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Bioethicist says human cloning is scary

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CNN anchor Daryn Kagan talked Monday with Art Caplan, Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, about the ethics of human cloning.

KAGAN: The first thing you've got to think is this is scary stuff, 200 people, 200 potential cloned babies running around out there.

CAPLAN: It is scary. Dr. [Panos] Zavos and his group have been kind of the high-flying showbiz operators of cloning. They keep saying they're going to do this. I have to say, if you looked at the animal work that's been done and the people who really know this procedure of cloning, that is, veterinarians who try it in animals, the procedure is just not safe. And while Zavos and his group keep saying [they've] got something different, no one seems to know what it is.

I'm really worried that what they're going to do here is make a dead or deformed baby, not a healthy one.

Team plans to clone up to 200 humans 

KAGAN: And even what might start out as a healthy baby, didn't we see in some cloning experiments with rats of mice that they start out healthy, but then they end up developing some kind of weird deformity later in their life cycle?

CAPLAN: That's absolutely right. We've seen with Dolly [the sheep] that she's growing at about twice the normal rate that she should, and I've been keeping tabs on the cows, bulls, oxen that have been cloned. Over half of them have dropped dead unexpectedly. So clearly something's wrong when you're using old DNA from your skin cell or wherever you get it in your body, trying to use it in an egg. That handshake, that communication, doesn't work right and it makes for a, if you will, much great risk of producing something dead or deformed.

KAGAN: But also clearly there's definitely a need and a demand there. As [is being reported], 200 couples [are] willing to come forward. Those are 200 probably infertile couples who are desperate to have children.

CAPLAN: They must be pretty desperate, because let's figure this out. This is done by in vitro fertilization. It costs roughly $10,000 to $15,000 to try one of these transfers. That's a lot of money. I'm not sure where these 200 couples are going to come from. I'm not sure what country they're in and I'm not sure who's funding this. I won't say I'm skeptical that this is a plan that's really going to come off, but at least I have my doubts.

KAGAN: And as usually is the case when we bring you along, the question [arises] of who's in charge here and who's driving the bus, so to speak. If you're not dependent on government funding, really, any scientist can kind of set up shop and practice what they want.

CAPLAN: That's true. So far, the government here has gotten all caught up in stem cell politics and abortion politics and we still don't have a ban in this country even on federally funded projects. But even if we did, it looks like right now this thing might sneak in under the wire here, although they're not proposing to do it here. But we don't have a ban in place yet. We should have had one a long time ago just on safety grounds.

KAGAN: You think we should have?

CAPLAN: Oh, yes. Purely on safety grounds. Put aside whether it's good to be a clone, whether it's odd to be a clone, whether it's strange to be made in someone else's image, the way this science is right now, not working well in animals, you absolutely don't want to do it in people. It's just barbaric human experimentation.

KAGAN: Dr. Art Caplan, thanks for joining us.

CAPLAN: My pleasure.


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