Reproductive cloning has serious "moral and spiritual implications"
CHENNAI: As the power of technology grows, ethical responsibility of the medical profession will also increase, M.S. Swaminathan, UNESCO Cousteau Chair in Ecotechnology and Chairman of M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, said on Friday.
For example, the use of stem cells derived from embryonic cells continued to be a thorny issue, as it is believed to facilitate reproductive cloning, he said at the convocation of Sri Ramachandra University, Porur, after it was declared open by its Chancellor V.R.Venkatachalam.
While there should be no objection to cloning for therapeutic processes, reproductive cloning had serious moral and spiritual implications.
Calling for a wide debate on ethics in medicine and research, Prof. Swaminathan said social acceptance of medical biotechnology and related ethical issues emphasised that reliance should be placed not through a ban on basic research but through normal checks and balances, both legal and ethical.
He welcomed the Centre's move to set up a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority to take care of research in the areas of food and agriculture and medicine and pharmaceuticals, he explained.
However, he rued the lack of interest in research and technology development among young scholars. "Even when outstanding research of relevance to the control of common diseases is carried out in our country, the linkage between lab to patient is poor," he said. He suggested that SRU introduce a separate course in research methodology and cutting edge developments in medical research at the MBBS level itself.
Leading on from the topic of improved life expectancy (largely due to improved availability and intake of food) Prof. Swaminathan spoke at length about the country's relative failure in handling low birth weight, anaemia and poverty-induced endemic hunger.
Four major interventions are called for to address these problems: attention to the nutrition of pregnant and nursing mothers, better child rearing practices, equitable distribution of available food among the members of household and prompt attention to infection. It was also important to look for local, horticultural remedies for nutritional maladies. Dayanand Dongaonkar, secretary general, Association of Indian Universities, stressed the need for graduates, especially in medicine, to pick up social skills along with technical skills. S. Rangaswami, Vice Chancellor, SRU, presented the annual report.