Wednesday, October 15, 2008

UN General Assembly ban on all human cloning to be reassessed by UNESCO ethics panel

The United Nations has announced that its ethics panel will focus on the permissibility of so called “therapeutic cloning” later this month, when it considers whether the 2005 General Assembly (GA) declaration, that called on Member States to ban all forms of human cloning, should be reassessed in light of scientific, ethical, social, political and legal advances. Therapeutic cloning involves the killing of cloned human embryos for the extraction of stem cells and has been renamed “clone and kill” by the pro-life movement

The GA in 2005 declared all human cloning to be incompatible with human dignity and protection of life, voting 84 in favour of the ban and 34 against with 37 abstentions. The review will be carried out by the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

UNESCO in 1997 issued a “Universal declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights” which says in article 11 that reproductive cloning should be banned but this has been interpreted by the World Health Organisation as meaning that therapeutic cloning should be accepted.
Article 11
Practices which are contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive cloning of human beings, shall not be permitted. States and competent international organizations are invited to co-operate in identifying such practices and in taking, at national or international level, the measures necessary to ensure that the principles set out in this Declaration are respected.

The WHO publication “Genomics and World Health” 2002 says of the UNESCO declaration
“that the line between therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning is quite clear and that reproductive cloning can be prohibited without impeding cloning for therapeutic purposes.”

The IBC will now debate the issue anew at a two-day meeting at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris beginning 28 October. An IBC working group set up at the request of UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said in a report in September."Recent technological developments and new prospects for the use of stem cells in the therapy of human diseases have once again raised the issue of adequacy of international regulations governing this research." They also noted that some people, mainly scientists, are urging a different approach to “therapeutic cloning”