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,
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
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 www.carma.com.