In 2002 the Australian Parliament enacted legislation which prohibited both therapeutic and reproductive embryonic cloning. Just four years later, in December 2006, this same legislation was amended, reversing the prohibition on therapeutic cloning, while retaining the ban on reproductive cloning. The Prime Minister, sensing the political mood, allowed a conscience vote. This contrasted with his decision several months earlier against introducing any changes to the 2002 Act, despite 54 recommendations having been made by a Statutory Review Committee. Approval of the legislation had as much to do with the careful drafting of the provisions as with any rational, social or scientific factor. The legislation is narrow in scope, retains an absolute prohibition on reproductive cloning and contains strict regulations with heavy criminal penalties. The Act requires a review after three years. A number of questions remain. Does stem cell research demand a global rather than a local approach, by way of an international Covenant? Does the legal status of a cloned embryo need further examination? Will the embryo have a separate legal standing recognised by law? These are some of the questions which will need addressing as the law tries to keep up with science.
Date of this Version
Irene Nemes, "Therapeutic cloning in Australia: One small stem from man, one giant leap for mankind" (August 2008). University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series 2008. Working Paper 53.