Your husband's cloned child? Imagine the possibilities

September 18, 1998|By Ellen Goodman

BOSTON -- Well, well. And you thought that your son was a chip off the old block. That your daughter was a gal just like the gal that married her dear old dad. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Allow me to reintroduce you to Dr. Richard Seed, a.k.a. Dickie Humanseed.

We last met this scientist and failed entrepreneur in January. It was after the birth announcement of a little sheep clone named Dolly, and before a Texas millionaire put up $5 million to clone the dog Missy.

The Chicago physicist got his 15 minutes of fame by announcing that he was going to clone people.

With a fine ear for the sound bite he talked chirpily about "bouncing baby clones" and said, "Clones are going to be fun."

At the time, I had trouble taking him seriously and not just because he was described as a cross between a maverick and a wacko. Could you imagine any infertile couple taking their hopes to a doctor named Seed?

Now Dr. Seed sprouts again. He appeared at the annual meeting of the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences to announce that he was going to be his own first clone. "I have decided to clone myself first to defuse the criticism that I'm taking advantage of desperate women with a procedure that's not proven." What un-desperate woman is he using to house his embryo? His own wife.

Plenty of seedlings

Let us remember that Dr. Seed is 69 and has already reproduced seven little seedlings, including two named Richard. As for Gloria, his third wife of 29 years? Dr. Seed describes her only as "post-menopausal."

Dr. Seed's second wife, who heard about the cloning, told a British newspaper recently, "Heaven forbid! I wouldn't let him breed tadpoles."

The Seed scenario is, um, ripe with possibilities for other couples. Soon the truly devoted wife may do more than merely carry her husband's child in her womb. She may carry her husband. Or at least his identical twin.

What greater love hath any woman? Instead of giving birth to a child who bears his name, she could deliver one who bears his entire genetic code.

How many women, in the first blush of romance, wish they knew their husband as a child? Be careful what you wish for. In the Seed catalog, you could be up close and personal.

Imagine what it's like to live with the same male at various stages of his development. All across America, there are women playing mother and wife to the same man. Clone-raising will allow some to fulfill their deepest fantasy -- "If I could only start again with this man." It will provide others with an opportunity for bonding with their mother-in-law -- "he really was an impossible child."

But in either case it will add a twist to those wonderful moments when any red-blooded mother, spying the socks on the floor, narrows her eyes and hisses at her son, "You're just like your father!"

Family matters

Of course, we don't know if a woman would technically be the mother of her husband's clone. She could be simply raising her second husband. If, on the other hand, she divorces the man she married, who owns the clone? The idea is pregnant with possibilities.

As for clone child? Sooner or later, any bouncing baby clone eventually turns into a 13-year-old sitting across the table from a male, swearing he'll never be like his father. Wanna bet?

As for Gloria herself, I don't dispute her love for the good doctor. But does she actually want a houseful of little Dicks?

The same Dick who once exclaimed, "I am proud of the fact that I was the most unpopular person at Oak Park High School"? The same Dick who once said ruefully that he was just a "near-genius"? Who said he was "subject to continuous frustration" because he'd never win a Nobel prize?

The one thing that he has in abundance is ego. The idea man behind the Ma and Pa cloning counter acknowledges that "ego is involved with it . . . no question, ego is involved."

The one thing we can say about Dr. Seed is that he's an original. He's truly one of a kind. Dear Gloria: let's keep it that way.

Ellen Goodman is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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