After years of failure, in November 2007 primate embryonic stem cells were derived by somatic cellular nuclear transfer, also known as therapeutic cloning. The first embryo transfer for human reproductive cloning purposes was also attempted in 2006, albeit with negative results. These two events force us to think carefully about the possibility of human cloning which is now much closer to becoming a reality. In this paper we tackle this issue from two sides, first summarising what scientists have achieved so far, then discussing some of the ethical arguments in favour and against human cloning which are debated in the context of policy making and public consultation. Therapeutic cloning as a means to improve and save lives has uncontroversial moral value. As to human reproductive cloning, we consider and assess some common objections and failing to see them as conclusive. We do recognise, though, that there will be problems at the level of policy and regulation that might either impair the implementation of human reproductive cloning or make its accessibility restricted in a way that could become difficult to justify on moral grounds. We suggest using the time still available before human reproductive cloning is attempted successfully to create policies and institutions that can offer clear directives on its legitimate applications on the basis of solid arguments, coherent moral principles, and extensive public consultation.
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Competing interests: None.
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