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Leading Canadian bio-ethicists unite to urge regulation, not ban, of therapeutic cloning


Toronto, ON — February 24, 2003 — Several of Canada’s top bio-ethicists, along with a research funding organization, have come together to urge Canada’s Parliament to regulate “therapeutic” cloning, but not to prohibit it.

Bill C-13, an Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction, in the final debate stages in the House of Commons, calls for a ban on human somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), commonly known as therapeutic cloning. The group of leading research academics and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) are making a final plea to Parliamentarians to reconsider this decision.

“We feel that parliamentarians are about to pass an unwarranted statutory criminal ban on a potentially useful procedure,” says Timothy Caulfield, Canada research chair in health law and policy, University of Alberta.

Professor Caulfield, along with Abdallah Daar, Bartha Knoppers, Peter A Singer, David Castle and Ron Forbes, have submitted an opinion editorial for publication in the Hill Times, Canada’s parliamentary weekly newspaper.

The researchers note that SCNT technology offers a strong potential for medical and scientific benefits. They also point that out that many jurisdictions, including the State of California, have made the decision to regulate instead of prohibit therapeutic cloning because of its great potential.

“Policy makers must be careful not to let outrageous, unsubstantiated claims drive national policy development,” says Peter A Singer, professor of medicine and director, University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics. Dr Singer was referring to recent publicity claiming that human beings have been cloned.

“We would be better served to consider regulations that allow for promising research to proceed, so that we won’t close the door to potential medical advances and potential life-saving cures for many serious diseases in our society, such as juvenile (type 1) diabetes” says Ron Forbes, president and CEO, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The group of bio-ethicists includes Timothy Caulfield, Canada research chair in health law and policy, University of Alberta; Abdallah Daar, professor of public health sciences and surgery and director, Program in Applied Ethics and Biotechnology, University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics; Bartha Knoppers, Canada research chair in law and medicine, University of Montreal; Peter A Singer, professor medicine and director, University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics; and David Castle, assistant professor of philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Guelph.