Germany should maintain its ban on reproductive cloning and the penalties for violating the law should be more clearly defined in the future, the country's National Ethics Council said on Monday.
The Council, appointed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2001, also recommended that the country's prohibition of therapeutic cloning be maintained for the moment, but this was more of a political than an ethical recommendation.
Currently, German law only allows research with human embryonic stem cell lines that are imported from overseas and were created before January 1, 2002. Every research project is peer-reviewed by a national authority, the Robert Koch Institute, and has to be considered "high ranking" in order to get approval. This leaves German stem cell scientists wanting a generally more positive climate for their research.
This sort of situation, in which an entire promising field of medical research is legislated out of existence, almost happened in the US in 2003. It still could happen, since a ban on therapeutic cloning is still pending in the US senate. This ongoing threat - part of a wider atmosphere of legislative uncertainty - has caused great harm to private research funding.
Therapeutic cloning is vital to much of the most promising stem cell research and many of the best near future regenerative therapies. If we wish to live longer, healthier lives with the help of advances in medical science, then we must stand up to support freedom of research.