Cloning Case Study

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Three years ago, George and Melanie never thought they would be in front of a jury of their peers.  The story begins almost five years ago now.  George and Melanie were anxiously awaiting their first child, Gabriel.  Gabe was born in the heat of the summer on July 29th.  The actual delivery went smoothly and George, Melanie and Gabe were home a few days later.  Gabe's first birthday came and went with a happy celebration.  Soon after that birthday, Melanie took Gabe to the emergency room because Gabe had gone into a seizure.  Among the battery of tests that were performed on Gabe that evening, a blood test was done.  The diagnosis was grave, acute myeloid leukemia (click for more info on AML).  This disease is a quick acting cancer of the blood and bone marrow.  The following year would be spent in and out of hospitals and specialty clinics trying to gain control over the progression of the cancer.  Upon finding little hope in conventional treatments for Gabe's disease, George and Melanie frantically began searching for other possible treatments.  Searching on the Internet, George found a researcher working under private funding using stem cell replacement therapy as a treatment for childhood cancers.  George discussed this possibility with Melanie and having exhausted all other treatment options, they decided to call the researcher. 

Dr. Childs was very sympathetic towards George and Melanie.  He said that contacting him may be the smartest thing that George and Melanie could have done.  He was working on a new procedure that used bone marrow cells from the child and genetically engineered them to produce normal white blood cells.  This could be attempted with Gabe.  Unfortunately, this procedure was not successful.  Due to the advanced progression of Gabe's cancer, bone marrow cells could not be engineered correctly. 

Dr. Childs suggested a more controversial way of obtaining stem cells that may hold the key to saving Gabe's life.  George and Melanie were willing to try anything to save Gabe, their first and only child.  Dr. Childs suggested that the best way to get stem cells now was to obtain some stem cells from Gabe that could then be reverted back to a zygote.  In other words, they would have to agree to let Dr. Childs clone Gabe.  Although George and Melanie were intelligent people, they were desperate.  They agreed and so the procedure was begun.  Active stem cells were taken from Gabe and Dr. Childs attempted to revert them back to an embryonic form. Unable to load image

George and Melanie were excited and began to share the news with their friends and families.  The local news picked up on the story almost immediately and it was only a week later when the story went national.  George and Melanie found themselves in the middle of a media frenzie.  Reporters were calling eight to ten times a day wanting interviews.  George and Melanie began to feel the heat of the news media and the rumors began of a federal investigation into Dr. Childs research facility.  George and Melanie quickly sought out a lawyer.  There was indeed a federal investigation into the research of Dr. Childs.  By the time the investigation was underway, Dr. Childs had disappeared.  His lab and office space were empty and there was no indication that he would return.  George and Melanie's hopes for a cure for Gabe were gone.  Gabe survived just one month after Dr. Childs disappeared. 

George and Melanie were now under investigation as well.  Human cloning is illegal and they were now the first individuals to be on trial for attempted human cloning.  Although George and Melanie were under dire straights and it was argued in court that they were not of sound mind, it is up to the jury to decide if they deserve punishment for their role in the attempt to clone Gabriel.  George and Melanie are now facing $250,000 in fines as well as 10 years each in jail.  It is up to the jury to decide their fate.

Video
Cloning Dolly the Sheep (obtained from http://www.cnn.com/TECH/9702/24/cloning.explainer/index.html)
You will need QuickTime to view this file.  If you do not have QuickTime, you can download it here.
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Links for information on cloning research

British Science Museum:  Dolly the Sheep
The New Scientist:  Cloning
Human Genome Project:  Cloning Fact Sheet
NOVA:  18 Ways to Make a Baby
Roslin Institute
Primer on Ethics and Human Cloning
Beyond Dolly:  The Human Cloning Dilemma (by MSNBC)
US Government Bioethics Report on Human Cloning
National Bioethics Advisory Commission Report on Human Cloning
Cloning Organs for Transplant


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©Copyright 2003, Adam Hott