Cloning in Embryonic Stem Cell

The New South Wales Parliament website provides the results of a Morgon poll conducted in November 2001which found that 70 percent of Australians aged over 14 years of age felt that extracting stem cells from human embryos for the treatment of disease and injury was acceptable and that left over embryos from infertility treatments should be used for such research rather than be discarded (NSW Parliament, 2001).

However, it is till unclear to what extent Australians’ will allow stem cell research and human embryo cloning particularly when it involves the destruction of human embryos. In the meantime, Australia’s Health Ministers have begun a consultation process that aims to gather scientific and community responses to research that would include the destruction of human embryos (Goldberg, 2002). In addition, there is the issue of who will benefit financially from the outcomes of such research.

From an economic viewpoint, the technological advances in such genetic research would surely bring forth great opportunities for companies or entrepreneurial individuals to make tremendous financial gains should greater freedom for research and experimentation on stem cells and cloning be allowed. If laboratories have strong corporate backing, it may mean that the medical advances could well be more about making money for shareholders and entrepreneurs than it is about helping those with serious medical problems. Perhaps it is possible that without regulation of the industry should it become commonplace, those who can most afford treatments and cures for illnesses, such as diabetes and spinal cord damage, would have greater access to treatment. Governments may need to develop and implement a framework of regulations that have some control over unfair or unethical practices of individuals or business groups (e.g., the exploitation of women).

From a sociological perspective, the possible exploitation of woman, coerced by money to donate large amounts of eggs, was noted as real concern for Dr. Best (2002). Dr. Best claims that women would undoubtedly be exploited as research laboratories require and seek huge numbers of human eggs. Dr. Best also feels that ‘…woman may be treated with superovulatory drugs and must undergo an invasive procedure’. Further, Dr. Best contends that woman have in the past been paid up to $4,000 to donate eggs for cloning experiments. The offer such high fees to donate eggs could well encourage woman, in particular those at the lower socio-economic level, to submit to egg harvesting procedures. Thus, leading to exploitation of the woman involved.

As research and technological advances in stem cell and cloning research continue to develop, along with the increased promises of medical breakthrough, debate over how such research and its application will undoubtedly continue. In an article titled, Human Cloning, by Norman Swan, 1999, Swan reports on some of the issues discussed at a conference of the Human Genome Organization. According to swan, According to Swan, the Ethics Committee of the Human Genome Organization released a statement declaring that reproductive cloning of humans should not be permitted or attempted.

In contrast, the Committee did say that they supported the cloning of cells for tissue transplantation in order to avoid disease. Personally, I am in support of research into stem cell research from both adult and embryonic sources for the purposes of disease and other illness prevention and for the possible reversal of diseases and illnesses already affecting a patient. However, I would like to see that the research and the subsequent application of it’s findings be monitored and tightly regulated by the Government to ensure moral and ethical frameworks are developed. Such a framework would include laws that aim to prevent the exploitation of woman or the ill, and that ensure the reproductive human cloning is not attempted or allowed.

Research on cloning and related technologies is progressing worldwide and Australia’s scientists are playing a role in this. While the scientific potential of embryonic stem cell research is great, the fact remains that the embryos must be destroyed in the process. This will undoubtedly continue to attract debate from both the community and pro-life groups. It has been demonstrated that there is far more to consider than just the scientific potential of the research.

In addition, the political issues need to be considered and the governments obviously have an obligation to be aware of, and listen to, the concerns of from within the community and those opposing the directions of the research. Moreover, steps should be taken to ensure that people, in particular woman and those at the lower end of the socio-economic level, are not exploited. It is clear that governments need to weigh up the respective merits of promoting research and development in medical technologies that may improve the quality of life for many people on the one hand, and respecting early human life and dignity on the other.


Best, M. 2002, ‘Implications for Cloning in Embryonic Stem Cell Research’, Social Issues Committee, Anglican Diocese Sydney (online), [Accessed 7 May 2003].


Dayton, L. 2003, ‘Human stem bank critical for research’, The Weekend Australian, 10-11 May, p.7.

Goldberg, D. 2001, ‘Cloning around with stem cells’, ABC (online), [Accessed 25 May 2003].

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