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American Bar Association




Two weeks after Scottish researcher Ian Wilmut told the world in February that he had cloned an adult sheep, he went before the U.S. Senate to say that cloning humans would be unethical and "quite inhumane." He warned Congress, however, against acting rashly to adopt legislation that might stifle biological research.

Unlike Britain, Spain, Germany and Denmark, the United States has no national law that bans the cloning of humans, although President Clinton has ordered a ban on federal funding for human-cloning experiments. Whether there should be a legal ban is one issue before a presidential advisory panel.

As a precursor to that public debate, George J. Annas, a health law professor at Boston University, argues that human cloning should be illegal lest it lead to a world in which people are commodities. For him, a society that hasn't confronted implications of in vitro fertilization-a nearly 20-year-old procedure-is not ready for a potentially far more troublesome procedure.

Arguing against a ban, John A. Robertson, professor of law at the University of Texas and an expert on law and bioethics, says society must not let fear of science fiction scenarios cloud its vision. It would be unwise, he says, to block potentially valid uses of cloning simply because of the initial shock brought on by Wilmut's unprecedented creation.

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