Fukuyama's sensibilities overtaken by events

Washington Post, May 16, 2005: Inventing Our Evolution: We're almost able to build better human beings. But are we ready?

Francis Fukuyama, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and director of the Human Biotechnology Governance Project, thinks many biological innovations that are possible will be held back by social pressures:

Taboos will play an important role, Fukuyama says. "We could really speed up the whole process of drug improvement if we did not have all the rules on human experimentation. If companies were allowed to use clinical trials in Third World countries, paying a lot of poor people to take risks that you wouldn't take in a developed country, we could speed up technology quickly. But because of the Holocaust -- "
USA Today, May 16, 2005: Costs, regulations move more drug tests outside USA
Cost is one factor. Trials in Eastern Europe, Asia and Central and South America might cost 10% to 50% less than trials in the USA and Western Europe, says Ronald Krall, GlaxoSmithKline's head of development.

Researcher and clinic/hospital costs are lower and patient recruitment is faster, which also lowers costs. Bigger populations more in need of medical treatment make faster recruitment possible, Wyeth's Ruffolo says.

Fukuyama is also quoted in the WP article:
"But not everything that is scientifically possible will actually be technologically implemented and used on a large scale. In the case of human cloning, there's an abstract possibility that people will want to do that, but the number of people who are going to want to take the risk is going to be awfully small."
He seems to be implying that human cloning is inherently risky to those considering the procedure. I think he's got it backwards: the first cases for cloning will rather be seen (or marketed) as a risk-reducing tactic. Make a clone to harvest compatible fetal stem cells, perhaps with some genetic patching. Make a clone to harvest compatible organs some time in the future. "Don't be the last of your ultra-wealthy clique to take this prudent life-extending step, now available more cheaply than ever before!"

The risks in such a situation would only be those imposed by society, not inherent to cloning as a process. Based on animal experiments, cloning doesn't appear to need a giant laboratory or infrastructure. So this "possibility" won't stay "small" and "abstract" for very long.

(This idea is ripe in popular culture, as well, with both a recent book and upcoming movie considering the lives of clones raised from birth for others' welfare.)

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