A survey of 32 UK doctors and scientists by the Independent newspaper has revealed that some believe human reproductive cloning would be attempted within 20 years, if technical and safety issues could be overcome. But less than a quarter felt that cloning a human could be justified on medical grounds.
Research into therapeutic cloning - the use of cloned early embryo cells to develop new disease treatments - has recently been given the go-ahead by both the UK and US governments. But reproductive cloning - allowing a cloned embryo to develop into a baby by implanting it into a womb - is currently banned in the UK and many other countries.
Many scientists who took part in the survey said that although human reproductive cloning may happen one day, they personally hoped it would not. 'The risk will outweigh the potential benefit for the foreseeable future' said Professor Azim Surani, a member of the Royal Society working party on cloning. Embryonic stem cell researcher Austin Smith agreed that it was 'not possible to address the technical and safety issues involved'.
Fertility expert Peter Brinsden expressed cautious support for human reproductive cloning in a limited number of cases: 'Reproductive cloning for ethically approved, very limited indications would now be acceptable to a large portion of society if explained properly' he said. Kamal Ahuja, director of fertility services at the Cromwell Hospital, London, said that the climate of opinion could change, as people realise that it is a biological entity and not a personality that can be cloned. An editorial in the Independent expressed a similar view.