KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Unusual relationships within families must be considered as the nation deals with the possibility of cloning humans, a University of Tennessee professor has told a national advisory group.
Dr. Jim Nelson told the National Bioethics Advisory Commission in Washington, D.C., that situations that involve cloned children could create psychological and emotional problems for the child. He is a professor of philosophy and a medical ethicist at UT-Knoxville.
For example, if a lesbian couple had a cloned child, the nucleus donor would be both a parent and a twin sister.
Parents of the nucleus donor also would be the cloned child’s genetic parents. There also would be a gestational parent who gave birth, he said.
“It’s a question of whether the child’s perception of who its parents and siblings are would be honored by the other adults in the relationship,” Nelson said Monday.
Nelson said it is not known how these relationships would be defined, and how they might affect a child.
“There may be people involved in the situation genetically who do not wish to acknowledge moral responsibility, but as we sometimes see in adoption, the child may want a relationship with that person.
“We just are not clear about the kind of moral weight we want to give to children’s claims in these areas. This must be sorted out before we proceed with cloning of human beings.”
The commission of doctors, lawyers, professors and others has until May 26 to report its recommendations about cloning research to the President.
Nelson said the group probably will not seek to ban cloning, but it is wary of proceeding with human cloning experiments.
“My sense was that there might be sympathy on the commission for a lengthy moratorium on any human cloning experiments, until some of the ethical and scientific issues are better understood,” Nelson said.
Contact: Dr. Jim Nelson (423-974-7214)