Is Cloning Monkeys Morally Wrong?

Published November 16, 2007

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This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 15, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Culture War" segment tonight, some monkey business in the state of Oregon, and we mean that literally. Scientists there say they have successfully cloned the world's first monkey embryos, deriving stem cells for medical research but potentially paving the way for the cloning of human embryos, as well. The question: is cloning monkeys morally wrong?

Joining us now from Philadelphia, Christine O'Donnell, a Republican strategist. And from Madison Heights, Michigan, Dr. William Morrone, a family physician and researcher who's been following the controversy.

Doctor, I understand that you have done some research, medical research. And you favor this kind of a situation, cloning the monkey embryos. Tell us why.

WILLIAM MORRONE, PHYSICIAN AND MEDICAL RESEARCHER: More so now than ever before. I spent 12 years in the pharmaceutical industry. I have some patents. And now that I'm a physician and I see the pathology and I see the pain, I want as many tools as possible to treat and comfort. And I — it's just that simple.

O'REILLY: OK, but I don't understand what this whole deal is, because there is no cure for Parkinson's, for M.S., for Alzheimer's. And why would anybody be optimistic that cloning monkey embryos would lead to a cure? I mean, why? Why would you be optimistic that would ever happen?

MORRONE: It's this simple. All we have now, according to the technology of the past, is drugs, and the technology of the future of possible cell replacement is what we're talking about. Cell replacement versus drugs.

And for Parkinson's, for multiple sclerosis, for spinal cord injury, that's what we need. We need healthy cells to regrow things that either by trauma or natural disease...

O'REILLY: OK, that's the theory. That's the theory. And that's the big debate about, you know, taking embryos and harvesting them and getting — and then it's the adult stem cell line.

But for those of us who aren't in the medical field, doctor, it is terribly confusing, and there's no evidence that shows this will ever happen.

MORRONE: It doesn't seem to be, according to the technology that we've had to this point, possible, but without taking it forward and looking at can we get stem cells without destroying embryos? Can we work with blastocysts, which is a funny name for, you know, something that is growing a little bag of cells, and try to do it the right way with the government as partners and industry.

O'REILLY: So it's purely speculative. But you feel it's worthy because it is a line that, that in theory, might work some day.

How do you see it, Christine?

MORRONE: OK.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I see this as — by their own admission, the group that clones the monkey, they proudly stated that this is what's going to lead them to human cloning.

And if we don't dismiss it at the real point of that. I mean, we can't dismiss it. The real point of all of this research is to lead to human cloning. So at the very core of the debate about human cloning is dignity versus commodity.

O'REILLY: Yes, but you're going the slippery slope now. You know, the slippery slope. I know, I know, look. They can clone humans now if they wanted to.

O'DONNELL: It's by their own admission. It's by their own admission that they're...

O'REILLY: Everybody knows that scientists have enough knowledge to clone a human being if they wanted to.

O'DONNELL: Right.

O'REILLY: But they're not, at least not that we know of. And now they're in the monkey realm. And I don't understand, if that's the possibility that people might be cured, why the objection.

Because I never buy the slippery slope.

O'DONNELL: OK.

O'REILLY: I never buy that in a free society because there are — there are checks and balances here.

MORRONE: There are.

O'DONNELL: Bill, if we — if we approach this complicated bioethic issue with our heads in the sand, the other end is in the air.

O'REILLY: My head isn't the sand, Christine. I have the biggest head in the world. There isn't enough sand on the beach in Hawaii for my head to be in there.

O'DONNELL: My point is, we're approaching this issue with the other end in the air.

O'REILLY: No, no, no. Hold it.

O'DONNELL: By their own admission...

O'REILLY: No.

O'DONNELL: ... these groups admitted that the report that said, "Hey, yay, we cloned a monkey. Now we're using this to start cloning humans." We have to keep...

O'REILLY: Let them admit anything they want. But they won't do that here in the United States unless all craziness is going on.

O'DONNELL: They are — they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they're already into this experiment.

O'REILLY: Alright. Doctor...

MORRONE: That's an exaggeration.

O'REILLY: ...do you understand — do you understand her concern that there are people who are unethical who will do this kind of stuff for whatever reason? Do you understand her concern?

MORRONE: I understand her concern, but to me, the position of head in the sand is saying, "Don't do it; don't get involved; and don't set up guidelines." I'm saying this is the time to talk about it and this is the time to take it into alot of consideration.

O'REILLY: I think it has to be very closely regulating.

One more Christine. I got to end it. Real quick, now. If you oppose, and you do, stem cells from embryos from babies harvesting, then the animal option is a way for scientists to try to get something going without dealing with the human component.

O'DONNELL: Again, it is inevitable. This really is about human cloning, about dignity versus commodity. And we already answered that question.

O'REILLY: All right. OK. Interesting debate. Doctor, Christine, thank you very much.

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