AT FIRST it was a decade behind bars for anyone caught trying to clone a human here.
Then, when the Health Ministry proposed a new Bill targeted specifically at cloning last month, the maximum jail term was halved to five years.
Three weeks of public consultation later, the 10-year jail sentence is back, putting unscrupulous scientists who indulge in human cloning on par with people who commit manslaughter, hard-core drug offenders, habitual criminals and child molesters.
The U-turn was prompted by views from 13 individuals and four organisations, the second lot gathered, and a look at how such offenders are dealt with overseas.
After studying this feedback and noting that British laws set a maximum of 10 years' jail for similar offences, the Ministry of Health has decided to set the penalty in the Bill for carrying out human reproductive cloning activities at a maximum jail term of 10 years, a spokesman said on Thursday.
The Bill is being finalised and is expected to be introduced in Parliament next month or in August.
Commenting on the views expressed by members of the scientific research community, a religious organisation and Singaporeans at large, she said there was unanimous support for a ban on human reproductive cloning.
However, some respondents commented that the maximum jail term of five years appeared to be too low for offences of such severity.
Earlier, the ministry had said that the move to reduce penalties followed comments particularly from the scientific community that they were too severe.
But its decision to ease up on the proposed penalties raised eyebrows, particularly since the protests were coming from scientists, the target group in question.
The penalties were contained in an earlier draft Bill on regulating biomedical research which the ministry had opened for public consultation late last year.
At that time, it received 319 responses from organisations, religious groups, scientists and members of the public.
Based on the feedback, the ministry decided to propose a separate Human Cloning and Other Prohibited Practices Bill, where the five-year jail terms were first laid out. The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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