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January 8, 2003
 
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Michael Guillen

Freelance journalist Michael Guillen was appointed by Clonaid to oversee genetic testing of an allegedly cloned baby. (ABCNEWS.com)
Still a ‘Chance’
Appointed Journalist Says He Still Believes Cloning Claims May Be True
ABCNEWS.com

Jan. 8 — A freelance journalist who had been appointed to oversee testing of an allegedly cloned child said there's a chance the cloning claim is true, but declined to offer any corroboration.



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"I do have privileged information I can't discuss," Michael Guillen, a former science editor at ABCNEWS, told Good Morning America, adding, "You begin to develop an intuition about what they're up to…"

Guillen shared his remarks a day after Clonaid, the company that said they have produced the first human clone, released a statement saying the alleged clone's parents will not allow any DNA testing unless they are guaranteed that their child will not be taken from them.

‘Disappointed’ That Tests Were Delayed

Clonaid is affiliated with the Raelian sect that is based on the belief that aliens created life on Earth some 25,000 years ago. The company's executive director, Brigitte Boisselier, made the announcement on Dec. 27 that the world's first human clone had been born and appointed Guillen to arrange independent genetic tests of the baby.

Guillen said today that he had selected experts to perform the tests by New Year's Eve and was "disappointed" when he was not allowed access to the family. After temporarily giving up efforts to oversee tests of the alleged clone, he released a statement saying the claims could be part of "an elaborate hoax."

"When Friday came and went and we weren't being given access, I sensed this wasn't going to happen soon," he said.

Guillen acknowledged that by offering to oversee the genetic tests while, at the same time, pitching a television documentary about the claims, his objectivity in the issue was undermined. Still, he said he believes his role is an important one.

"I think there's a small chance [the claims are true]. And the stakes are so high … that's why I want to test," he said. "The implications are sobering — religiously, ethically, politically — and we don't want to dismiss it off hand."

Waiting Out Legal Battle

Scientists working in the field of genetics have been largely dismissive and fearful of Clonaid's claims. They point out that efforts to clone other animals have led to the death or peculiar disabilities in the clones, such as obesity and premature aging.

"They haven't told us who the scientists are who are involved," said Michael Watson, executive director of the American College of Medical Genetics in Bethesda, Md. "I can't imagine that they could have done this without significant failures."

The National Academy of Sciences invited Clonaid's leader, as well as two other scientists hoping to clone people, to a congressional hearing about human cloning in August 2001. Guillen suggested this meant even the academy "took these people seriously enough to invite them to testify."

Still, the failure of Clonaid to offer any proof that the 31-year-old American did indeed give birth to a clone has since eroded confidence in Clonaid's claims.

Clonaid's leaders say they're waiting until a judge hears a petition from a lawyer who wishes to appoint a guardian for the baby. The lawyer has raised the possibility that the child be turned over to the state since most U.S. states do not legally recognize human clones as children of their biological parents. Guillen said this hearing is scheduled for January 22.

Meanwhile, Clonaid's leader says her company's "customers" will always remain their first priority.

"There will always be a time to re-establish my reputation," Boisselier said in a statement on Tuesday. "Meanwhile other babies are coming and among them, some will be made public."

 
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