Bill would bar cloning research with human tissue

March 04, 1994|By Brenda Rios | Brenda Rios,Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS -- The idea of cloning human embryos is "repugnant" to Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, but Daniel Clements sees the technology as a bridge to breakthroughs in helping infertile couples.

Mr. LaMotte, a Democrat who represents Baltimore County, wants to ban the technology in Maryland and has introduced a bill to make cloning research with human tissue a crime punishable by a maximum $100,000 fine and five-year prison sentence.

"When you have research that is geared toward duplicating human beings, you've gone too far," Mr. LaMotte testified Wednesday before the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Mr. Clements, chairman of Resolve, a national group for infertile couples, said cloning could increase the chances of fertilizing eggs.

Cloning involves asexually reproducing one or more organisms that are genetically identical to the original.

Mr. LaMotte said he was prompted to submit the bill, which won the support of Maryland Right to Life, after learning about cloning research at George Washington University Medical Center.

Although no creation of cloned human beings has been recorded, Mr. LaMotte worries that such a development is just a few years away.

"Once the technology is out of the bag, they'll be patenting human beings," he said. "The idea that you could actually duplicate human beings is repugnant and totally immoral."

When Mr. Clements called the LaMotte measure "a stop science bill," the delegate countered that the ethical considerations made cloning "a road that we should not travel." Several countries, including Germany and Japan, have banned such research, he said.

Larry Cunnick, director of the Suburban Maryland-Montgomery County High Technology Council, said he understood Mr. LaMotte's ethical concerns but did not think the research should be made illegal.

Cloning is simply a method of breaking cells and letting new ones grow, Mr. Cunnick said.

"The cell may be a fertilized egg. It may be a liver cell or any other cell. [Cloning] is a valid research tool," he said.

"What this does is send a very clear message to the biotechnology community . . . here in the state that the legislature would consider banning a legitimate technique," Mr. Cunnick said.

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