Professors debate cloning, stem cell research regulation

Mike Zacharias

The ethical issues of stem cell research, in vitro fertilization and cloning have sparked a nationwide debate about the benefits of these technologies.

But professor George Annas of Boston University said the benefits for children are the most important issue at hand, followed by the broader interests of society.

Last week, Annas spoke at the University to more than 75 students, professors and reproductive-technology professionals.

“When you look at those two issues together, you say that cloning can never be good for children,” Annas said. “When you look at other reproductive technologies, you would just want to regulate them.

“Make sure that they have parents that will be able to care for them. Make sure that the records are kept so they know who their biological parents are as well as their social parents,” he said.

A lack of regulation, Annas said, is one reason for ethical problems in the industry.

“At this point there is no regulation,” Annas said. “There is no regulation as to who can do (in vitro fertilization), what information the public gets, how you get informed consent, what quality control you have and how you take steps to protect both the adults involved in the process and the children.”

At the lecture, Annas and University representatives discussed how reproductive technologies could be regulated.

“I think we do need Congress to actually form a congressional commission to study and make recommendations,” Annas said. “And the recommendations will inevitably be for a federal regulatory body, with oversight jurisdiction on the new reproductive technologies.”

The legislators worked to find ways to regulate the new technologies, Annas said, but were blocked by abortion politics.

Professor Kenneth Keller, director of the Center for Science, Technology and Public Affairs at the Humphrey Institute, also spoke on the need for these reproductive technologies, but said he does not agree with Annas’ idea of a federal regulatory body.

“One of the reasons I objected to what Dr. Annas was proposing is he’s proposing establishing a regulatory agency, essentially ‘experts’ that would have legislative authority to make these judgements,” Keller said. “That’s an easy way, but I don’t think it’s an effective way in this country.”

Keller said regulation should come from educating the public on these technologies and having them inform their elected officials on how they want it done.

The public discussion, Keller said, is something those involved in the technology need to work to improve.

“I would much rather say lets put increased energy and effort into having this dialogue and promoting it,” Keller said. “So that when we make political decisions – and those are the only kind we make in this country – we have some kind of judgment for making it.”

 

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