AMA takes unethical position on cloning
July 23, 2003
"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter! Woe, to those who are wise in their own sight, and prudent in their own esteem." (Isaiah 5:20-21)
The debates over human cloning have focused our attention on the significance of what has been called the biotech century. Biotechnology raises great hopes for technological progress; but it also raises profound moral questions, since it gives us new power over our own nature. It asks, what does it mean to be human?
We are thankful for the hope that biotechnology offers new treatments for some of the most dreaded diseases. But, this same technology can be used for good or evil. Scientists are working to clone human beings, either for embryo experiments or for live births. Biotech companies are contending for parts of aborted fetuses through patents on human genes, cells, and other tissues for commercial use.
Many believe that in biotechnology we meet the moral challenge of the 21st century. Moreover, millions believe and understand that humans are distinct from all other species; at every stage of life and in every condition of dependency, they are intrinsically valuable and deserving of full moral respect. To argue otherwise will lead to the ultimate tyranny that author C. S. Lewis writes about in his classic book The Abolition of Man: "If any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after are the patients of that power.." Such power will turn humans into commodities that have been manufactured. If one class of humans can be used for experimentation, what’s to stop others, who look different, can’t defend themselves, or lack a "quality of life" from being used the same way?
Concerned Women for America (CWA) seeks a comprehensive ban on all human cloning and genetic modification. There are those who argue that cloning can be sanctioned for therapeutic purposes. However, no matter what promise this might hold, all of which is speculative, it is morally offensive since it involves creating, killing, and harvesting one human being in the service of others. Civilization cannot countenance such a practice. Moreover, if cloning for experiments is allowed, how could we ensure that a human cloned embryo would not be implanted in a woman’s womb?
CWA seeks to protect the sanctity of human life. We welcome all medical and scientific research as long as it is firmly tied to moral truth. History teaches that whenever the two have been separated, the consequence is disaster and great suffering for humanity. It is vital that we undertake a serious national discussion to ensure a thorough understanding of these moral questions and their answers, so our democratic institutions will be able to make good public policy for future generations.
CWA expresses disappointment that the American Medical Association (AMA) would see fit to break from the physician’s creed to "do no harm" by announcing June 17, its support for human cloning for experimental purposes. This policy was adopted by the AMA at their annual meeting, without debate. To accept human cloning is to accept one of the greatest human abuses mankind has ever concocted. Up to this time, such proposals have only been entertained in science fiction material. Their proposal focused on a laboratory procedure designed to create embryos to cultivate their stem cells. Consider what kind of a culture we will foster with human life so devalued as to be considered disposable.
Creating human life in the laboratory to destroy it to get at stem cells shows a callous disregard for human life and God’s Plan. By choosing science devoid of ethics or concern for human beings, these physicians have shown an utter lack of sensitivity to patients’ well-being, ethical standards and human rights. Thirty years ago, doctors could be trusted by their patients because they all adhered to the same moral ethic. The public’s trust in their doctors who are represented by the AMA has been seriously weakened.
Is the AMA correct in saying that cloning is ethical? What can we determine from history? Consider these observations from the past: "No experiment should be conducted where there is a logical reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the experimental physicians also serve as subjects." (Nuremberg Code, Principle 5, 1949)
"Concern for the interests of the subject must always prevail over the interest of science and society..in research on man, the interest of science and society should never take precedence over considerations related to the well-being of the subject." (World Medical Association, Declaration of Helsinki, Sections l.5 1975).
"It is so easy for scientists to step over the edge and make science a god." (Susan Vigorito, a survivor of Dr. Josef Mengele’s notorious "twin" experiments, speaking at Kent State University 1990).
The AMA endorsement goes against legislative attempts to regulate the scientific community. The poor judgment shown by the AMA’s support for human cloning for research purposes shows why legislation is absolutely necessary. Clearly, the AMA lacks the ability to follow well-established ethical standards. There is no difference between cloning for reproduction and cloning for experimentation. It is the same procedure, spewed from a dangerous mindset that says human beings are commodities to be created and destroyed by scientists at will.
A spokesman for a national group of Christian doctors, said the AMA’s positions in favor of abortion and cloning are causing many pro-life doctors to decline membership.
"AMA’s penchant for putting medicine on a slippery slope of unethical principles has lead to a mass exodus of members for the past several decades," noted Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association.
"Whether it’s advocating abortion on demand … or now advocating the deliberate creation and destruction of living human beings in the name of research, the AMA’s unethical positions have caused a landslide membership fallout."
Lawmakers have been working toward passing a bill to ban all types of human cloning for the last two years. On Feb. 27, the House of Representatives passed, 241-155, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, which would ban creation of human embryos by cloning. The Senate has yet to act on a human cloning ban. The only total ban on cloning that has been introduced in the Senate is the Brownback-Landrieu Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 (S.245).
In the void created by a sluggish Senate, the AMA was able to announce its support for human cloning for experimental purposes. For the sake of humanity, science must be governed by ethics and by the law. However, some scientists and their lobbyists do not want boundaries. They are exploiting desperate patients to gain acceptance for their dangerous experiments. Ultimately, the powerful, the wealthy or the more politically connected will benefit most at the expense of the most vulnerable, women (for their eggs) and children (in their earliest stage of development). President Bush strongly supports a ban on all human cloning and rejects a "partial ban" that allows human cloning for research. Congress should act now to ban all human cloning. (Joey Davis is Missouri state director for Concerned Women for America.)