Past Events

Cloning and the Biotech Future

  1. Background
  2. Speaker Profiles
  3. Recommended Resources
  4. Audio Links
  5. Background

    Delegates at BioCentre's conference on cloning heard contributions from Prof Nigel Cameron of BioCentre, Baroness Warnock and from Dr Brigitte Boisselier, the Director of Clonaid.

    Nigel Cameron pointed out the pariah status of the UK from the rest of the West in allowing ‘therapeutic’ cloning and set a global context for the ethical debate which now includes a coalition between the anti-GM movement and those opposed to cloning on grounds of human dignity .  However Baroness Warnock, whose Government-appointed Committee over 10 years ago led to allowing experimentation on embryos up to 14 days, tried to allay fears about a ‘slippery slope’ in using embryos for medical experiments.

    There was much interest in the presence of Dr Boisselier who claimed that ‘five babies are alive today’ as clones produced by Clonaid and that there are ‘8 more still to come’.  The Raelians, she claimed had a 40% success rate – twice that of conventional IVF treatment – and that although there is a ‘market for cloning dogs and other pets’ that ‘human cloning is easier than mammals’.  Dr Boisselier talked about the need to reduce the number of babies with ‘birth defects’ and said ‘some of these defects are as a result of bad mating’.  Talking about why there had not been any evidence produced so far Dr Boisselier claimed that the parents, who ‘are all scientists’ were ‘afraid to face the press’ but that she had ‘been to places I couldn’t describe in order to get the cells of dead children’ for grieving parents.  Dr Boisselier’s major comment on ethics was ‘I consider it my right to benefit from science without any limits’.

    Prof Nigel Cameron, Executive Chair of BioCentre and leading bioethicist, said:

    ‘This conference is of value to the global debate, even if its main consequence is to display the absence of ethics, let alone good science, from those who inhabit the popular discussion on cloning.  I am glad BioCentre has been able to provide Dr Boisselier a platform so that her claims can be judged alongside serious scientists and ethicists and shown to be utterly false and her shockingly low view of human dignity be clearly seen.  Although real scientists can see that Clonaid live in a science-fiction realm and nobody believes her claims we should be concerned that a number of serious-thinking people have no more ethics than she does.'

    In the afternoon there were presentations from Lord Alton of Liverpoool on ‘the politics of cloning’ and Dr Calum Mackellar of The Scottish Council for Human Bioethics on European attitudes to cloning, followed by a panel discussion.

    Speaker Profiles

    Baroness Warnock

    Baroness WarnockHelen Mary Warnock, philosopher, was born 14 April 1924 in Winchester. Her father, a housemaster at Winchester, died seven months before Mary was born; her mother never remarried. Helen was educated at St. Swithun’s, an Anglican school, where she concentrated on classics. She won a scholarship to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and began her studies there in 1942. One of her closest friends during this time was Charles de Gaulle’s daughter, Elisabeth. After leaving briefly to teach at Sherborne School for Girls, Warnock returned to Lady Margaret Hall to earn her first degree in 1948; she was made Honorary Fellow in 1984.

    Warnock taught philosophy at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, from 1949 to 1966 and was well regarded as a teacher. She became the first married fellow of the college in 1959. Thanks to two books on existentialism, in the 1960s she became a regular philosophy commentator on BBC Radio 3. She served as headmistress of the Oxford High School from 1966 to 1972. She was a member of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (1973–1983) and was considered as a possible chair of governors of the BBC in 1980. She chaired a commission of enquiry into laboratory animal experiments and sat on a Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. She was mistress of Girton College, Cambridge, from 1984 to 1991 and became a Life Peer in 1985 as ‘Baroness Warnock of Weeke’. In 2000 Warnock was a Visiting Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College, London.

    In 1949 she married philosopher Geoffrey Warnock, and they had two sons and three daughters during the 1950s. Geoffrey, who late in his career served as Vice-Chancellor of Oxford and principal of Hertford College, retired in 1988 and died of degenerative lung disease in 1995. She lives in a village in Savernake forest.

    Mary Warnock is perhaps best known for chairing two national committees of enquiry for Great Britain, each of which published a significant report. The first (1974–1978) reported on the education of handicapped children and young persons, and resulted in Special Educational Needs (1978). The second and most influential inquiry dealt with the ethics of embryos and human fertilisation, entitled A Question of Life: The Warnock Report on Human Fertilisation and Embryology (1984, reprinted 1985), which was published six years after the birth of the first test-tube baby. She returned to writing about issues related to the ethics of human reproduction in Making Babies: Is There a Right to Have Children? (2002).


    Dr. Brigitte Boisselier

    Brigitte BoisselierDr. Brigitte Boisselier is the scientific director of Clonaid, a company devoted to creating human clones. Based in the Bahamas, Clonaid is funded by the Raëlian Movement, a quasi-religious organization which believes that humans were scientifically created by extraterrestrials. Clonaid includes two other divisions: Clonapet, a service for cloning dear departed companion animals, and Insureaclone, a service designed to preserve the DNA of living people for future cloning. In early 2001 Bosselier told a U.S. congressional committee that Clonaid would delay actual cloning until legal issues had been settled. Later that year the company moved its operations out of the United States, and in August of 2001 the U.S. House of Representatives banned human cloning. On 27 December 2002 Boisselier announced that Clonaid had successfully cloned the first human, a girl known as Eve who was born on 26 December at an undisclosed location. Scientists greeted the announcement with skepticism, but Boisselier claimed that proof of the baby's arrival would be provided early in 2003.

    Source: http://www.who2.com/brigitteboisselier.html


    Lord Alton of Liverpool

    Lord Alton of LiverpoolFor 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and is currently an Independent crossbench life Peer of the House of Lords.

    In 2001, David was one of the leading campaigners within Parliament who sought to thwart the Government's attempts to legalise so called "therapeutic cloning". He was invited to give oral evidence in November 2001 to the House of Lords Select Committee on Stem Cell Research.

    He holds the positions of President and Vice President with several charities and organisations including, LIFE, The Bible Society and Karen Aid. He is also a member of the British & Irish Bishops' Advisory Committee on Bio-Ethics. He is a regular columnist for the Universe.


    Prof. John Wyatt

    Professor John WyattJohn Wyatt is Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics at University College London and a Consultant Neonatologist at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, an internationally-recognised tertiary centre for the care of the newborn. 

     He is a member of a multidisciplinary research team investigating the mechanisms, consequences and prevention of perinatal brain injury.  He has supervised a range of research projects including the use of new methods of optical brain scanning in babies both before and after birth.  He was co-Principal Investigator for the first major international clinical research trial of head cooling treatment for newborn babies and leads a major prospective follow-up study of preterm and brain-injured infants. He has a long-standing interest in the ethical and social implications of advances in biomedical technology and is currently collaborating with colleagues at UCL in the creation of an academic centre to address these issues.

     

    Dr. Calum Mackellar

    Dr. Calum MackellarCalum MacKellar is the Director of Research at the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics and runs a non-profit organisation called European Bioethical Research.

    After completing his doctorate in Biochemistry with the University of Stuttgart in Germany, Dr. MacKellar began working, in 1991, as a post-doctoral research fellow with the University of Edinburgh synthesising genetic antivirals against HIV. In 1993, he then continued this research in industry for more than four years, in Glasgow, during which time he also started work with the international journal 'Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics' of which he is now the editor. 

    In 1997, he began teaching biochemistry and bioethics at Queen Margaret University College in Edinburgh. In 2001, he then went to Strasbourg in France to work with the Bioethics Division of the Council of Europe.

    In 2003, Dr. MacKellar returned to Scotland where he now works as the Director of Research of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics. He is also a member of an NHS Research Ethics Committee in Edinburgh.

     

    Resources

    BioCentre pages on Reproductive Cloning and Research or Therapeutic Cloning

    United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning

    Audio

    Audio recordings of this Symposium can be downloaded here