Dolly’s creator wants women to donate eggs
By Tom Strode
August 9, 2005
WASHINGTON (BP) – For scientists intent on cloning human embryos, there seems to exist a never-satisfied demand for more and better eggs.
Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly the sheep, is seeking permission from a British government agency to request that women donate their eggs for cloning research, according to the Guardian, a London newspaper. So far, cloning researchers in Great Britain have utilized only eggs left over from treatments at in vitro fertilization clinics, according to the report.
Pro-life ethicists, who largely oppose research cloning because it requires the destruction of embryos, criticized the development.
“Wilmut is trying to exploit women’s compassion, but it would be a misplaced compassion to donate eggs to create embryo-babies that will be destroyed for research,” said C. Ben Mitchell, a consultant for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and an associate professor of bioethics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Chicago.
Wilmut’s suggestion he needs eggs of a certain quality “turns women and their eggs into commodities,” Mitchell told Baptist Press.
“Wilmut should turn his interest in quality control into ethical responsibility. He would not clone human embryos if he were as concerned about ethics as he is experimentation,” Mitchell said.
Wilmut’s latest request confirms what some pro-life ethicists have been contending about the slippery slope of embryo research.
“Embryos belong in uteruses,” Mitchell said. “Once we began to generate them in vitro and not put them in uteruses, we made the unthinkable routine. Once the unthinkable becomes routine, it becomes expected. Once it is expected, it becomes demanded. And once demanded, a market is created.”
Wilmut told the Guardian he had “never doubted that women would donate if they thought we were helping people to have treatment.”
The injections required to produce more eggs than usual for extraction can be risky for the donors, the Guardian reported.
Wilmut follows in the path of South Korea’s leading cloning researcher, Woo Suk Hwang, whose team created a cloned human embryo last year after receiving eggs from women, according to the Guardian.
The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority licensed Wilmut in February to clone human embryos for research. He is seeking therapies for motor neuron disease.
Wilmut directed the team at Scotland’s Roslin Institute that successfully produced Dolly, the first cloned mammal, in 1996 after more than 270 failures. He is moving to Edinburgh University, the Guardian reported.