Reviews Personal views

On being downstream from faked scientific reports

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7542.674 (Published 16 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:674
  1. Timothy F Murphy, professor of philosophy in the biomedical sciences, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago (tmurphy@uic.edu)
  1. University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago

    For some time the US writer David Rorvik held the dubious distinction of being history's greatest hoaxer when it came to human cloning. In the 1970s Rorvik wrote In His Image: The Cloning of a Man, the story of how he helped convene a research team somewhere on a Pacific Ocean island in order to clone a US millionaire (www.museumofhoaxes.com/cloning.html). It wasn't true, of course, but enough people believed this former medical reporter to keep the story afloat. Rorvik was eventually found out, and both author and book faded away, although the idea that people could copy themselves lingered on.

    In late 2005 fraud charges starting bubbling around another claimant to success in human cloning. The South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-Suk and colleagues had reported earlier that year that they had used cloning techniques to create stem cell lines of 11 people. The report followed up a 2004 report indicating success in using nuclear transfer techniques to produce an early stage human embryo. Both reports appeared in one of the most eminent scientific journals in the world, Science. Even so, it was not long before critics began to call the findings into question, and a hastily convened review panel found that—contrary to the …

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