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Towards an International Ethical, Social and Political Accord on Human Cloning and Human Species - Alteration

November 1st, 2002

Abstracts from presentations at "Sixth World Congress of Bioethics" 

Session Abstract

The new human genetic technologies present a threshold challenge for humanity. If used properly they hold great promise for treating disease and alleviating suffering. If abused they could open the door to a powerful new eugenics that would objectify human life and undermine the foundations of human society. The rapid development of these technologies has created a civil society deficit. Neither policy makers nor mass publics have had time to fully understand the ethical, social and political stakes and to consider appropriate responses. There are few broadly-based popular institutions seeking to articulate and argue for human genetics policies based on human rights, social justice and global inclusion. In recent years advocates of a new eugenic future for humanity have become increasingly vocal and explicit. It is imperative that concerned leaders and others repudiate this vision. Bans on the most dangerous eugenic technologies, and regulation of other technologies to prevent abuse, need not impede potentially beneficial medical research and applications. The minimal core policies needed to protect our common human future include national and global bans on reproductive human cloning, national and global bans on inheritable genetic modification, and effective, accountable regulation of all other human genetic technologies. There is broad support for such policies: over thirty countries have already banned human cloning and/or inheritable genetic modification, the United Nations is negotiating a global ban on human reproductive cloning, and several countries have established comprehensive regulatory regimes. There is no reason that people of different nations, cultures, religions and philosophies cannot work together in support of the policies needed to protect our common human future. There is no greater challenge before us.

Naming and Challenging the New Techno-Eugenic Ideology

Richard Hayes, Executive Director
Center for Genetics and Society

The rapid development of new human genetic technologies has created a profound civil society deficit. Neither policy makers nor mass publics have had time to fully understand the ethical, social and political stakes. There are few broadly-based popular institutions seeking to articulate and argue for human genetics policies based on human rights, social justice and global inclusion. In recent years advocates of a new eugenic future for humanity have moved to exploit this vacuum. They speak with enthusiasm of a "post-human" future in which the health, appearance, personality, cognitive ability, sensory capacity and life-span of our children have all been genetically modified. They celebrate a world in which humanity has been genetically engineered into sub-species, the "GenRich" and the "Naturals." This new techno-eugenic vision is an integral element of an emerging socio-political ideology, one that differs from conservative ideologies in its antipathy towards religion and traditional social values, from left-progressive ideologies in its rejection of egalitarian values and social welfare as a public purpose, and from Green ideologies in its enthusiastic advocacy of a technologically reconfigured and transformed natural world. It embraces commitments to science and technology as autonomous endeavors properly exempt from social control, to the priority of market outcomes, and to a political philosophy grounded in social Darwinism. It is imperative that concerned leaders and others understand the challenge that this new ideology represents and prepare ourselves to counter it by affirming humanity in all its beauty, mystery and wonder.

Internation Policies on Species-Altering Interventions

Rosario Isasi, JD, MPH
Postdoctoral Fellow, Canadian Program on Genomics and Global Health, Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto, Canada

Species - altering interventions, such as human cloning and inheritable genetic alterations, represent an assault on human dignity and universal human rights, and are also in contradiction with the goals of a democratic society. Policymakers around the world have expressed concerns about the use of these technologies, but only a few have enacted bans on these proposed experimental interventions, while others have assumed that existing laws apply to these techniques. Because of the fact that varying national laws will not be able to control the practice of species - altering interventions in other jurisdictions, or even deter the development of countries as safe harbors, there is a call for the adoption of an international treaty prohibiting cloning and inheritable alterations in order to preserve the human species. This presentation analyzes the current status of international policies on species-altering interventions, including the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights - the first global instrument addressing the legal and ethical human rights implications of human genetic technologies -, and the Council of Europe "Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine."

The German-French Initiative to Ban Human Reproductive Cloning Worldwide

Joachim Schemel
First Secretary, Taskforce on Environmental and Biopolitical Issues
Federal Foreign Office, Germany

The speed with which advances are being made in the field of biotechnology and gene technology has reached a level scarcely deemed possible not long ago. Almost every day researchers report new insights into the secret of life itself. More than any scientific discovery in the past, these developments raise issues central to our understanding of human life and existence, posing new challenges both for policy-makers and society at large.

The stated intention of certain researchers and laboratories to attempt the reproductive cloning of human beings underlines how crucial it is for the international community to develop an effective response to this challenge.

Therfore, Germany and France launched a joint initiative in the United Nations General Assembly to draw up an international convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings. Under its resolution 56/93 of 12 December 2001, co-sponsored by 50 states, an Ad Hoc Committee was established to consider the elaboration of such a convention. The first meeting of the Committee took place in New York from 25 February to 1 March 2002, the second from 23 to 27 September.

This presentation gives a short overview over the intentions of this initiatives, its supporters, the challenges of a "maximalist" approach (including a ban on therapeutic cloning) and a personal evaluation of the perspectives of this initiative.

Cloning, Genetic Engineering, and the Rights of the Child

Evelyne Shuster, PhD.
Adjunct Associate Professor of Philosophy in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
Human Rights and Medical Ethics Program, Veterans Affairs Medical Center

The prospect of human replication cloning and inheritable genetic manipulation (germline genetic engineering) involves fundamental changes in human reproduction, which threaten to destroy the core value of human rights and human dignity. For example, human replication cloning robs the child of his or her rights to personal identity, individuality and uniqueness. It commodifies both women and children by treating women as instrumental to someone else's end, and children as interchangeable products. And it inevitably leads to "designer" babies made "sur mesure" to fit specific characteristics that science dictates. Moreover, because human genetic manipulation may never be proven safe for children, putting them at unpredictable and irreversible risks of harm it constitutes unethical and unlawful human experimentation. This presentation highlights the profound philosophical implications of inheritable genetic manipulation for all humans and outlines how it undermines the basic human rights of children as articulated in the International Convention of the Rights of the Child. It concludes by showing why a treaty banning human cloning and inheritable genetic alteration is needed to protect children.


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