Journalist's reputation threatened as cloned baby could be a hoax
JACQUI GODDARD MIAMI
THE JOURNALIST tasked with overseeing DNA tests on an allegedly cloned baby last night broke ranks to declare that he cannot verify that the child even exists.
Dr Michael Guillen, the ABC television network’s former science editor and a one-time Harvard physics lecturer, admits that he may have been sucked into a giant hoax by French scientist Dr Brigitte Boisselier, her company Clonaid and the Raelian cult which backs it.
He had been promised access to the baby, along with a team of scientists, for them to take saliva and blood samples from so-called baby "Eve" and her 31-year-old mother last week.
But in a statement issued last night from his home in Boston, Massachusetts - the first time he has given any public statement since taking on the task ten days ago - Dr Guillen said he had suspended the testing efforts after Dr Boisselier failed to keep her promise.
"The team of scientists has had no access to the alleged family and, therefore, cannot verify first-hand the claim that a human baby has been cloned," he said. "In other words, it’s still entirely possible Clonaid’s announcement is part of an elaborate hoax intended to bring publicity to the Raelian movement.
"When and if an opportunity to collect DNA samples as promised does arise, however, the team stands fully prepared to re-mobilise and conduct the necessary tests."
Dr Boisselier, publicised claims on 27 December that a cloned baby had been born to an American couple on Boxing Day.
But last week she said the child’s parents were having second thoughts about testing to prove the child was a true clone of its mother.
She blamed a lawsuit launched in Florida which threatened to have the baby removed from them for fear that she was the subject of a "dangerous medical experiment."
It is understood that she continued to keep Dr Guillen in the dark when he demanded an answer from her yesterday.
She chose Dr Guillen, who has been sympathetic to Clonaid and the Raelians during years of reporting on the cloning issue, to oversee the DNA testing.
She told the media that tests would prove the veracity of her claims.
"You can still go back to your office and treat me as a fraud," she told the media that day. "You have one week to do that."
Dr Guillen was said by friends last night to be feeling "very disappointed, very betrayed" after risking his own reputation to get involved with Dr Boisselier’s project.
He faced strong questions as to his independence, after it was revealed that he has attempted to sell his exclusive documentary on the cloning project for at least US$100,000 (£62,135).
"He’s a brilliant guy, but his reputation has got very swept away in all this," said a friend. "He got to a stage today where he has insisted that there has to be progress, or he’d pull out."
He said in his statement that he had been interested in doing a documentary on human cloning that would involve Clonaid’s work and that he’s covered the "principal players" in human cloning since the cloning of Dolly the sheep was announced in 1997.
On Saturday, Clonaid claim to have produced a second clone, a girl born to a Dutch lesbian. A spokeswoman said the child was born Friday night, but declined to say where. Clonaid vice president, Thomas Kaenzig, said the baby is a girl whose parents are two Dutch women.
More Cloning & stem cell research:
Chief Medical Officer - stem cell research report
Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority
Roslin Institute cloning links