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National Health Act [South Africa]

The National Health Act prohibits both human reproductive and therapeutic cloning (the latter allowed only from adult or cord blood stem cells) as well asthe genetic manipulation of gametes, zygotes or embryos (“a human embryo is a human offspring in the first eight weeks from conception”). Under the Act, ‘‘reproductive cloning of a human being means the manipulation of genetic material in order to achieve the reproduction of a human being and includes nuclear transfer or embryo splitting for such purpose,” whereas therapeutic cloning is understood as the manipulation of genetic material from either adult, zygotic or embryonic cells in order to alter, for therapeutic purposes, the function of cells or tissues. The Act also establishes criminal sanctions for its violation.

Other normative measures

The Medical Research Council of South Africa states that the “pre-embryo” must be treated with utmost respect because it is a genetically unique and a viable human entity. Therefore, the creation of embryos for the sole purpose of research is discouraged.

The MRC recommends that human stem cells used for therapeutic cloning should only come from cadaveric fetal tissue and ‘surplus’ embryos remaining from infertility treatments. In regards to reproductive cloning, the council recommends that the best interests of the child produced should always take precedence. Because the potential harms of reproductive cloning outweigh the potential benefits, is the council recommends that the use of human nuclear transfer cloning to create a new life be prohibited. Finally, the MRC recommends the creation of a new expert supervisory body to provide advice and grant approval (in conjunction with a properly constituted Research Ethics Committee) to cloning-related research.

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