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Interview re Human Cloning on BBC Radio 4's Today programme

posted on 23 November 2001
Sarah Montague: Emergency legislation to ban reproductive cloning was published by the Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, yesterday. It will be fast tracked through Parliament next week. It aims to close a loophole in the law that means that cloning of human beings in not currently illegal. The Government does want to allow so-called 'therapeutic' cloning - the use of cloned embryos for medical research. Leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, says the legislation is still deeply flawed and he's on the line now. Given that this emergency legislation plans to make it illegal to clone humans, in what way is it flawed?

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor: It's flawed because it's a lost opportunity. It merely prohibits the transfer of a cloned human embryo to the body of a woman, but what it doesn't do is to look at the whole issue of human cloning. Every other Parliament, in Europe and the United States as well, has banned human cloning because they think that the creation of new human lives, totally and radically divorced from the act of human love, is wrong. It is morally wrong. And I think it is very sad that Parliament should be rushing through a Bill - closing a loophole, yes - but not addressing the fundamental issue.

SM: Can I just establish... the Government did debate this earlier in the year. They are trying, they want to allow 'therapeutic cloning' and that is what they are seeking to do with this law.

CMOC: I think that what they are continuing to do is to allow 'therapeutic' cloning, and I think that that particular Bill which allows 'therapeutic' cloning was not only flawed but wrong. And I think that that should be addressed because there was a large number of parliamentarians of both Houses who thought that more time should be given to debate on that issue. It is a very serious issue that affects human live. And you know there is what we call a life ethic from conception to the grave. You grievously interfere with one aspect of it whether it's euthanasia, whether it's abortion, whether it's human cloning, and in fact you attack the whole respect for human life.

SM: Many people in this country, whilst they don't like the idea of it, are swayed by the argument that he benefits, the medical benefits of the research, make it worthwhile.

CMOC: There are two reasons why I would oppose that. First of all, it is unnecessary and secondly, it is wrong. It's unnecessary because there are other ways of using stem cells which in fact are already being used and experimented upon on to benefit and do good in terms of healing diseases...

SM: ... these are adult stem cells?

CMOC: ...these are adult stem cells...

SM: ... but many scientists say that that just isn't true. You can't do the same research.

CMOC: Well, I think I would debate that. There are a lot of other medical scientists who would debate that as well. And secondly, of course, more fundamentally perhaps, it is wrong. If it's wrong to create human clones then you can't say that because the end is good then the means are perfectly moral. The end cannot justify the means.

SM: Cardinal O'Connor, thank you very much.
Contact Details:
Austen Ivereigh
Telephone: 020 7798 9045 or 07905 224860
posted on 23 November 2001

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