Doctor speaks on issue of cloning

Megan R. Harrell

Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

   When Dr. David Stevens was treating patients at Tenwick hospital in Kenya he never would have imagined that politicians, or the president of the United States, would one day call on him for his expertise in bioethics.
   With Clonoid's recent claims to have successfully birthed the first human clone, Stevens' experience, and scientific opinion have been in high demand. The doctor's strong conservative stance on several ethical issues facing the nation has propelled him into the national media spotlight. Stevens has appeared on NBC Nightly News, the Today Show, CNN, and PAX-TV. The L.A. Times and Washington Post have also approached him for interviews.
   His stance on the issue of human cloning is a simple one. "It is morally, ethically, scientifically, and socially a bad idea," Stevens said.
   He said human cloning raises the moral red flag because it involves the destruction of human life. He added that many do not realize the fact it took scientists 276 attempts to successfully clone the sheep, Dolly. According to Stevens, scientists can expect the success rate with human cloning to be equally as poor.
   Scientists have argued that human cloning offers promising opportunities for individuals looking to establish the exact family they desire. Stevens rejects the notion, citing the loss of life that is at stake each time scientists try to clone humans.
   "In each of those attempts, an embryo, a distinct individual, a human being is created and most of them die," Stevens said. "So are we going to tolerate in our society the destruction of human beings in large numbers so a couple can have the child they want, or replace the child they lost?"
   Stevens also worries cloned children will not be valued on the basis of their individuality, but rather for what they can do for the people responsible for their creation. He said parents will begin to have children to meet their own emotional needs, and children's individual value will become secondary.
   In addition to the moral, ethical and social implications of human cloning, Stevens has highlighted scientific reasons why it should be avoided at all costs. He said there are serious scientific back lashes to using old genetic material to form new human beings.
   He said in cases where animals have been cloned, scientists reported major malformations of organs such as the liver and lungs. Stevens said these malformations are incompatible to every day life, and could cause serious health issues in cloned humans as they age.
   Stevens said he has come forward on the issue to speak out against reputable scientists, who he believes are misinforming the public. "They are using euphemisms for what they are doing. Stanford University has come out saying they are beginning a project on somatic cell nuclear transfer, but not human cloning. The definition of human cloning is somatic cell nuclear transfer," Stevens said.
   Even though he predicts the U.S. will see successful human cloning within the next couple of years, the doctor believes Washington needs to pass a comprehensive ban on human cloning. He said some people may break the law, but believes aggressive legislation preventing human cloning still needs to be adopted.