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Dolly’s death a warning on human cloning, ethicists say

WASHINGTON (BP)–The premature death of Dolly, the world’s first cloned mammal, should be a warning to those who seek to clone human beings, Southern Baptist ethicists say.

Dolly, a sheep, was put to death after being diagnosed with a progressive lung disease. Confirmation of the diagnosis may be another piece of evidence that Dolly, 6 years old, was showing signs of advanced aging.

Sheep can live to be 11 or 12 years of age. Lung infections are common in older sheep, particularly those housed inside, said a spokesman for the Roslin Institute, according to the Associated Press. The research institute, near Edinburgh, Scotland, cloned Dolly from a 6-year-old sheep in 1996 and announced its ground-breaking achievement in February 1997.

In 1999, researchers found Dolly’s cells had begun to resemble those more typical of an older mammal, AP reported. Scientists announced last year the sheep had developed arthritis at a somewhat early age, according to AP.

“Apparently while Dolly was chronologically 6, her genes were manifesting the abnormal age of the mammal from which she was cloned,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “If indeed the Raelians’ claim of having cloned a baby girl is true, then when the 29-year-old mother from whom the baby was cloned is 45, will her 16-year-old daughter be experiencing puberty or menopause along with her mother?”

Dolly’s fate “is yet one more compelling reason for why we should not be allowing this kind of experimentation on human beings,” he said. “It will lead to pain, agony, disfigurement and death.”

Ben Mitchell, a consultant for the ERLC and a bioethics professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Chicago, said, “To subject a sheep to the consequences of cloning was cruel; to subject a human being to those consequences is criminal. And our laws should reflect that fact.”

Both Land and Mitchell called for Congress to pass legislation on human cloning that would prohibit the procedure when the birth of a clone is the goal and when experimentation with cells from a cloned embryo is the purpose. The House of Representatives is expected to consider such a comprehensive ban the week of Feb. 24. President Bush has endorsed the legislation.

Meanwhile, a measure has been introduced that would ban reproductive cloning but allow cloning for research purposes.

Even one of the collaborators on Dolly’s cloning said her Feb. 14 death is a warning.

“I think it highlights more than ever the foolishness of those who want to legalize [human] reproductive cloning,” said Alan Colman, who now is a researcher in Singapore, according to AP. “In the case of humans, it would be scandalous to go ahead given our knowledge about the long-term effects of cloning.”

While other animals since Dolly have been cloned, many attempts have failed. Some efforts have resulted in deformed fetuses and still-births. Other abnormally sized clones have died shortly after birth, AP reported. Dolly was born only after more than 270 attempts failed.

Clonaid, an organization started by the UFO cultish Raelian movement, announced in late December it had successfully produced the birth of a human clone. No evidence has been provided for the assertion.