Antinori, Severino

▪ 2002

      On Jan. 25, 2001, Severino Antinori, an Italian physician and research scientist specializing in human fertility, announced that he planned to begin work on a project to clone humans and that he had already found 10 couples who were willing to participate. Joining him as his future partner was American fertility specialist Panayiotis Zavos, who said that he and Antinori expected to produce a viable human embryo within 18 months. On March 9 at a conference in Rome, they stated that the number of volunteers had increased to more than 600 infertile couples.

      In order to produce the clones, Antinori and Zavos planned to impregnate women with embryos made with the DNA of the child's intended father. The children would, therefore, be the genetic twins of their fathers, which would thus allow infertile men to pass their genes on to the next generation. Antinori, however, claimed that the babies would have a small amount of the DNA of their mothers and consequently would not be exact clones. Many throughout the world quickly expressed strong opposition to the project. Some objected on moral and religious grounds, while others cited the many miscarriages, stillbirths, and abnormal offspring that had resulted from the efforts to clone large mammals. In regard to the second criticism, Antinori and Zavos claimed that their long experience with in vitro fertilization and other types of assisted pregnancy would greatly increase their chances for success.

      Antinori was born about 1945 in Rome. He studied medicine at the University of Rome, graduating in 1972, and then continued to work at the university, specializing in gastroenterology in 1973–74. Later in the 1970s he shifted his specialty to obstetrics and gynecology, working at various hospitals and institutions in Italy and eventually establishing his own clinic in Rome. Antinori first gained international attention in 1993, when a 59-year-old British woman gave birth to twins as a result of treatment in his fertility clinic; eggs from a young Italian woman had been donated, fertilized with sperm from the British woman's husband, and then implanted in her. A year later, after undergoing the same procedure, a 62-year-old Italian woman gave birth to a son; she was believed to be the oldest woman ever to have given birth. Throughout 2001 Antinori continued to defend himself against those who opposed his cloning project. To his many critics he declared, “I can guarantee at 99% that I will not give birth to any monsters.”

David R. Calhoun

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Universalium. 2010.

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