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Consideration at the United Nations of an International Prohibition on the Cloning of Human Beings

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2007

Abstract

At the turn of the twenty-first century rapid advances in the life sciences had culminated in the successful cloning of mammals, with the potential for the development of cures to major diseases. It also raised the spectre of the cloning of human beings – a possibility declared repugnant to human dignity by UNESCO in 1997. In 2001, France and Germany initiated a process in the UN General Assembly to negotiate an international treaty banning the reproductive cloning of human beings. What started as a seemingly straightforward proposal soon ran into the cross-winds of the broader debate on the ethical and legal appropriateness of human embryonic stem-cell research. A major confrontation ensued at the United Nations between those states favouring a narrow ban limited to cloning for reproductive purposes, and those insisting on prohibiting all forms of human cloning, including for ‘therapeutic’ purposes. At play was not only a difference in worldview as to the meaning of human dignity in the twenty-first century (and the boundaries on scientific research), but also considerations relating to respect for cultural diversity, the economic consequences of finding cures to major diseases, and the ability of the technological ‘have-nots’ to limit the activities of the technological ‘haves’.

Type
CURRENT LEGAL DEVELOPMENTS
Copyright
© 2007 Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law

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