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Therapeutic Human Cloning: Good, Bad, or Impossible?

Face the Nation gathered a small panel to discuss the controversial topic of human cloning with CBS's Bob Schieffer, US News & World Report's Gloria Borger, Dr. Panayiotis Zavos from Lexington (Kentucky), Dr. Lori Andrews from Los Angeles, and Florida Congressman Dave Weldon, who is also a physician.

Dr. Zavos, let's begin with you because it is my understanding that you plan to implant women with cloned embryos perhaps as early as this fall. Is that correct?

DR. PANAYIOTIS ZAVOS, Human Cloning Researcher: That is correct, Bob. The technology, as we see it, has evolved tremendously. We have developed technology that we think is reliable. And the production–I should emphasize the production of human cloned embryos–can go ahead within the next 60 days. And implantation of course will come later, after we verify that the quality of those embryos is viable enough to yield a healthy pregnancy.

SCHIEFFER: So how many of these do you plan to do?

ZAVOS: We have isolated about 200 women that we do have medical records on. We're reviewing those, and the schedule is to get the first ten women to participate. And then of course as they participate, we will see whether the pregnancy is taking place. And then of course it's a matter of having the first pregnancy, and then of course, we'll go on to the second, third, and fourth.

SCHIEFFER: Doctor, do you have any idea of what your success rate can be at this point?

ZAVOS: We view the success rate as being close to what we expect to have to the traditional IVF, which is about 30 to 40%right now.

SCHIEFFER: And is there anyone at this point that you think can stop you from doing this?

ZAVOS: Not really. I think that, you know, the technology exists. We know what we are doing. And this debate about banning it--obviously, I hope that we can generate a bit more aggressive debate today--is really very healthy. But at the same time, I think we need to come to our senses and realize that, inevitably, this technology will be developed.

GLORIA BORGER, US News & World Report: Dr. Weldon, let's talk about that debate about banning cloning. You're the sponsor of a bill that passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly to ban all cloning. You've just heard Dr. Zavos. Can he be stopped? Should he be stopped?

REPRESENTATIVE DAVE WELDON, REPUBLICAN, FLORIDA: Well, I think he can be. Certainly the Senate needs to take up the bill. The president has indicated he will sign it. I would like to point out that Dr. Zavos is not a physician. He's a PhD.

ZAVOS: That's correct.

WELDON: And what he is talking about doing, in my opinion, is gross medical malpractice and negligent. It's totally unethical. If e did have a medical license, I believe, officials in Kentucky would be trying to suspend it, for him to be talking about doing this.

ZAVOS: I'm not practicing or doing this in Kentucky or in the US, Congressman.

And therefore, we need to understand that banning it in America is not going to be banned for the world. And so it is very important that the people in America understand that if it is banned in America, it would happen somewhere else.

WELDON: I have been in contact with European officials. They want to proceed with a global ban. They have asked the UN to take this up in their General Assembly.

A lot of people in the world, though, look to the US to provide leadership on an issue like this. We are the leader of medical technology around the globe. So it's important that the United States act and speak. I think the rest of the world will follow suit, and it will be impossible for him to do what he's trying to do.

SCIEFFER: Well, Congressman, let me ask you this. You just heard Dr. Zavos say that he thinks he's going to have a pretty good success rate.

WELDON: That's absurd.

SCHIEFFER: Is there evidence to back that up?

WELDON: That is totally absurd. It took over 260 tries to produce Dolly . . .

ZAVOS: Two-seventy-seven, Congressman.

WELDON: . . . And with many of them resulting in malformed or defective sheep being born. And so for him to say he's just going to go ahead and proceed doing this, to me, is totally absurd.

I'd like to point out one other thing. All of the offspring from cloning procedures--they have cloned five different mammals so far–they're very, very big. The placentas are big. The umbilical cords are big. This is a health hazard to the women he is trying to do this to.

BORGER: Let's get Dr. Andrews into this for a moment. She can tell us a little bit, I hope, about what the medical community believes about cloning.

Have we just let the genie out of the bottle now and there's no way to put it back?

DR. LORI ANDREWS, MEDICAL ETHICIST: Most of the medical organizations have come out against human cloning. One-third of the animal offspring die shortly before or shortly after birth. Even those that appear normal when they are first born sometimes die later of health problems, heart problems, lung problems, immune problems.

Now, there was a study at Duke this week that suggested that humans have an extra gene which might prevent the very large births. But that would not deal with these other problems.

If we had an infectious disease that was killing one-third of human babies, we would declare it a public health hazard. We would not go ahead and open a clinic to do it.

And, in fact, the United States actually is a rogue nation in this area. At least 42 other countries have completely baned cloning already.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Dr. Zavos, these are some very serious charges, obviously, [that] have been raised. Do you feel you are going against the scientific community here?

ZAVOS: No, no, no.

First of all, I need to correct the record here. Most of you have missed the National Academy of Sciences presentations last week where three or four scientists were paraded in front of the National Academy of Sciences . . . [and] they have revealed successes in pigs and goats and other species up to 70, 80, or 100%.

And so when you go back to Dolly 5 years ago, you are obviously going into the Smithsonian Institute: 277 eggs tried, 29 embryos produced, Congressman. Twenty-nine embryos. Thirteen used with the recipients. One healthy Dolly was produced, and no malformed babies were born from that effort. The record needs to be kept straight here in order not to misrepresent and present the wrong information to the American people.

ANDREWS: I'm looking at data from a week ago that suggests that, looking at worldwide studies in cattle and mice and so forth, the malformation rate is about one-third overall. That is 1-week-old data aggregate for the world.

ZAVOS: You must understand, though, that there are an awful lot of incompetent scientists that are getting into this to become famous and to make a fortune. And that's not the issue here. We need to look at reputable scientists with reputable track records that we can rely on. We can't rely on every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there that generates information that obviously is misleading.

Therefore, it's very important that we understand that this technology evolves every day. And we as humans doing IVF for 23 years, we need to understand that we have a great deal more experience than any of the animal cloners all put together.

WELDON: Well, if you actually talked to scientists that produed Dolly they will tell you there were sheep that were born that had serious problems that did not survive.

ZAVOS: I debated those people in England.

WELDON: And they are the loudest and most outspoken ones saying that this should not be tried in humans. And they are the ones who are saying that this would be malpractice. It would be unethical to proceed to try this in humans.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask Dr. Andrews a question, because I think that this is also something important. There are some people that say Dr. Zavos, by pushing this cloning to the front as you and some others have done at this point, it's kind of tangling up this whole issue of what we ought to do about stem cell research. Should those two things be separated, Dr. Andrews?

ANDREWS: I think they should. They offer different possibilities. But I think both of them have something in common. And we're going to be the generation that decides he major bioethics issues for the next century. We're going to decide whether we should live among cloned human beings, watch sports played by genetically enhanced athletes, use embryos as the source of treatment.

And if you look at what happened when Congressman Weldon introduced his bill, members of the House of Representatives said they were humbled: They were less prepared for that than any other issue. And I think that it would be good to make a move past what Congressman Weldon has done and take the embryo stem cell issue, the cloned embryos for therapeutic purposes, out of the bill that bans human cloning. They are two different issues.

BORGER: Well, Congressman, let's talk about that, because you ban all cloning. There is something that Dr. Andrews called therapeutic cloning, which is different from cloning a human being, in which stem cells are created particularly for tissue repair. What about doing that? What about taking that out of your bill?

WELDON: Well, there are a number of issues. First of all, therapeutic cloning is a theoretical construct. It does not exist. You cannot even produce an animal model where it's possible through therapeutic cloning to treat disease. So you're saying we need to pull this out because we have this treatment available. There is no treatment.

The other thing that's very important is, if you are going to allow embryos to be created in the lab in large quantities for so-called therapeutic cloning research, it's inevitable that somebody like Zavos gets ahold of some of those embryos and implants them in women. And so, there are a lot of people, myself included, who feel the best way to prevent reproductive cloning is to stop it at the beginning.

I also have some very serious moral and ethical issues. When you start talking about creating embryos for destructive research purposes, you're going to be saying: We're creating human lives, but we're not going to allow these human lives to proceed on to full development. We're going to extract what we need from them and then we're going to destroy them.

I think there are many other promising areas of research, particularly in the arena of using adult stem cells, that will prove to be much more effective, and in terms of overcoming the immune-rejection issues that people use to try to justify so-called reproductive cloning.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just go back to Dr. Zavos for one final question, because I think the thing, Doctor, that concerns most people is: What happens if you do have accidents, if you do create monsters? Who decides what to do with that? Who decides what happens if, you know, if you create a child that has three legs or something?

ZAVOS: Well, Bob, this is the issue here, obviously. And we're talking about fiction, actually, and that's what people are afraid of. And the British Medical Association came out to make a statement saying that people ar oposed to reproductive cloning because of fear. And this is really what we're talking about, this monstrous thing that the fiction books and Hollywood has created.

The moral of the story is that reproductive cloning can be made to be safe like IVF was, that was banned originally in the US 23 years ago. And now IVF is as good as sliced bread or synonymous to that.

Therefore, all I can say to you is that reproductive cloning is going to be developed inevitably, either by us or somebody else. It's going to be made safe. And those kinds of issues that you're referring to, Bob, are medical issues that need to be decided between the doctor that treats the patient and the patient himself.
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