So this is progress: human hybrids in the lab

As reported in the Washington Post, scientists have recently
produced an ethically dubious work of art. What would these
creatures have been if allowed to come to term?

Scientists Produce Human Embryos of Mixed Gender

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 3, 2003; Page A10

Scientists in Chicago have for the first time made human embryos
that are part male and part female, raising ethics questions and
prompting calls for more oversight of the rapidly evolving field of
human embryo manipulation.

The experiments, described at a meeting of the European Society
of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Madrid, proposed to
answer basic questions about human embryo development and
to foster therapies for congenital diseases.

The hybrid embryos were destroyed after six days, when they
had grown to a few hundred cells organized into a microscopic,
mixed-gender ball, according to a written synopsis of the work
submitted by the research leader, Norbert Gleicher of the Center
for Human Reproduction.

Such work is legal in the United States if federal funds are not
used and if the male and female embryos that Gleicher merged
were freely donated for research, as Gleicher reported they were.
Nonetheless, his presentation yesterday drew criticism from some
fellow scientists at the meeting, according to a report from Madrid.
Reuters news service quoted one official of the society as saying,
"There are very good reasons why this type of research is generally
rejected by the international research community."

The experiments also angered U.S. opponents of human embryo
research and prompted some ethicists to refresh their long-standing
call for a national debate about the pros and cons of human embryo
studies -- and perhaps creation of a national ethics board to review
proposed experiments.

"I don't know if this work is 'right' or 'wrong,' but it should be reviewed
and discussed long and hard before it's done," said George Annas, a
professor of health law and bioethics at Boston University. "It's one
thing if the right-to-life community has problems with your work. But
if scientists hear you talk about your work for the first time and say
it's outrageous, that says something."