A Good Thing Not to Do

The announcement in February 1997 that British scientists had cloned a sheep turned the medical world upside down, Ian Wilmut and his colleagues had taken cells from an adult sheep's udder and removed the nucleus from each. They then implanted this genetic material into a specially prepared sheep ovum from which the nucleus had been removed. Out of 277 ova, 13 developed into embryos and were implanted into surrogate mother ewes. Twelve miscarried, but one survived: Dolly.

Gina Kolata, a science writer for the New York Times, was the first to break the story of Dolly to the American public. To her, when the history of our age is written, "the creation of this little lamb will stand out." Comparing it to, say, the conquest of smallpox doesn't do it justice, she says, for "events that alter our very notion of what it means to be human are few and scattered over the centuries."

Kolata points out the ironic situation of those medical ethicists and theologians who began to examine the implications of cloning in the 1960's, long before it seemed feasible. Scientists told them to stop their frightening talk about human cloning, since it would never happen and since funding for medical research in general could be hurt. Many ethicists, cowed by the charge of impeding medical progress, lost the chance to make an early public case against cloning. George Annas, a Boston University law professor...

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