Behold the power of capitalism: human cloning. Should it be stopped? Probably, and for a million reasons. Can it be stopped? Of course it can't. That's why the best thing the federal government can hope for is regulation of the controversial procedure.
News last week that a company called Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Mass., successfully cloned human embryos drew worldwide criticism, from lawmakers in Washington to Pope John Paul II in the Vatican to bioethicists from think tanks and universities. Collectively, they argued that the process is both immoral and unethical. President Bush was quoted as saying, "We should not, as a society, grow life to destroy it."
Now, when the pope and the president team up against you, you've got an uphill battle. But in this case, the pair is no match for the almighty dollar.
Advanced Cell Technology is a privately held for-profit company. It insists that its human cloning experiments are being done for medical reasons, not for replicating people. The company says it wants to generate stem cells through the cloning of human embryos in the hopes of using those cells to develop medical treatments for a variety of diseases. That's a noble cause, and one that Modern Healthcare fully supports.
But it's also a lucrative cause. Imagine the profits from developing treatments for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes or even cancer. And what about the egocentric billionaires who actually want to clone themselves to live forever no matter how much it costs? They already form the foundation of the cryogenics industry. They surely will be offering venture capital to for-profit cloning companies.
Consequently, the human cloning train has left the station and is racing down the track with money as its fuel. So let's make the best of a situation that once was the private domain of science-fiction writers. Let's regulate, not prohibit, the work of private cloning companies. Let's ensure that the development of medical treatments continues to be the main focus of the cloning experiments. Let the healthcare system and its patients be the primary beneficiaries of this work.