Goodbye Dolly

A six-year-old died "at age twelve" last month. More than six years ago, Dolly the sheep was cloned from a cell of a six-year-old ewe. Many researchers think that as a result her body was middle-aged at birth. Dolly's experimenters used 277 cloned embryos to produce one sheep, meaning 276 failed. Many of those attempts produced deformed fetuses that died in the womb. Some were born dead. Others were born alive, twice their normal size, and died a few days after birth. Even Dolly, the "successful" clone, showed premature aging by age 3. Last year she was diagnosed with arthritis. Then she developed a virus-induced lung disease severe enough to justify "putting her out of her misery" on Valentine's Day. Brought to life by cloning, Dolly was euthanized. In this, there lies a cautionary tale. Dr. Richard Gardner is an Oxford University zoology professor and chair of the Royal Society working group on stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. He stated, "We must await the results of the post-mortem on Dolly in order to assess whether her relatively premature death was in any way connected with the fact that she was a clone. If there is a link, it will provide further evidence of the dangers inherent in reproductive cloning and the irresponsibility of anybody who is trying to extend such work to humans." Coming from a person of Dr. Gardner's stature, those words are worth heeding. There have been several recent statements that live-birth human cloning either has occurred or is "only around the corner." The Raëlians claimed the birth of a cloned baby girl, born the day after Christmas -- a boast that some observers estimate gained them $600 million worth of publicity without verification. In what may be a more credible claim, Italian physician Severino Antinori and others announced last year that they would help infertile couples produce the first human clone by 2003. One of his partners said, "The genie is out of the bottle." What are we doing here? If it took 277 attempts to clone a sheep, how many failures would it take to produce a human? And would anyone really want the rare success to be born middle-aged and, thus, have an abbreviated life? Pro-Life Infonet quotes cloning expert Dr. Patrick Dixon with additional concerns: "The greatest worry many scientists have," he writes, "is that human clones -- even if they don't have monstrous abnormalities in the womb -- will need hip replacements in their teenage years and perhaps develop senile dementia by their twentieth birthday." Dolly's birth was one of the biggest news stories of the nineties. Scientists made extravagant promises about medical and technological advances. Well, Dolly's embarrassingly premature death received little attention, precisely because it exposes the horrors of cloning. Life is not a toy with which cloners can experiment. Allowing human cloning for experimentation or medical research -- or any purpose -- will result in cloning for live births. There is only one safeguard that will keep cloned children from being manufactured: It is a total ban on human cloning, just what the Weldon bill does in the House and the Brownback bill (S. 245) does in the Senate. Take action: With the successful passage of the House bill to ban human cloning, it's time to focus on the Senate. Urge your two senators to cosponsor and support the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 (S. 245). The Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. Or visit for e-mail and mailing addresses. For further reading: Gina Kolata, "First Mammal Clone Dies: Dolly Made Science History," New York Times, 15 February 2003 (free registration required). Nigel Hawkes, "Scientists say goodbye Dolly as cloned sheep is put down," Times (London), 15 February 2003. "Dolly the Sheep Dies Prematurely, Scientists Warn of Cloning Dangers," from February 15 Pro-Life Infonet. Free e-mail subscription available. James Meek, "Dolly the sheep is put to sleep, aged only six," The Guardian (London), 15 February 2003. Nigel M. de S. Cameron, "All about Eve," Council for Biotechnology Policy, 16 January 2003. BreakPoint Commentary No. 030306, "Greetings, Earthlings: Playing God at 'U.F.O. Land.'" BreakPoint Commentary No. 030226, "'An Obvious Moral Absurdity': A Secular Case against Cloning." For more information about cloning and related issues, visit the Council for Biotechnology Policywebsite. (And subscribe to its free monthly "Biotech Policy Update" e-mail.) The "BreakPoint Christian Response to Cloning Kit" includes useful resources to help Christians understand why they should stand up for human dignity and the sanctity of human life; to speak to their fellow believers about the issue; to speak to unbelievers about the dangers of human cloning; and to take the first step toward opposing all human cloning.


Chuck Colson



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