SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Monday, April 11, 2005

HUMAN CLONING BILL NEARS FINAL PASSAGE. The Senate’s vote on EHB 1268—promoting human cloning in the State of Washington—is now imminent. The bill has been placed on Third Reading and is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. Unless key aspects of the bill are amended, EHB 1268 will enshrine human cloning in our State’s law.

Dr. Sharon Quick recently sounded the alarm on this bill in an op-ed from last Thursday’s Seattle P-I. Notes Dr. Quick:

Passage of this bill would give Washington the deplorable distinction of allowing manufacture of human embryos purely for destructive research, a practice typically scorned by supporters of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research.

Remember, this is the bill that purports out outlaw the cloning of human beings…and then re-defines the cloning of human beings to mean the growing of human life all the way to birth. In reality, the bill specifically provides for somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). By its terms, the legislation allows for fetal farming and the creation of animal-human hybrid species.

Senator Val. Stevens (a Republican representing rural Snohomish County), has offered an important amendment that could correct EHB 1268’s serious ethical shortfalls.

Specifically, Sen. Sevens’ amendment would offer a more honest definition of human cloning. The amendment states, in pertinent part:

"Cloning of a human being" means human asexual reproduction,
accomplished by introducing nuclear material from one or more human somatic cells into a fertilized or unfertilized oocyte whose nucleus has been removed or inactivated to produce a living organism at any stage of development with a human or predominantly human genetic constitution that is genetically virtually identical to an existing or previously existing human organism.

Sen. Stevens’ amendment gets it right. The amendment would ban the creation of human life for the sole purpose of harvesting it as raw material. Further, the amendment would still permit adult stem cell research.

This amendment is also realistic. It does not prohibit ESC research altogether. Leftover embryos that had been stored for in vitro procedures, for instance, might still be used for ESC research. Even Dr. Leon Kass of the President’s Council on Bioethics has not advocated an outright ban on all ESC research, which he considers impractical and difficult to enforce. But Dr. Kass has strongly insisted that life should NOT be created specifically for the purpose of ESC research. Sen. Stevens’ amendment is in line with this principled and practical view.

In present form, EHB 1268 is unacceptable. But Sen. Stevens’ amendment offers a solution. Simply put, the Senate should amend it or end it. Concerned citizens should contact their Senators ASAP. Their contact information is available online, and the legislative hotline is: 1-800-562-6000.

UPDATE (1:00pm): EHB 1268 was DEFEATED by a vote of 23-26 in the Senate. One Senator gave notice for reconsideration of the bill on Third Reading, however. So it is not officially dead.

(Cross-blogged at Sound Politics.)

(Downtown Seattle, WA)

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