Panel Recommends Legislation Banning Reproductive Cloning But Allowing Therapeutic Cloning
A state-appointed advisory panel on human cloning has recommended that California lawmakers ban cloning for reproductive purposes but allow the practice to be used for medical research, according to a report obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. The panel unanimously agreed that California should ban reproductive cloning, stating that the practice arouses many safety, ethical and social concerns. However, the panel also unanimously recommended that the state "should not prohibit but should reasonably regulate human non-reproductive cloning" in connection with embryonic stem cell research. Therapeutic cloning holds "such profound medical potential" that banning it "would ... be itself unethical," the panel said. The committee said that the state should draft regulations to ensure that only "very early-stage embryos are used" in cloning experiments, that embryo donors give informed consent to the research and that all publicly funded research is overseen by institutional review boards. However, panel member Francis Pizzulli acknowledged that although publicly funded cloning research might be "easy to control," it is not clear whether the state has "any leverage" over labs operating with private funds. State senators will meet on Tuesday to discuss the panel's recommendations.
The committee's two "controversial" recommendations could place California "on a collision course with national lawmakers," who have yet to adopt national cloning legislation. California passed a five-year moratorium on human cloning in 1997, and the panel says that the state should not extend that ban. Instead, the panel said that the Legislature and Gov. Gray Davis (D) should ratify a law that would permanently ban reproductive cloning while allowing regulated therapeutic cloning. The panel noted that any state cloning law could be rendered moot if Congress passes a blanket ban on all human cloning experiments, but the Chronicle reports that several state lawmakers have nonetheless "indicat[ed] some legislative appetite for action" on the issue. "Some would say we should wait for Congress. But California passed its cloning law more than four years ago, and the feds have yet to act," state Sen. Dede Alpert (D-San Diego) said. Alpert plans to start working on a cloning bill once the Legislature has read and debated the panel's recommendations. But the Chronicle reports that sources in Sacramento say Davis appears "reluctant to see the [Legislature] take up the politically explosive issues of cloning and stem cells as [he] heads into a tough re-election fight" (Abate, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/11). The complete panel report is available at http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle/cloningreport/.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.