Melanie Phillips on embryonic stem-cell research
The post-human future
There is a strong sense of unreality about all this. Earlier this year, the United Nations voted in favour of banning all forms of human cloning because of the insuperable ethical problems that it poses.
The British government is simply ignoring this unhelpful ruling. For it has passed a law permitting what is euphemistically called ‘therapeutic’ cloning, which is said to be quite different from ‘reproductive’ cloning which it has banned.
This is because ‘therapeutic’ cloning involves using cells from a cloned embryo to grow tissue which can be implanted into a patient, rather than allowing the cloned embryo to develop into a baby.
This is a highly disingenuous and meaningless distinction, since ’therapeutic’ cloning still involves the creation of a human embryo which, if it were left alone — all other things being scientifically equal — would grow into a baby.
The cloners and their Whitehall patrons, however, claim that this isn’t reproductive cloning because the cloned embryo will be killed before it gets anywhere near becoming a baby. Look, they say, it will be no bigger than the dot at the end of this sentence: not an unborn baby, but a bundle of cells which can only be seen under a microscope.
In making such a claim, however, they give their essentially dehumanising game away. For they are redefining human reproduction as only a process which produces a breathing baby at the end of it.
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But instrumentalising life in this way, bringing an individual into being solely to benefit other individuals, is utterly inimical to the deepest belief of our civilisation that every human life deserves equal dignity and respect.
Yes, we have greatly eroded that belief over the years, particularly by our promiscuous use of abortion. But ‘therapeutic’ cloning is worse than abortion, and even worse than the destruction of ‘spare’ embryos created through in-vitro fertilisation. For it means deliberately creating a life solely in order to destroy it.
In addition, who can doubt that ‘therapeutic’ cloning is a step on an already lethal slippery slope? How many times have we heard the government or the medical experimentation lobby swear with hands on their hearts that this or that ‘essential’ development — abortion, artificial insemination by donor, experimentation on embryos — is hemmed in by an iron legislative wall to prevent us from slithering into an ethical nightmare?
Yet every single such development has opened the door to increasingly indefensible practices that have degraded and coarsened our society. Once human embryos are created, the pressure to do more with them at later stages of gestation will inevitably increase, and eventually the pressure to allow some of them to develop into babies will become irresistible.
Read it all.