The Australian public - which would end up bankrolling this controversial research - must be protected from huckstering. Here are a few of the many questions that scientists should face about their work:
- Progress towards therapeutic cloning requires women's eggs, probably in vast numbers, yet donors are not supposed to be compensated. Retrieving the eggs is a long, uncomfortable and potentially dangerous procedure and it is unlikely that many women will volunteer. How, then, will you source the eggs? In particular, do you plan to use rabbit or cow eggs to create beings that are mostly human, but part animal? Why hasn't any other country authorised this radical procedure?
- If you are successful in developing a personal body repair kit using the technique of therapeutic cloning, how much will this cure cost? US scientists estimate it could be at least $A135,000. Would that be true in Australia as well?
- The world's most famous cloner, Ian Wilmut, the scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep, released a book last week in which he suggests that therapeutic cloning should be used to create healthy designer babies. Is this an outcome you would welcome?
[IPBiz note: the status of Wilmut as the "cloner" of Dolly has been questioned; Wilmut's book has been discussed elsewhere on IPBiz.]
- Cloning babies is the single possibility of reproductive technology to which the public is adamantly opposed. Yet the Australian Academy of Science, along with more than 60 of the world's leading science academies, is a signatory to a declaration that a ban on human reproductive cloning "should be reviewed periodically in the light of scientific and social developments".