Professor in the Faculty of Medicine
Founding Director of the Faculty of Law's Centre for Medicine,
Ethics and Law at McGill University
... and politically incorrect people: reflections on an ethical society
Recently, I answered the phone and a reporter, who often contacts me, exclaimed, “You won't believe what they've done now!” (they being the scientists). I said, “Oh my God, they've cloned a child and it's just been announced”.
The reporter said, “No. No, they've cloned Starbuck”, Starbuck being the prize Canadian bull who died in 1998 at age 20, whose semen has been used to produce over 200,000 progeny around the world.
In fact, it is said that most of the prize cattle in the world are now related to him. She said, “We've just seen Starbuck II, this cute little one-month-old calf, who's in a special facility in the veterinary school at St. Hyacinth, Quebec. He's been genetically tested and it has been confirmed that he is indeed the clone of Starbuck. He was created from cells taken from Starbuck just before he died”.
The reporter asked for my thoughts about this cloning event, and, as so often happens when we discuss the use of the new reproductive and genetic technologies in animals, we quickly moved to humans.
This is no accident. If we look at the history of the use of reprogenetic technologies, they have always been developed first in animals and then transferred to humans.
Professor Alan Trounson, the scientist involved in producing Louise Brown, the world's first “test-tube” baby who was born in England in 1975, is a veterinarian. He long ago told me that if we want to know what reproductive technologies are coming down the line for humans in the next five years, just look at what the veterinarians are doing with animals. The reporter and I “blue sky-ed” about which man we would want to have cloned as a human superstud. We thought of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Swartzeneger. I guess we were focusing more on the “stud” part of the equation, than on other desirable attributes.
“Stud Bulls, Human Embryos, and the Politically Incorrect” in Passionate about Ethics – A Round Table, Queen's Quarterly, Spring 2001, pp.21-28.