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Israel: Law Prohibiting Human Cloning Amended

(June 7, 2016) On May 23, 2016, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Prohibition on Genetic Intervention (Human Cloning and Genetic Change in Reproductive Cells) (Amendment No. 3), 5776- 2016. (Amendment Law, Knesset website (in Hebrew).) The Amendment Law amends the Prohibition on Genetic Intervention (Human Cloning and Genetic Change in Reproductive Cells) Law 5759-1999.  (SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, the official gazette, SH], 5759 No. 1697, p. 47 as amended, (in Hebrew); Ruth Levush, Israel: Prohibition of Genetic Intervention Extended, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Oct. 20, 2009).)

The Law generally prohibits “human reproductive cloning” (HRC) unless authorization for it is granted by the Minister of Health based on the determination that the procedure would not harm human dignity and with the recommendation of the Superior Helsinki Committee appointed in accordance with the Public Health (Medical Experiments in Human) Regulations, 5741-1980. The prohibition on human cloning is periodically extended. The Amendment Law extends the prohibited period until May 23, 2020. (Amendment Law, § 2.)

The Amendment Law further amends the definition of HRC, previously defined by the Law as either:

  • the creation of an embryo by the transfer of a human cell into an egg or a fertilized egg from which the nucleus has been removed (in this Law a cloned embryo), for the purpose of creating a person who is identical from a genetic chromosomal [standpoint] to another person or embryo, living or dead;
  • the insertion of a cloned embryo into a uterus or the body of a woman or into a[nother] uterus or into another body. (Prohibition on Genetic Intervention (Human Cloning and Genetic Change in Reproductive Cells) (Amendment) § 2, SH 5764 No. 1934 p. 340.)

Instead of describing specific techniques for the purpose of defining HRC, the Amendment Law provides a general definition of HRC as simply “the creation of a human embryo that is identical to another person or embryo, either living or dead” and its insertion into a woman or another being, as previously provided. (Amendment Law § 1).

According to explanatory notes for the draft version of the Amendment Law, the change in the definition of HRC was necessitated by technological developments that created additional methods of human cloning aside from the transfer and insertion of a nucleus. The general definition was thus intended to include any possible future method of human cloning. This general definition, according to the explanatory notes, is in line with section (b) of the 2005 United Nations resolution recommending that requires states to prohibit all methods of human cloning. (Explanatory Notes, Draft Bill on Genetic Intervention (Human Cloning and Genetic Change in Reproductive Cells) (Amendment No. 3) 5776- 2016, Government Bill No. 1039 (Mar. 28, 2016), Knesset website; United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning (adopted by the General Assembly on Mar. 8, 2005), UNDOC.)

The continued temporary extension of application of the Law, according to the explanatory notes, reflects the need to keep following and reexamining various aspects of HRC, considering technological advancements in this area and the possible uses of cloning in research on and prevention of serious diseases, as well as in providing “gene therapy as an alternative to implantation of cells, stem cells, and body parts.” (Explanatory Notes, supra.)