SFSU experts weigh ethical, social effects of cloning
SAN FRANCISCO, January 22, 2003---In the wake of recent claims of human cloning, San Francisco State University faculty call attention to ethical and social concerns in cloning and genetic engineering that have yet to be addressed. SFSU faculty are available to provide expert commentary on cloning and such related concerns as bioethics, gene therapies and genetic discrimination.
For additional assistance in locating an expert, call the SFSU Office of Public Affairs at (415) 338-1665.
Anita Silvers, professor of philosophy
A member of the ethics committee at San Francisco General Hospital, Silvers has written and lectured widely on medical ethics, the genetic revolution, genetic discrimination and disability issues. Silvers has been actively involved in genetics and bioethics since the 1970s, when she organized a conference on recombinant DNA, and has published seven books and more than 100 articles on ethics, bioethics and social policy.
"I'm a strong supporter of cloning for therapeutic purposes and I'm not fearful of reproductive cloning," said Silvers, who sees the controversies as a struggle to define human nature.
She argues that research into cloning and genetic therapies must go forward, but also needs safeguards. "My position is that it's immoral to inhibit learning because we're afraid of uses to which it could be put," she said. "I'm pro-cloning, as long it's done sensibly.
"We're faced with an incredible challenge in which the choices are either to have confidence in our ability to manage science in beneficial ways, or to suppress our knowledge because we're so afraid of what we'll do."
Michael A. Goldman, professor of biology
A specialist in human genetics and developmental biology, Goldman opposes reproductive cloning and says recent events have not changed his thinking.
"My position on human reproductive cloning has been little changed by the recent furor over Clonaid's alleged cloning of Eve using cells from an adult female," he said.
Goldman added that because of its low success rate and resulting developmental abnormalities, "the procedure will remain experimental, more of a 'science project' than a reproductive technology."
Because reproductive cloning is at odds with normal human genetic development, he noted, it may always pose health risks despite technological advances. But non-reproductive cloning may offer practical and theoretical benefits, Goldman said.
Susan Connell, lecturer in biology and business
A former civil rights attorney, Connell specializes in bioethics and business ethics. She developed SFSU's Ethical Issues in Science Program and has conducted teacher training on the ethical, legal and social issues of the human genome project. In November 2002 Connell organized an interdisciplinary forum on cloning at SFSU.
She argues that the topic of cloning rights deserves more scrutiny. "Human cloning presents complex ethical issues, and existing laws and constitutional rights may be insufficient to address those issues," she said.
Connell also cautions that proposals to ban human cloning might be shortsighted and ineffective. "The federal government can't ban research. It can only ban funding," she said.
And she suggests a federal funding ban could have unexpected consequences.
"The research will go out of the labs with federal oversight and into private labs," Connell notes. "Those labs may be at corporations or they may be 'underground.' The technology is not so complex that only big institutions are capable of using it."
Student writer Scott Heil assisted in writing this advisory.
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