The long arm of the law is catching up with Clonaid, the controversial company that recently claimed to have cloned the world’s first human baby. With its failure to substantiate the claim over the last two weeks, a Florida court has ordered the company to reveal the whereabouts of the baby girl and mother.
The court has asked Clonaid’s vice-president Thomas Kaenzig to appear before it on January 22, failing which he could be held for contempt of court. The action followed a lawsuit filed by an attorney, asking the state to appoint a guardian for the supposedly cloned child.
Scientists were dismissive of the claim right from the start, yet some were ready to wait when the company announced its readiness for an independent evaluation. But the science journalist handpicked to coordinate the evaluation pulled out a few days ago, suggesting that the claim may be an “elaborate hoax”.
Clonaid’s scientific director Brigitte Boisselier, who made the cloning claim in Florida on December 27, has not been heard in recent days. Kaenzig was handed the court papers on Saturday just before he was to speak at a conference in Fort Lauderdale.
Bernard Siegel, the attorney who has filed the lawsuit, said: “I would be delighted if Mr Kaenzig would be put under oath and finally someone can find out perhaps ... what this story really is. I think a guardian needs to be appointed for this child, if there is a child, and something must be done to protect the child.”
Apart from Kaenzig, summons has been issued to one Jane Doe, the alleged mother of the cloned child. The mother, according to Clonaid, is a 31-year-old American. It has not said where she is or where the supposed delivery took place.
In support of his case for appointment of a guardian, Siegel said the cloned baby, if there was one, might need extensive medical treatment. This is something Clonaid probably cannot offer, so the court needs to intervene.