"FRC's Brochure on Human Cloning at the U.N.: Serious Flaws, Dangerous Consequences"

5. "Paul Ramsey said, 'The embryo's subsequent development may be described as a process of becoming what he already is from the moment of conception.'"

(a) Note, again, the reference to only sexual human reproduction - "the moment of conception" - i.e., fertilization. Ramsey's statement could thus not apply to the issue of human cloning to begin with.

(b) But there is a more fundamental reason why Ramsey's statement might not apply to the issue of human cloning. I knew and had great respect for the famous Protestant theologian and bioethicist Paul Ramsey, and used much of his work concerning the use of human subjects in research in my own. But it is perhaps not auspicious to quote him for purposes of the scientific debates on human cloning, because Ramsey agreed with and supported the scientific myth of the "pre-embryo"47 made famous by Jesuit Richard McCormick and frog embryologist Clifford Grobstein.

Thus, while Ramsey agreed that there is a human being present immediately at fertilization, he did not agree that it was also a human embryo or a human person - the classic "pre-embryo" argument. The human embryo did not begin until after 14-days, thus the above quote from Saunders would not apply. That is, for Ramsey the early human "pre-embryo" has a "reduced moral status". It is not a "developmental individual" yet, it is just a "genetic individual". It has not yet been "ensouled" - and so is not yet a "person" - i.e., a human subject to be protected from abuse in experimentation. Perhaps Ramsey would give other extraordinarily powerful arguments as to why human cloning is unethical, but he obviously would not be able to base it on his unscientific "pre-embryo" position.

6. " ... any living human embryo has the inherent 'potential' to develop into a healthy baby."

(a) It would seem that Saunders uses the "potential" argument here quite appropriately, but it is critical that the term be understood properly in order to deflect any misunderstandings or misinterpretations - especially if the term were to be used in any U. N. treaty on human cloning. The term "potential" has literally been butchered in the bioethics debates on "delayed personhood" over the last three decades - to the extent that one is never sure precisely how it is being used or being understood.

Originally the relevant philosophical term was "potency" (or inherent power or capacity conveyed by a specific nature) was used to apply to an already existing substance - such as a new living human embryo. But the term was misinterpreted by those like McCormick and other scholastics and bioethicists to mean "potential" or "possible" - meaning that the substance or nature itself was not yet there, but might possibly be there in the future. In that sense, the human embryo would not be even a human being yet, much less a human person.48

Thus if by "potential" one means "potency" - i.e., that the early human embryo already exists with a human nature that is already there, and has its own inherent power or capacity (provided by that human nature) to simply grow bigger and bigger through all the usual developmental stages through birth, then such a statement stands as accurate - both scientifically and philosophically. That is, it would be acknowledging that the human embryo and the human "baby" are the same human being and human person throughout all of his/her development. They are simply at different stages of that development.

On the other hand, if by "potential" one means that the human embryo is not a human being or human person yet, but might be later once it has been born (i.e., a "baby"), then that statement is both scientifically and philosophically incorrect. Since the term "born" has been used as an essential part of the definition of "reproductive cloning" used by Weissman, the National Academy of Sciences, etc., then it is critical to use the accurate term with the proper meaning. If the term "potential" were to be incorporated into a U. N. treaty on human cloning, it would be necessary to clarify its use as referring to an already existing human being/person. Otherwise, such a treaty would not recognize the inherent human nature of the early human embryo or fetus until after birth, and thus cloning them and using them for research - both "therapeutic" and "reproductive" -- would not be banned, and women undergoing "infertility treatments" could surely be put in danger.

7. "[footnote 16]: The cloning procedure supplies the oocyte with a complete set of chromosomes, all of which are contained in the nucleus which is transferred into the denucleated oocyte."

Again, Saunders is referring to SCNT as "THE" cloning procedure, when there are many other ways to clone a human being as well, and he is scientifically mis-defining the product of SCNT (i.e., the cloned human embryo). If such language were used in a U. N. treaty it would thus allow all human cloning (including the real SCNT cloning technique) and all human genetic engineering to proceed globally, as demonstrated above.


Family Research Council
Press Release
October 25, 2004

The United Nations Debates Human Cloning

Dr. David Prentice led an FRC team to New York last week at the United Nations, talking to delegates from numerous countries to assist Costa Rica in their effort to pass a global ban on all human cloning. Over 60 nations out of the 191 delegations have signed on in support of this global ban. Belgium, leading a handful of nations, supports a resolution to allow cloning of human embryos for research.

Fifty-four speeches were given during the 2-day debate last Thursday and Friday. FRC was successful in distributing Dr. Prentice's talking points and many of the delegates who spoke in favor of the global ban used them in their speeches. Our team was pleased to report that while the debate was going on our latest publication, Human Cloning and the Abuse of Science was placed on every delegate's desk. (Click the link below for your own copy.) The debate at the UN mirrors similar debates currently happening across the United States.

We hear emotional pleas that cloning and embryo research are essential to find cures for diseases afflicting millions of people. Yet proponents of "therapeutic cloning"-the countries that support the Belgian proposal, supporters of California's Proposition 71 - are really after the freedom to experiment with human life. At the UN, many of the speeches against a total ban on human cloning argued for "consensus," a "lowest common denominator" approach where everyone agrees to prohibit birth of a cloned human, but which actually affords no protection to human life, instead allowing nations to proceed full-tilt with production of cloned human embryos. Rather than allowing a cavalier approach to creation and destruction of human life, we need to raise our voices in support of the true common denominator -- protecting human life and human dignity. Please speak out on behalf of "the least of these."

Additional Resources
Human Cloning: The Abuse of Science

[Emphases added. --- DNI]


Human Cloning and the Abuse of Science

Human cloning is a subject of international controversyÑit is being debated on every continent and at the United Nations. In the United States, the question is being addressed at both the national and state levels. No matter the venue, however, clear and careful thinking is necessary. To make an informed decision about human cloning, we must understand what it is and what it entails. How we answer the question of human cloning has significance for the future of biotechnology, medicine, ethics, and human dignity.

In this pamphlet, the Family Research Council's Dr. David Prentice and William L. Saunders, JD, provide the clear and careful analysis that the subject merits. First, Dr. Prentice, FRC's senior fellow for life sciences, explains the precise science of the cloning process and evaluates the scientific claims for its potential medical use versus other alternatives. Dr. Prentice demonstrates that there is no doubt that human cloning creates a new, living member of the human species. Next, Mr. Saunders, FRC's senior fellow for human life and bioethics, examines the ethical standards that apply to scientific research involving members of our species. He demonstrates that universally acknowledged ethical standards clearly prohibit the cloning of human beings.

The Family Research Council hopes that the reader will use this publication to learn the basic facts about human cloning and its ethical implications. We are confident that when the facts are carefully considered, it will be evident that any human cloning is an abuse of science.


Cloning always starts with an embryo. The most common technique proposed for human cloning is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This cloning is accomplished by transferring the nucleus from a human somatic (body) cell into an egg cell which has had its chromosomes removed or inactivated. SCNT produces a human embryo who is virtually genetically identical to an existing or previously existing human being.

Proponents of human cloning hold out two hopes for its use: (1) the creation of children for infertile couples (so-called "reproductive cloning"), and (2) the development of medical miracles to cure diseases by harvesting embryonic stem cells from the cloned embryos of patients (euphemistically termed "therapeutic cloning").


All human cloning is reproductive. It creates Ñ reproduces Ñ a new, developing human intended to be virtually identical to the cloned subject.

Both "reproductive cloning" and "therapeutic cloning" use exactly the same technique to create the clone, and the cloned embryos are indistinguishable. The process, as well as the product, is identical. The clone is created as a new, single-cell embryo and grown in the laboratory for a few days. Then it is either implanted in the womb of a surrogate mother ("reproductive cloning") or destroyed to harvest its embryonic stem cells for experiments ("therapeutic cloning"). It is the same embryo, used for different purposes.

In fact, the cloned embryo at that stage of development cannot be distinguished under the microscope from an embryo created by fertilization joining egg and sperm. Trying to call a cloned embryo something other than an embryo is not accurate or scientific. Biologically and genetically speaking, what is created is a human being; its species is Homo sapiens. It is neither fish nor fowl, neither monkey nor cowÑit is human.


Cloning has an enormous failure rateÑ95 to 99 percent of clones die before or soon after birth. For example, out of 277 cloned embryos, only one sheepÑDollyÑwas produced, and even this "successful" clone had numerous abnormalities and finally had to be destroyed. The same rate of failure is seen in all mammals that have been cloned. We can expect that, of those few cloned humans who survive to birth, most will die shortly thereafter, and the others will be plagued by abnormalities. And because of the abnormalities inherent in cloning, the health of the surrogate mother carrying the clone is also endangered.


"Therapeutic cloning" is obviously not therapeutic for the embryo. The new human is specifically created in order to be destroyed as a source of tissue: "[Therapeutic cloning] requires the deliberate creation and disaggregation of a human embryo."1

Most cloned embryos do not even survive one week, to the blastocyst stage, when they are destroyed in the process of harvesting their cells. Experiments with lab animals show that even these early embryos have abnormalities in genetic expression.

Theoretically, the embryonic stem cells from the cloned human embryo would be used to generate matched tissues for transplant into the patient from whom the embryo was cloned. However, the promises put forth for "therapeutic cloning" are not supported by the scientific literature. When the experiment was tried in mice, rather than producing matching tissues, the cloned cells were rejected:

Jaenisch addressed the possibility that ES clones derived by nuclear transfer technique could be used to correct genetic defects. ... However, the donor cells, although derived from the animals with the same genetic background, are rejected by the hosts.2 Indeed, the only real success in the experiment was achieved by bringing cloned mice to birth and using the born-mouse bone marrow adult stem cells to treat the disease. Ironically, the similar genetic defect in humans, severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome ("boy in the bubble disease"), was cured in infants in 2000 using gene therapy with the infants' own bone marrow adult stem cells.3

Beyond the abnormalities caused by the cloning procedure, embryonic stem cells from cloned embryos will still face problems for their use, including the tendency to form tumors, and significant difficulties in getting the cells to form the correct tissue and function normally.


Human cloning is completely unnecessary for medical progress. Too often a false choice has been put forthÑthat we must either destroy embryos or allow patients to die. But there are other choices, particularly adult and umbilical cord stem cells. Those who say adult stem cells are not a valid alternative are quoting obsolete, outdated information. A wealth of scientific publications now documents that adult stem cells are a much more promising source of stem cells for regenerative medicine than embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells show the capacity to generate virtually all adult tissues. Most, if not all, tissues contain stem cells that can be isolated and grown in culture, providing sufficient numbers for clinical treatments. Adult stem cells have effectively treated numerous diseases in animal experiments, including diabetes, stroke, ALS, Parkinson's, heart damage, kidney damage, spinal cord injury, and retinal degeneration.4

Moreover, human patients are already benefiting from adult stem cell treatments for more than fifty diseases, including multiple sclerosis, lupus, arthritis, various cancers, and anemias, including sickle cell anemia.5 These are real treatments for real patients. Adult stem cells are being used to form new cartilage and ligaments so that people can walk, to grow new corneas to restore sight to blind patients, to treat stroke patients, and to repair damage after heart attacks. Adult stem cells have successfully alleviated the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and allowed spinal cord injury patients to walk again with the aid of braces.6 The patient's own adult stem cells can be used for these treatments, thereby avoiding immune rejection and tumor formationÑproblems which plague embryonic stem cell research.


Cloning is a tremendously inefficient process, and an enormous supply of human eggs will be needed to create even a few cloned human embryos. The most optimistic estimates are that it will require at least 50Ð100 human eggs to produce just one cloned embryo.7 A simple calculation reveals that treating just one patient group, the 17 million diabetes patients in the United States, will require at least 850 million to 1.7 billion human eggs. Approximately 85 million women of childbearing age would have to "donate" eggs. This will subject a large number of women to health risks due to the high hormone doses and surgery that they will undergo. The result will be that human eggs will become a commodity and disadvantaged women will be exploited on a global scale.


Because there is no difference in the nuclear transfer technique or the cloned embryo, allowing "therapeutic cloning" experimentation to proceed will inevitably lead to "reproductive cloning." The technique can be practiced and huge numbers of cloned embryos produced.

In fact, the lead scientist of the South Korean team that first cloned human embryos in February 2004 noted in a press conference on their experiments that the cloning technique developed in their laboratory "cannot be separated from reproductive cloning."8 His statement affirms what others have pointed out before: allowing therapeutic cloning simply prepares the way for reproductive cloning.9

Human cloning is unsafe and unnecessary. There are no valid or compelling grounds Ñ scientific or medical Ñ to proceed. A comprehensive ban on human cloning is the only sufficient answer.

Dr. David A. Prentice is Senior Fellow for Life Sciences at Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, and is an Affiliated Scholar for the Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University Medical Center. He joined FRC after almost 20 years as Professor of Life Sciences at Indiana State University and Adjunct Professor of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine. Pearson Education/Benjamin Cummings recently published his first book, Stem Cells and Cloning.


As Dr. Prentice has shown, cloning indisputably destroys innocent human life. This basic truth should lead the world to reject human cloning.

However, in an effort to extricate human cloning from this ethical vise grip, its supporters attempt to draw a distinction between human life, which begins at conception, and human "personhood," which begins only at their say-so.

Unfortunately, the arbitrary denial of "personhood" to human beings has a long and cruel history. The Nuremberg Code, formulated in the years after World War II, is particularly instructive with regard to the current debate on human cloning. For instance, when the principal author of the report on human cloning issued by the National Academy of Sciences testified before the President's Council on Bioethics, he stated that "reproductive cloning" would violate the Nuremberg Code: "The Nuremberg Code, with which I am in full agreement, outlines those kinds of things you would not simply [do] for the sake of knowledge that involve human subjects."10

The Nuremberg Code is a body of ethical norms enunciated by the Nuremberg Tribunal, which, after World War II, had the responsibility of judging the actions of the Nazis and their allies. The point of the code was to restate and apply the established ethical norms of the civilized world.

Nazi laws had defined Jews and other "undesirables" as non-persons. Eventually, between six and nine million of these "undesirables" were sent to extermination camps and killed. However, before the killing in the camps began, the Nazis had engaged in an extensive campaign of euthanasia against the mentally and physically handicapped, which not only foreshadowed but also prepared the way for the extermination camps.

In his book The Nazi Doctors, The Abuse of Science, Robert Jay Lifton draws our attention to a book titled The Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life, written during the campaign. Lifton writes:

[It was] published in 1920 and written jointly by two ... German professors: the jurist Karl Binding ... and Alfred Hoche, professor of psychiatry at the University of Freiburg. Carefully argued in the numbered-paragraph form of the traditional philosophical treatise, the book included as "unworthy life" not only the incurably ill but large segments of the mentally ill, the feebleminded, and retarded and deformed children. ... [T]he authors professionalized and medicalized the entire concept; destroying life unworthy of life was "purely a healing treatment" and a "healing" work.11

The Nazis were determined to "cleanse" the genetic pool to produce "better" Aryans. Nazi officials announced that "under the direction of specialists É all therapeutic possibilities will be administered according to the latest scientific knowledge."12 The result of this therapeutic treatment of "inferior" lives was that "eventually a network of some thirty killing areas within existing institutions was set up throughout Germany and in Austria and Poland."13

In their book, The Nazi Doctors and The Nuremberg Code, George Annas and Michael Grodin reveal that:

At the same time that forced sterilization and abortion were instituted for individuals of "inferior" genetic stock, sterilization and abortion for healthy German women were declared illegal and punishable (in some cases by death) as a "crime against the German body."

As one might imagine, Jews and others deemed racially suspect were exempted from these restrictions. On November 10, 1938, a Luneberg court legalized abortion for Jews. A decree of June 23, 1943, allowed for abortions for Polish workers, but only if they were not judged "racially valuable."14

Later, the Nazis created the extermination camps for the Jews and other "inferior" races. In the camps, Nazi doctors engaged in cruel experiments on the Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and others. They exposed them to extreme cold to determine the temperature at which death would occur. They injected them with poisons to see how quickly certain lethal elements moved through the circulatory system. They subjected twins to all manner of disabling and brutal experiments to determine how genetically identical persons reacted to different conditions. Some of the experiments were nonetheless designed to preserve life -- not of the subject, but of, for example, German pilots who were forced to parachute into freezing ocean waters.

Everyone agrees the Nuremberg Code prohibits "reproductive cloning." What relevance does it have for "therapeutic cloning?" If human embryos are human beings, then "therapeutic cloning," which creates an embryo only to destroy it in the process of exploiting its stem cells, violates a cardinal principle of the Nuremberg Code:

There is to be no experimentation on a human subject when it is known that death or disabling injury will result.15 Regardless of the good that might be produced by such experiments, the experiments are of their very nature an immoral use of human beings.


Human life begins in one of two ways: either in the normal, sexual way -- when a female oocyte, or egg, is fertilized by a male sperm cellÑor, as with cloning, asexually -- when the nucleus of an oocyte is removed and is replaced with a nucleus from another cell, after which an electrical stimulus is applied.16 In either case, from that moment forward there is a new human organism. It is genetically complete. From the first moment, the new single-cell organism directs its own integral functioning and development. It will proceed through every stage of human development until one day, it looks like we do.

To illustrate, simply think of photographs from your own infancy -- you don't look like that today! Your appearance has changed, but you are still the same person. Change is the very essence of life. As Dr. John Harvey from the Georgetown Medical School's Center for Clinical Bioethics observed, "A human being is unchangeable and complete only at the moment of death!"17

The embryo will grow and develop, and it will change. But it will undergo no change in its nature. In other words, there is no chance it will grow up to become a cow or a fish. It is a living human being -- its nature is determined -- from the first moment of its existence.18 As the respected ethicist Paul Ramsey said, "The embryo's subsequent development may be described as a process of becoming what he already is from the moment of conception."19


Recall how the Nazis subverted the meaning of healing. Recall how they used the term "therapeutic" to describe not the helping of suffering people, but the killing of them. Recall that the Nazis eliminated those "unworthy of life" in order to improve the genetic stock of Germany. Recall how the Nazis undertook lethal experiments on concentration camp inmates in order, in some cases, to find ways to preserve the lives of others.

The point is not to suggest that those who support "therapeutic cloning" are, in any sense, Nazis. Rather, the point is to cause each of us to think deeply about whether there is any essential difference between the reality of those Nazi experiments and "therapeutic cloning." As we have shown, each case involves a living human being, and that human being is killed in the aim of a perceived "higher" good.

Cloning proponents try to distinguish between the two cases by saying that the cloned human being has no "potential." But in each case, it is the actions of other human beings that rob the first of "potential" (in the first case, the actions of Nazi executioners; in the second, the laboratory technicians). In either case, the human subject is full of potential simply by being a living human being. Of course, almost miraculously, many of the inmates of the camps did survive when the allies rescued them. Equally miraculously, frozen embryos have been implanted in a woman's womb and brought to live (and healthy) birth.20

As we have shown, every embryo is not merely "potentially" a life, but actual life, a human being from the first moment of existence. Furthermore, any living human embryo has the inherent "potential" to develop into a healthy baby. It is disingenuous for supporters of cloning to claim because they plan to mandate by law that it be destroyed before it can come to birth. Regardless of its location, the human embryo, by its nature, is full of potential, unless the actions of adult human beings deprive it of the opportunity to realize that potential.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a man who chronicled and suffered under another ideology that denied the dignity of each and every human being, observed,

"Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right though every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates."21

Solzhenitsyn did not regard the perpetrators of brutal crimes in his own country as inhuman monsters. Rather, he saw the essential truth -- they were human beings, engaged in immoral acts. They engaged in those acts by dehumanizing the persons on whom their brutality was inflicted, and they did so in the name of (perhaps in the passionate belief in) a greater good. But Solzhenitsyn reminds us that, unless we are willing to admit that, for the best as well as for the worst of motives, we are also capable of inhuman acts, we will have no guard against committing them. No one is safe from brutality so long as we think that it is only inhuman others who are capable of inhuman acts. Rather, we will be secure when we are willing to look honestly at the objective reality of our acts, while realizing that we, too, are capable of acts that violate the inherent dignity of another, and refuse to engage in such acts despite the good we believe would result from doing otherwise. In the debate over the cloning and destruction of embryonic human beings, this essential truth must be our guide.

William L. Saunders, JD, is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Human Life and Bioethics at the Family Research Council. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he has written widely on bioethics and human dignity. Most recently, he authored "The Human Embryo in Debate," a chapter in Human Dignity in the Biotech Century, published by InterVarsity Press.

Next Page: NOTES
1, 2, 3, 4