." Catherine Verfaillie at the University of Minnesota -- who is an advocate of embryonic stem cell experiments -- discovered stem cells in adults that can turn into muscle, cartilage, bone, liver, nerve, or brain cells. The cells called "multipotent adult progenitor cells," or MAPCs, can do everything embryonic stem cells can do.   The research indicates that MAPCs can form every tissue type in the body and can be grown in culture indefinitely without signs of aging. In addition, MAPCs don't form cancerous masses when injected into adults, a major problem with embryonic stem cells.   And those who say these are sudden and unconfirmed findings are just wrong. Dr. David Prentice at Indiana State University says the news "simply confirms what many previous scientific papers have hinted at."   This news certainly comes at a propitious time. On January 24, another human cloning hearing was held in the Senate. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas has introduced a bill (S. 1899) calling for a total ban on human cloning. Those who stand to profit from experimental human cloning and destructive embryonic stem cell research are putting everything they've got into fighting this bill. It's the same bill the House of Representatives passed last fall by a large, bipartisan majority. But the profiteers don't want that to get to the president because he says he will sign it.   Please call your senators and tell them you SUPPORT S. 1899 and a "total ban on human cloning."   According to leading scientific journals, many scientists have become disillusioned with embryonic stem cell research anyway. Many say "therapeutic cloning" is impractical for treating patients.   An editorial in New Scientist stated that, "Like stuck records, ministers and policy makers [in Great Britain] continue to enthuse about therapeutic cloning even though the majority of bench scientists no longer think it's possible or practicable to treat patients with cells derived from cloned embryos. They have already moved on to investigating the alternatives."   Dr. Ben Mitchell, a fellow of our Wilberforce Forum and our Council for Biotechnology Policy, has said, "This announcement is a palpable reminder that stem cell research is still in its infancy. We should only pursue research that is scrupulously ethical. This discovery should allay everyone's concerns about embryo-destructive research. There is now no possible justification for destroying human embryos for their cells."   And my friend with diabetes is very pleased.   To contact your U.S. Senators, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to connect to your state's Senators' offices.       For more information: Our Bioethics in the New Century Resource Kit provides what you need to know as a Christian to defend human dignity and value.   Register for the one-day conference "A Christian Vision for the Biotech Century" here.   Visit the Americans to Ban Cloning website and the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity website.   For further reading:   Nigel M. de S. Cameron, "On the Cloning of Human Beings: Some International Perspectives," The Wilberforce Forum.   Janelle Carter, "Senate Debates Human Cloning," Washington Post, 5 February 2002.   Sylvia Pagan Westphal, "Ultimate stem cell discovered," New Scientist, 23 January 2002.   "Brave New Medicine," New Scientist, 1 December 2001.   Malcolm Ritter, "Adult Marrow Cells Show Versatility," Associated Press, 25 January 2002.


Chuck Colson


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