[EDITORIALS]Cloning Raises Ethical ConcernsThe cloning of human embryos has become a reality. A human being can now create an individual identical to himself, one with real flesh and blood, and do it in a way other than through the fertilization of a sperm and an egg.
The cloning of embryonic stem cells, which have the capacity to grow into any kind of human tissue, is justified by the potential production of organs that could be grown for transplantation into diseased individuals. Advanced Cell Technology, a Massachusetts-based company that succeeded in creating the world's first cloned human embryos, stressed that its research has a totally therapeutic purpose and thus is not intended to cross the ethical line of human cloning.
Despite the scientific breakthrough, the successful cloning of human embryonic stem cells has raised fundamental ethical concerns because a lot of human embryos would inevitably be destroyed during the process of cloning. While some argue that an embryo should be considered a mere group of cells, many others regard it as the seed of a new life. The choice between treating incurable diseases and the ethics of life must be made after reaching a social consensus.
Most countries in the world are tilting toward the ethics argument. The United States and most other advanced nations are moving toward banning human cloning. In Korea, a proposed law of ethics prohibits experiments to clone human embryonic cells. Still, we should consider allowing, rather than banning, the study of cloning human embryos to a limited extent under supervision by government authorities － as long as the research purpose is therapeutic. The rights of patients with incurable diseases are as important as those of embryos. Britain and Japan forbid embryonic cloning for the purpose of having a child, but permit research for healing purposes.
We should also pay attention to alternative ways of creating stem cells without violating our ethical standards. Medical teams have already created muscular cells of a human heart by using a frozen fertilized egg and made osteoblasts, or bone-forming cells, from adult stem cells from an umbilical cord. Those methods are ethically acceptable because the use of adult stem cells does not require embryonic cloning.