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Italy doctor defends human cloning

ROME, Italy -- An Italian doctor, determined to be the first to clone a human, has accused the Vatican of starting a new Inquisition against science.

Severino Antinori, who says his team is ready to start work on the first human clone within weeks, defended his plan before a medical council on Thursday in Rome.

The Vatican holds that no human being should be denied the fundamental right to be conceived and born the natural way.


"I haven't committed any crime," Antinori said. "To think and do research is still not forbidden."

He rebuffed criticism of the project and reserved his strongest words for the Vatican, which has called human cloning "grotesque."

"We seem to have returned to the old times of the Inquisition," he said.

The Inquisition was the Vatican office that dealt with heresy in medieval times, trying heretics and scientists, such as Galileo, in an ecclesiastical court. Those found guilty were often burned at the stake.

"We are working for humanity to help man, not to create anything negative," he added.

Antinori's cloning group has repeatedly said it wants to help infertile couples have children, and fellow team member Panos Zavos has said 700 couples have volunteered to take part.

Zavos, a United States fertility doctor, said the team has unlimited private funds to create the first baby with the same genetic make-up as one of its parents.

"Historically (opposition) is normal but once the first baby is born and it cries, the world will embrace it," Zavos said earlier this month.

In the cloning experiment, cells from an infertile father would be injected into an egg, which is then implanted in the mother's uterus for the pregnancy.

The resulting child would have the same physical characteristics as his father and infertile parents would not have to rely on sperm donors.

Though some countries are firmly against human cloning, such as Japan where it is considered a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, other governments are creeping towards legislating at least some of the procedure.

In January, Britain's House of Lords passed new rules allowing limited cloning of human embryos to help combat killer illnesses such as Parkinson's disease.

Scientists have warned that taking stem cell research on to full human cloning would raise unprecedented ethical questions.

Dr Ian Wilmut, who created Dolly, the world's first cloned sheep, said it took 277 tries to get it right.

Other cloning attempts have ended in malformed animals and experts say the technique fails in 97 percent of cases.

Antinori said: "Cloning creates ordinary children. They will be unique individuals, not photocopies of individuals."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Executive Summary -- Cloning Human Beings
Roslin Institute Online: Information

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