MEDIA WATCH: Media is split down the middle on ACT's cloningexperiment

It may not be the same way that Star Wars producer George Lucas

envisioned it, but Clone Wars have become a reality. As the Boston

Herald (November 27) wrote, "It's a messy, polarized debate, and there

appears to be no middle ground between those who support cloning for

medical research and those who oppose it altogether."

Late last month, Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) of Massachusetts jarred

the nation when it announced that it had succeeded in cloning early

stage human embryos. The announcement singlehandedly appeared to refocus

the nation's attention away from terrorism and the recession.

Debate on the topic stayed equally divided between those who supported

therapeutic cloning and those wanting an outright ban. However, there

was slightly more support voiced for the idea of pursuing therapeutic

cloning research under controlled circumstances, which is the type of

research ACT claimed to be undertaking. The Dallas Morning News

(November 27) reported ACT president Dr. Michael West's statements that

"therapeutic cloning eventually could lead to cures for spinal cord

injuries, diabetes, Parkinson's, and other diseases, by cultivating a

person's own stem cells as replacement tissue."

While debate raged on whether or not this type of research should take

place, there appeared to be a consensus in the media that reproductive

cloning to produce human replicants was "the worst sort of reckless,

unethical experimentation" and should be outlawed (Los Angeles Times,

November 28).

The media turned to members of Congress for their views. With President

Bush stating his opposition to all efforts to clone humans, and the

House of Representatives having passed a similar bill, The Christian

Science Monitor (November 27) noted, "The legislative ball is in the

Senate's court."

Several outlets supported Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's (D-SD)

decision to not put the topic on the Senate's agenda until February or

March, despite pressure from Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) to move quickly

to ban all research. Margaret McLean, director of Biotechnology and

Healthcare Ethics at Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for

Applied Ethics told the Boston Herald (November 27), "The worst time to

decide about ethics is when you're in a hurry. I'd rather have people

understand the nuances."

Interestingly, for all of the uproar the announcement caused, several

papers indicated that ACT's findings were not groundbreaking and could

even be seen as a failure. ACT was also rebuked by a number of papers

for its "brassy self-promotion" (San Francisco Chronicle, November


A bioethicist told The Hartford Courant (November 27), "Is there

anything surprising in it? No. In fact, they got pretty lousy results.

Is it a great way to get the company's name in the paper? Yes." In both

a front-page news story and an editorial, The New York Times (November

27) accused the firm of hyping a media blitz over its hollow

announcement and noted the irony that the premature announcement may

lead to a ban on the very type of research they are pursuing.

While ACT may have jumped the gun to be the first to clone a human, the

announcement brought the issue back into focus for the US. And even if

ACT wasn't entirely successful this time, it probably won't be long

before someone somewhere takes that next step.

- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be

found at

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in