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Scientist: Human cloning 'need not happen'


Senate weighs ethical implications

March 12, 1997
Web posted at: 12:29 p.m. EST (1729 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Scottish scientist who cloned an adult sheep said Wednesday he has found no acceptable application of cloning technology for humans and that for now he has no problems with banning such techniques.

"I think now to contemplate using our present technique with humans would be quite inhuman," said Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland. "It need not happen, and I hope it will not."

Wilmut made his comments at a morning news conference just before heading off to a Senate hearing in which scientists and lawmakers are to discuss the social, legal and ethical implications of human cloning.

Ian Wilmut on cloning technology
icon "human cloning need not happen"
(306k/27 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
icon "there's no practical application" he's comfortable with...
(221K/19 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
icon "comfortable with" Scotland's legal framework for dealing with cloning
(102K/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)


Asked if he opposed a ban on human cloning, Wilmut said of his Scottish homeland: "I am comfortable to live in a country that already has a legal framework which prohibits this sort of work."

However, Wilmut cautioned lawmakers not to hastily draw up a bill that could hinder useful aspects of the technology, such as the production of health care products and the study of genetic diseases.

"We are very concerned that in prohibiting any potential misuse of this technology, society does not lose the opportunity to develop new treatments," he said.

Wilmut, whose successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly has spurred world attention to the issue, also emphasized that he believes the public and media have misunderstood much of how the technology could be applied.


"These suggested (misunderstandings) actually depend on bringing a person back. And you can't do that," Wilmut said. "I am sorry if we added extra distress to those people have either lost, or are losing, a child."

Human cloning is not necessarily needed because all the work can be confined to laboratory animals and farm animals, he said. Asked what he felt was the most misunderstood point of his studies, Wilmut responded: "Perhaps that one: the idea that you can bring somebody back."

Senate to investigate

Also at the news conference was Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, chairman of the Committee of Public Health and Safety, which is looking into the ethics of cloning.


Frist said lawmakers, scientists and bio-ethicists would discuss the various "social, legal, and ethical implications of the science" at a Wednesday session for about five hours.

He said legislators would work toward a bill that would not jeopardize research that "has the potential for saving millions of lives." icon (272K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

"If we are going to endanger that type of research, then I am opposed to that legislation," he said.

President Clinton has issued an administrative directive that no federal money be spent on human embryo research. Also, at least two bills have been introduced in Congress to ban human cloning research. Several states also have proposed such laws.

Frist, the only physician in the Senate and who has performed numerous heart transplants, compared today's debate to the 1960s, when many believed heart transplants were unethical. icon (289K/26 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

"Now is the time for us as a country, as a nation, as a world, to address these (issues) in a systematic way -- not too hastily, but in a calm, reasoned, rational, balanced way," Frist said.


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