Unethical Website of the Month May 2004


It is a startling website.

The Godsend Institute is a fertility clinic and practice, specializing in the replication of cells for the purpose of creating life from life,” the attractive and subdued web site states. “We believe those with the power to grant or restore life have an obligation to our community and our world to share that power. At Godsend, we have perfected a procedure by which a single cell could be used to create a genetically identical fetus – a fetus which could be carried to term and, in effect, be reborn.”

Links take you to National Geographic articles about cloning cats, a biography of “Institute founder Dr. Richard Wells”, a description of the human cloning process used by the institute, and testimonials. Call the number (1-888-699-2672), and a voice tells you how to make an appointment with Dr. WellsÂ…and to make sure not to miss “The Godsend,” opening soon at a theater near you. Yes, it’s all fake: this is a film promotion.

Fraud as marketingÂ…what a concept! All in good fun, except that many people don’t get the joke, and are furiously writing the “institute” to either protest cloning or to get a clone of their own. The studio, Lions Gate, doesn’t care: the device is generating publicity, and people are getting interested in the movie. Their lie is working.

But it’s still a lie. And unlike the phony back-story dreamed up to publicize the Blair Witch Project, and unlike the Martian invasion simulation that Orson Welles panicked America with in the grand old days of radio, this is one that you don’t have to be gullible to swallow. Human cloning is well within the realm of possibility, and it is an issue that many people feel passionate about. Lion’s Gate is happy to let its creative and fraudulent internet stunt frighten or enrage some individuals and raise the hopes of others simply to advertise their little horror movie. What is next, in the new genre of fraud as movie advertising? A plague panic, spread by phony health alerts? The possibilities are legion, and if “The Godsend” is a hit, we’ll be subjected to every one of them.

It is futile. But Ethics Scoreboard officially pronounces this trend to be unethical, offensive, and wrong. Worst of all, it virtually guarantees even more egregious frauds in the future.

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