George and Cohen point to the infamous Hwang Woo Suk, a lead research from South Korea, who in 2004 and 2005 triumped his achievements in cloning human embryos and stem cell lines from cloned embroyos. But his work was determined to be fabricated. "Apparently, no cloned embryos were ever produced; no embryonic stem cells were ever created." In addition to the fabrication of data, Hwang "used eggs procured from junior researchers in his own lab - a violation of the Helsinki Declaration that governs medical research - and then lied to cover it up. His partner, Roh Sung II, paid 'volunteers' for additional eggs and forced them to lie about it on their consent forms." Hwang and his partner exploited women in their desire to acheive cloned embryos. These women "undergo a risky and unpleasant procedure - first, ovarian hyperstimulation, and then the insertion of a needle into their ovaries to procure the wanted oocytes - with no medical benefit to themselves." This type of exploitation and coverup
would never happen in America, researchers assure us. But as time goes on ... some will call the ethical limits into question: Why not pay women for their eggs? Why not induce poor women to profit by risking their health? Of course, no responsible doctor coudl advise his patient to undergo such a procedure. But perhaps we will simply "update" basic medical ethics as well, and decide that the "good of mankind" trumps the good of individual patients.George and Cohen do not like the slippery slope of "progress" for the "good of mankind":
We have seen where this amoral logic leads us -- to shameful abuses of research subjects, which surely no one wants to repeat. But we have also seen, in the stem cell debate, how moral lines erode quickly -- from using only "spare" embryos left over in fertility clinics to creating human embryos solely for research to creating (or trying to create) cloned embryos solely for research. What will be next? Probably proposals for "fetal farming" -- the gestation of human embryos to later developmental stages, when potentially more useful stabilized stem cells can be obtained and organ primordia can be "harvested."George and Cohen then argue that two pieces of legislation currently in the Senate would help protect the dignity of human life by prohibiting fetal farming and "one that would fund alternative methods of producing genetically controlled, pluripotent stem cells -- just the kind of stem cells we would get from cloning, but without the embryo destruction."
George and Cohen draw two final points: one about the cloning scandal and the other about the future of cloning research.
In the end, the lesson of the cloning scandal is not simply that specific research guidelines were violated; it is that human cloning, even for research, is so morally problematic that its practitioners will always be covering their tracks, especially as they try to meet the false expectations of miraculous progress that they have helped create.... But because cloning is so morally problematic, we need to find another way forward.This article provides some good reflections about the state of stem cell research and and the lessons that should be learned from the cloning scandals. Ultimately, the only true advances in science are those based upon the dignity of man and the respect for human life. Without these two fundamental truths, progress will be nothing more than the destruction of the weak and innocent in the name of the advancement of the "good of mankind." Science and medicine has seemed too eager to abuse those who are weak or disabled for the good of all, but we should take time to respect and defend those who are innocent and weak and give them the proper dignity that is due to them as human persons.
Instead of engaging in fraud and coverup, or conducting experiments that violate the moral principles of many citizens, we should look to scientific creativity for an answer. Since the cloning fraud, many scientists -- such as Markus Grompe at Oregon Health & Science University and Rudolf Jaenisch at MIT -- have been doing just that. And others, such as Kevin Eggan at Harvard, may have found a technique, called "cell fusion," that would create new, versatile, genetically controlled stem cell lines by fusing existing stem cells and ordinary DNA. Scientists in Japan just announced that they may have found a way to do this without even needing an existing stem cell line.
In other words: all the benefits of research cloning without the ethical problems. Looking ahead, it is becoming increasingly likely that reprogramming adult cells to pluripotency, rather than destroying human embryos, will be the future of regenerative medicine. It offers both a more efficient and far more ethical way forward.