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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 31 December 2002

31 December 2002

31 December 2002 The American company which claims to have cloned a human being who was born last week now says that identification tests have been carried out on the child and the results are due next week. Clonaid, which is associated with the Raelian cult, asserts that DNA tests, which could prove that baby Eve is genetically the same as her 31-year-old American mother, were performed yesterday by a independent body. The company also claims that mother and baby were now at home following the birth, though it is not clear if this means that they are in the United States. Mr Claude Vorilhon, the Raelians' founder, has said that 2,000 people have each offered to pay Clonaid $200,000 to clone themselves or a loved one. Dr Leon Kass, the chairman of President Bush's bioethics council, has described human cloning as crossing the boundary between procreation and manufacture, and has called for it to be made illegal. The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to do this and it is claimed that Congress will move quickly to ban cloning when it reconvenes next month. Representative Dave Weldon has said that Mr Bill Frist, the new leader of the incoming Republican Senate majority, shares the president's support for a ban. Mr Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee said: "The reason [researchers] want to mass clone embryos is to kill them and do research." The Church of Scotland has said that cloned children would lack individuality and could have physical and psychological problems. Dr Donald Bruce, a church spokesman, warned of the "serious risks" of cloning as suggested by health problems in cloned animals. [Scotsman, 31 December , Reuters on Yahoo!, 30 December , and BBC and Gannett on The Olympian , 28 December] Umbilical stem cells which are frozen for as long as 15 years can be used therapeutically, according to researchers at Indiana university. Dr Hal Broxmeyer's team found that such cells could be successfully thawed and would produce tissue for transplants. More than 100,000 umbilical samples are stored around the world, though it had been thought that they might only be of use for five years. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in Daily Telegraph, 31 December ] Umbilical tissue provides an ethical alternative to taking stem cells from aborted children or those produced by IVF or cloning. Danish scientists are lobbying for permission to use surplus embryos from fertility treatment to build a stem cell bank. Speaking prior to the imminent launch of an international stem cell research college, Professor Zimmer Rasmussen expressed concern that his country could fall behind Britain and Sweden in embryo research. Professor Ian Wilmut, who created the first cloned mammal, is on the advisory panel of the college in Odense. [Copenhagen Post, 30 December ] A seriously ill 74-year-old British man has said he will apply for assisted suicide at the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, Switzerland. Mr Reginald Crew of Liverpool has motor neurone disease and his wife, who fears he will choke to death because of his illness, could be prosecuted under UK law if she accompanies him. [Liverpool Daily Post, 31 December ] If well cared for, sufferers from motor neurone disease do not die from choking. An opponent of abortion who questions the safety of the RU-486 abortion pill has joined the committee on reproductive health drugs of the US Food and Drug Administration. Dr W David Hager, who teaches obstetrics and gynaecology at Kentucky university, is one of 11 physicians appointed to the committee which has not met for two years. Planned Parenthood called the appointment an assault on reproductive rights and a danger to women's health. [Washington Post, 31 December ] It is reported that British television will show a man eating a stillborn baby. Beijing Swings on Channel Four on Thursday will feature photographs of Mr Zhu Yu, a Chinese artist, eating the child. Miss Ann Widdecombe, the pro-life MP, has described the idea of the programme as hideous and the Chinese embassy in London has condemned it. [Guardian, 30 December ]

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