Legality of cloning sparks debate

The ethics of human cloning heated up recently as two legal experts presented opposing views on the practice in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A commentary in the July 8 issue by John Robertson of the University of Texas School of Law in Austin states that congressional bans or restrictions on human cloning are unjustified.1 Further, Roberston says that bans would hamper important types of research.

The public has little to fear from human cloning technology, suggests Robertson. "The most likely uses of cloning would be far removed from the bizarre or horrific scenarios that initially dominated media coverage," he adds. Human cloning technology would most likely be used by infertile couples or couples at risk for passing on a genetic disease who want to have children, Robertson theorizes.

A second commentary written by George J. Annas from the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health calls for the creation of a federal agency to regulate human experimentation.2 Annas goes a step further and says that the ability to produce an exact copy of any one person erodes that individual's basic value as a unique human being.


1. Robertson J. Human Cloning and the Challenge of Regulation. N Engl J Med 1998; 339:119-122.

2. Annas G. Why We Should Ban Human Cloning. N Engl J Med 1998; 339:122-125. n