Human Cloning and Human Dignity:
An Ethical Inquiry
Letter of Transmittal
THE PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL ON BIOETHICS
July 10, 2002
The White House
Dear Mr. President:
I am pleased to present to you the first report of the President's Council on Bioethics, Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry. The product of six months of discussion, research, reflection, and deliberation, we hope that it will prove a worthy contribution to public understanding of this momentous question.
Man's biotechnological powers are expanding in scope, at what seems an accelerating pace. Many of these powers are double-edged, offering help for human suffering, yet threatening harm to human dignity. Human cloning, we are confident, is but a foretaste the herald of many dazzling genetic and reproductive technologies that will raise profound moral questions well into the future. It is crucial that we try to understand its full human significance.
We have tried to conduct our inquiry into human cloning unblinkered, with our eyes open not only to the benefits of the new biotechnologies but also to their challenges moral, social, and political. We have not suppressed differences but sought rather to illuminate them, that all might better appreciate what is at stake. We have eschewed a thin utilitarian calculus of costs and benefits, or a narrow analysis based only on individual "rights." Rather, we have tried to ground our reflections on the broader plane of human procreation and human healing, with their deeper meanings. Seen in this way, we find that the power to clone human beings is not just another in a series of powerful tools for overcoming unwanted infertility or treating disease. Rather, cloning represents a turning point in human history the crossing of an important line separating sexual from asexual procreation and the first step toward genetic control over the next generation. It thus carries with it a number of troubling consequences for children, family, and society.
Although the Council is not unanimous, either in some of its ethical conclusions or its policy recommendations, we are unanimous in submitting the entire report as a fair and accurate reflection both of our views and of the state of the question. To summarize our findings briefly:
First. The Council holds unanimously that cloning-to-produce-children is unethical, ought not to be attempted, and should be indefinitely banned by federal law, regardless of who performs the act or whether federal funds are involved.
Second. On the related question of the ethics of cloning-for-biomedical research, the Council is of several minds and is divided in its policy preferences:
- Seven Members (a minority), eager to see the research proceed, recommend permitting cloning-for-biomedical-research to go forward, but only under strict federal regulation.
- Ten Members (a majority), convinced that no human cloning should be permitted at least for the time being, recommend instituting, by law, a four-year ban on cloning-for-biomedical-research, applicable to all researchers regardless of whether federal funds are involved.
Third. The same ten-Member majority recommends a federal review of current and projected practices of human embryo research, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, genetic modification of human embryos and gametes, and related matters, with a view to recommending and shaping ethically sound policies for the entire field. A thorough federal review, during the moratorium, could help to clarify the issues and foster a public consensus about how to proceed, not just on cloning-for-biomedical-research but on all the related reproductive and genetic technologies. We think this Council is well situated to initiate such a review, and we have already begun it. But we also stand ready to assist any other body that may be established to take up this large and complex subject.
The extensive reasoning underlying these recommendations is given at length in the report and is well summarized in the Executive Summary, and so I shall not rehearse it here.
On behalf of my Council colleagues, and our fine staff, allow me to thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity you have given us to serve the nation on this weighty subject.
Leon R. Kass, M.D.