Fertility Doctor May be in Hot Water

Monday, March 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ROME (AP) - An Italian fertility doctor who has vowed to clone a human being could lose the right to practice in Italy, a spokesman for the national medical association said Monday.

Dr. Severino Antinori has been asked to explain his project, aired last week at a raucous conference in Rome that attracted worldwide attention.

``We are absolutely against any attempt at human cloning,'' said Dr. Benito Meledandri, president of the Italian medical association's Rome chapter. Any member who tries to clone a human ``risks sanctions ranging from a warning to expulsion,'' he said.

Expulsion would mean Antinori would lose his right to practice medicine, said Dr. Marco Poladas, a medical association spokesman.

Although Italy has no law prohibiting cloning, it is poised to ratify a Council of Europe ban. The pact has been approved by the Italian Senate and is pending in the lower house.

Antinori has boasted that a human would be cloned within a year. He insists cloning is a fertility treatment, saying he has been overwhelmed by requests for clones from infertile couples.

He rejects suggestions that cloning presents ethical problems, and was quoted in a newspaper interview as saying the medical association was bowing to pressure from the media and religious institutions.

Antinori and Panos Zavos, a reproduction researcher who resigned earlier this month from his post at the University of Kentucky, have said they will do the cloning in an unspecified Mediterranean country.

Antinori has hinted that it might be Israel and was also quoted as saying he would seek ``political and scientific'' asylum there if attacks on his work continue in Italy.

Israel swiftly rejected the idea that Antinori would be allowed to clone human beings on its soil. The Israeli Health Ministry said it was illegal and anyone who did it would be ``guilty of a criminal offense.''

Researchers trying to clone animals have reported that many of their attempts have ended in disaster, with monster-like creations and repeated premature deaths.