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Genetic Crossroads
January 13th, 2004

Developmental biologist Stuart Newman is locked in a six-year battle with the US Patent Office. He is requesting a patent on the production of human-animal chimeras-in order to prevent anyone from making such creatures. Mark Dowie tells the story in "Gods and Monsters" in the current Mother Jones (Jan/Feb 2004). Dowie points out that "taken to its most extreme but not necessarily impossible end," chimera technology could be used to create "altered primates with enough cognitive ability to ride a bus, follow basic instructions, pick crops in 119 degrees, or descend into a mine shaft without worrying their silly little heads about inalienable human rights and the resulting laws and customs that demand safe working conditions." Such creatures, Dowie writes, would "threaten either to erase taboos we still embrace, like bestiality, or reintroduce practices we'd hopefully sloughed off, like slavery." http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2004/01/12_401.html
(partial article free; payment required for full article)

Is there any chance that the creation of part-human chimeras would be permitted? Some bioethicists are unwilling to draw a line that would prevent it. In "Crossing Species Boundaries," Jason Scott Robert and Francoise Baylis (American Journal of Bioethics Online, Summer 2003) assert that they take "no stance at all" on whether "interspecies hybrids or chimeras from human materials should be forbidden or embraced." But much of their article is devoted to their contention that "the arguments against…creating novel part-human beings…are largely unsatisfactory." This lead article is followed by more than two dozen short commentaries from other bioethicists, taking a variety of positions on the question.


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