The Ethics of Human Cloning Introduction

Popular in science fiction and the cause of a lot of disagreement in the real world, human cloning is a delicate issue. Though actual human cloning has not yet been achieved, other relevant scientific endeavours have been successful. The government of Canada defines a human clone as, “an embryo that, as a result of the manipulation of human reproductive material or an in vitro embryo, contains a diploid set of chromosomes obtained from a single - living or deceased - human being, foetus or embryo” (Health Canada). This essentially means that what sets apart a clone from any other being is that it only had one parent and is a duplicate of said parent. So far this has only ever been achieved with animals, most famously Dolly the sheep, born on July 5, 1996, who was the world’s first animal mammal cloned from an adult cell (Moore 5). In fact, it was the cloning of Dolly that first launched the world into a grand ethical debate over cloning. Years earlier, in October of 1995, Clinton had established the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) in light of bioethical concerns over research on humans. As stated in Executive Order 12975 by which the NBAC was organized, the purpose of this Commission was to recommend regulations on “bioethical issues arising from research on human biology and behaviour.” One of the most significant times this Commission was put to use was after the cloning of Dolly was announced to the world. On February 24, 1997, President Bill Clinton gave the NBAC 90 days to advise him on ethical issues concerning the cloning of human beings (Eiseman). In March of 1997, Clinton was quoted as saying, “"How can we get the benefits of our deep desire to find any possible cure for any malady that's out there, without raising the kind of ethical implications that, in effect, we're in the business where people are trying to play God?" (Palm Beach Post). He proceeded to

ban all federal funding for cloning research as well as asking for a temporary voluntary moratorium on cloning research by private institutions until more could be learned about the issue. Interestingly, human cloning itself was not banned in the United States at this time, though certain states banned it. However, around the world, many countries began producing legislation that forbade human cloning. Nineteen European countries including France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Germany signed a treaty in 1998 prohibiting human cloning (DuPrau 77). This was all done before much debate had been had over the ethics of human cloning. Meanwhile, in many countries around the world, no such legislation had been passed and, even in those where laws had been made, there were loopholes. This meant that resolved scientists could still find ways to conduct their research. For example, Harvard graduate and founder of a company dedicated to reproductive technology, Richard Seed declared that he would move to Japan and be the first to create a human clone (Andrews). Obviously his research failed, but, no doubt at the expense of many human embryos. Also, in Korea in 2004, scientist Dr. Hwang Woo Suk published papers that indicated he had successfully cloned human embryos. The data was later found to have been falsified and he was indicted (New York Times). Though neither of these attempts were successful, both show that attempts on human cloning will still occur as long as there is no worldwide legislation. Clearly, the world is undecided on the ethical status of cloning. Part of the issue is that people tend to disagree on what one can even consider a human being. This is of course a huge issue in and of itself but to sum up, “a fetus becomes viable at the start of the last third of a pregnancy, the third trimester” (Foer). Some draw the line earlier, some draw it at birth; but most agree that by this point, the fetus is virtually developed and is therefore a human being. The issue with this as it concerns cloning is that in

order to clone a human, one might have to experiment on foetuses past this point. With such disagreement in simply what constitutes a human being, it is no wonder human cloning is a major social issue in the world. The main argument for why cloning research should be continued is the possible benefits it can have. The two main types of cloning are reproductive and therapeutic. Reproductive cloning would be done with the purpose of creating new life, for infertile couples for example. The second type, therapeutic cloning, refers to cloning for medical benefits. The opposite viewpoint highlights the ethical dilemma of creating new life merely for our own purposes and devaluing human life in the process. Advocates of this argument also suggest that human cloning could create a lot of societal difficulties including discrimination. Taking the middle ground, there are those who believe that cloning research should not be banned entirely. They argue that, without it, stem cell research and other major leaps in the realm of biotechnology would not exist.

Cloning Humans Should Be Legalized As It Has Many Benefits
There are many arguments for why cloning should be legalized, but, they all stem from one main idea. Cloning can be advantageous for the greater good and the benefits that can come from it would outweigh any cost, moral or otherwise. The suggested benefits are solving infertility, preventing birth defects and genetic diseases in newborn children, as well as more efficient medical treatments. Indeed, Dr. Robert Winston of Hammersmith Hospital in London says that, “given its potential benefit, I would argue that it would be unethical not to continue this line of research” (Nash).

"It's instinctive, I think, to want to have a biological child. That's what cloning offers--a chance for some people to have what they thought they never could have: a child of their own," says Lee Silver, a molecular biologist at Princeton University (Morell). There are several situations where reproductive cloning could be more reasonable or even the only way to have a child. One example is a relationship where both partners are unable to have a child due to being homosexual partners, or one where they are both infertile. In such cases, simply cloning one partner would be a way to produce biological offspring. Also, if someone simply wants to have a child by themselves and not risk bringing about any foreign genes through adoption or sperm or egg donors, they could have a child through cloning themselves. Indeed, avoiding foreign or perhaps even diseased or defective genes leads to the next possible benefit of cloning. According to the March of Dimes Global Report on Birth Defects, “every year an estimated 7.9 million children—6 percent of total births worldwide—are born with a serious birth defect of genetic or partially genetic origin” (Christianson, Howson, and Modell). The main reason for the occurrence of genetic abnormalities is that during cell division and DNA replication, sometimes things go wrong and the embryo ends up with errors in the order or structure of their chromosomes. However, through cloning, cell division could be bypassed meaning that chromosomal abnormalities could be greatly reduced (Silver). This means that chromosomal conditions such as Down’s syndrome, Turner’s syndrome, or cleft lips could one day be eliminated due to advancement in cloning research. Apart from birth defects that happen virtually at random due to problems during cell division, genetic diseases are also a major problem. Recessive disorders such as haemophilia mean that if two partners happen to be carriers, there is a one in four chance that their child will have the disorder (Pines). Through cloning one partner instead of having a child through sexual reproduction, the risk can be avoided entirely. Moreover,

cloning can provide an excellent way to research the cause of disease, genetic or otherwise, as well as ways to prevent or treat them. According to Dr. Ian Wilmut, the man who cloned Dolly, “Cloning would allow us to recreate [these] diseased cells, with the same genetic make-up, outside the patient's body, and watch them develop from scratch.” This kind of research would ensure that clones as well as naturally born children will be free of disease. In addition to preventing disease, cloning can aid with medical treatments including transplants. Roughly 3000 people die each year in America due to not receiving an organ transplant in time (Allen). A potential use of cloning is to duplicate the embryos of children of prospective parents and freeze them so that they can be used as organ farms if the child itself is ever in a time of need (Madigan). In our day and age, there is a donor bank and those in needs of organs have little choice but to hope that they are lucky enough to find a match. The situation is even more dire if they have no living or willing relatives. Also, even if a match is found, the organ to be donated will never be a perfect match. This can lead to severe medical complications or even death. Cloning would therefore also eliminate the problem of transplant rejection. Summarily, there are many ways in which cloning can improve the standard of human life. Those who wish to have biological children will always have a way. In fact, human reproduction would become safer as birth defects could practically be eliminated altogether. And finally, those in need of medical treatments, particularly organ transplants, would have a way to get them that is medically risk-free. Those in favour of this viewpoint believe that the advantages of human cloning are too great to ignore for the sake of anything else.

Cloning Is Severely Unethical an Should Be Banned Entirely
Many believe that cloning is severely unethical because nearly every potential use of human cloning is selfish. Reproductive cloning would only ever be used to fulfill the desires of parents. There is no guarantee whatsoever that the clone would appreciate being brought into this world especially as there would be lots of issues that could arise from its lack of identity compared to humans born the usual way. As well, over time this application of cloning could become a new form of eugenics and cause a significant loss in human diversity. Even worse, therapeutic cloning as some describe it could devalue life as it would mean creating and destroying life for the sake of someone who is not a clone. For these reasons and others, those who support this viewpoint believe that human cloning should be completely banned. First off, there are several ways in which a clone’s life might be less than pleasant. According to Leon Kass, a professor at the University of Chicago, “Cloning is inherently despotic, for it seeks to make one’s children after one’s own image and their future according to one’s own will” (Kass). Parents who clone will in some way or other have expectations of their child. ‘Saviour siblings’, which are embryos raised to have the same tissue type as a sick sibling in order to save them through donating some of their tissue, are a prime example of this (Moore 29). Though the embryo will become a child grow up virtually like any other, it was still brought into the world with a purpose other than its own conception. The other scenario is of a cloned child truly being brought into the world because someone wanted a child. However, even then, they might expect it to have the same interests as them or want to follow the same career path. However, science has already proved that just because two people have the same genetic makeup, they will not be identical. Twins are a

living example of this. In a science article in the New York Times, it was stated that, “Two genetically identical twins inside a womb will unfold in slightly different ways. The shape of the kidneys or the curve of the skull won’t be quite the same. The differences are small enough that an organ from one twin can probably be transplanted into the other. But with the organs called brains the differences can become profound” (Johnson). The clone may not like the idea that someone before it has, in a way, already lived its life. One of the other major arguments against cloning is that it can create a lot of problems for the human race as a whole. Cloning combined with a process called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (procedure of modifying or removing undesired genes) could become a form of eugenics. It could start with a good-natured cause such as simply eliminating the risk of genetic disorders, but, parents might also wish to decide on the gender, physical characteristics, intelligence, or any other genetic qualities in their child. In Cloning by Jeanne DuPrau, an interesting comparison is made: “Hitler offers the most terrible example of what can happen when someone decides to ‘improve’ the human race” (62). Focussing on being able to decide on a child’s gender, China is a key example of how this can go wrong. In 1978, the one-child policy was introduced. Cultural preference led to a shockingly high number of abortions of female foetuses such that now roughly 6 boys are born for every girl (Germain). Loss of diversity can be incredibly dangerous and for this reason, anti-cloning advocates believe that cloning should be illegal because it would make the ability of parents to ‘choose’ their child much easier. To sum up, the problems with cloning are plentiful. Cloning devalues life in general and could lead to societal imbalances. As well, the lives of clones themselves would lack a great deal of integrity as they would have been brought into this world for our own purposes. The only possible way to indefinitely prevent these problems would be to ban cloning entirely.

Cloning Research Should Be Allowed As It Can Aid in the Development of Other Forms of Biotechnology That Can One Day Be Sufficient
Instead of either extreme, another perspective on the social issue of human cloning is that cloning should not be banned entirely. There should be limits on what we can do and it should all be for the sake of research without actually creating a fully-developed human being. Other forms of biotechnology such as gene therapy, reproductive technologies and stem cell advancements should be more than sufficient. And, eventually with the new advances in technology, ethical concerns could be virtually eliminated. One of the main issues with cloning research, even when it doesn’t have the goal of actually making a human, is that it involves embryos. Embryos would still be destroyed in the process but as Gregory Pence, a professor of philosophy in the University of Alabama says, “it is like saying an acorn is a 20 year old, 60 foot tall oak tree in value and concept. But if I pick up an acorn from your yard, you do not charge me with theft, but you would if I cut down your mature oak tree” (Pence). Pence’s point here is that embryos are virtually a fraction of a human being. Embryo research can save numerous lives, cure diseases, and help us better understand life in general. Those who support this argument believe that cloning should exist for therapeutic purposes only and not reproductive purposes. Therapeutic cloning can bypass actually making a fully developed human clone and instead be limited to the cloning of human embryos or cells. In Britain, the law says that reproductive cloning is illegal but allows cloning done for therapeutic purposes on embryos before they are fourteen days old. MIT biology professor, Rudolf Jaenisch, believes that, “Britain's law, which is very good, should serve as an example. Britain's legislation is very clear about what's criminal and what isn't” (Krock). The fourteen day limit is often imposed in countries with similar legislation as Britain’s as it is “a point

near when the primitive streak is formed and before organ differentiation occurs” (President's Council on Bioethics). With this ethical boundary kept in mind, this line of research can ensure that actual human cloning is avoided while still achieving a lot for humankind on the whole. Similarly, the need for reproductive cloning can be virtually eliminated through assistive reproductive technologies and gene therapy. For many cases, assistive reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, can be enough for a couple to have a child. This avoids any of the ethical and safety issues that come with reproductive cloning. As well, gene therapy more than makes up for the other proposed benefit of reproductive cloning. Through gene therapy it is possible to “turn off” genes that could cause disease. As long as gene therapy were used responsibly (only to eliminate diseases and not on a parents’ whim to make their child blue-eyed, for example), the ethical concerns with human cloning would be avoided and children would no longer be born with diseases such as Huntington’s. Perhaps more useful than any of the technologies described previously, radical discoveries in stem cell research have found that human lives could be saved through skin cells instead of embryos. In 2007, scientists of Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge discovered that, “’induced pluripotent stem’, or iPS, cells, are virtually identical to embryonic stem cells. They can morph into all of the more than 200 cell types in the body but are derived from skin, not from embryos” (Weiss). They used these cells to cure mice of sickle cell anemia and scientists are currently looking into ways to apply this technology to humans. If this one day becomes possible, there would be no ethical dilemma whatsoever because human lives could be saved without destroying embryos in the process. This line of research can also prevent rogue scientists from going off and experimenting with cloning anyways. If legal cloning research could

occur with limitations, it could eventually lead to a time when biotechnology wouldn’t create any ethical concerns. However, for this research to get to that point, embryo research is needed. Without it, it can never be discovered if this method can be safely transferred to humans. Many believe that this would be worth the cost. John Kerry said in the 2004 presidential debate: I think we can do ethically guided embryonic stem cell research. We have 100,000 to 200,000 embryos that are frozen in nitrogen today from fertility clinics. These weren't taken from abortion or something like that. They're from a fertility clinic, and they're either going to be destroyed or left frozen. And I believe if we have the option, which scientists tell us we do, of curing Parkinson's, curing diabetes, curing, you know, some kind of a ... you know, paraplegic or quadriplegic or, you know, a spinal cord injury -anything -- that's the nature of the human spirit. I think it is respecting life to reach for that cure. (Orabuchi) His point is that these embryos would not have gone to use otherwise and, in a way, the whole process really has more to do with respecting life than the opposite. To conclude, some feel that the best course of action would be to not ban cloning entirely but simply to limit it. Getting rid of reproductive cloning alone would appease much of the moral distress people have with cloning. Gene therapy and medical technologies such as in vitro fertilization can achieve most of what reproductive cloning would have in the first place. Legalizing therapeutic cloning also can save a lot of lives and it can lead to the development of technology that wouldn’t require embryos at all. Essentially, to completely make cloning illegal would be a mistake because there is so much good that can come from it if there are limitations and the research is done responsibly.

Societal Impact of Human Cloning
Human cloning has a huge impact as a social issue simply because so many people feel passionately about it. Like abortion and gene therapy before it, the issue of cloning has spawned a lot of debate and protests. All these issues even have something that ties them together; they all concern human embryos in some way or other. As well, dystopian science fiction exists for all of these topics. These two factors greatly contribute to the fear the general public has about cloning. Numerous books, movies, and other forms of media, fictional and not, have been made about cloning. Indeed, some feel that media has had more to do with shaping society’s view on cloning than anything else. Regardless, at the moment, public opinion tends to be that cloning is unethical and ought not to be attempted. According to Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey conducted in May of 2010, 88% of Americans believe that human cloning is morally wrong (Saad).However, even with all the disagreement and ethical concerns over this issue, there does seem to be one thing that most people agree on; eventually, science will find a way to clone a human being. So far, research has gone as far as the successful cloning of rhesus macaque monkey embryos. This was done by a reproductive biologist of Oregon Health & Science University, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, and his team in November of 2007 (Kaplan and Maugh II). Monkeys are primates and not such a far cry away from humans. An analysis of the genes of rhesus monkeys actually found that humans share 93% of their DNA. An even higher similarity exists between humans and chimpanzees at about 98.5% of our DNA being identical (Choi). Clearly, technology is very advanced already. There is little doubt in the scientific community that one day human cloning will be achieved. The only question is; what will we do when that day comes? Many people are frightened by the idea. When Dolly was cloned, there were numerous protests around the world. And since then, there have been

many more. World leaders are also taking action to create legislation that prohibits cloning. In November of 2007, the United Nations urged countries to create a worldwide ban on human cloning. As of 2007, “50 countries have legislation that outlaws human reproductive cloning, another 140 members of the UN have no such laws, providing loopholes for unscrupulous scientists” (Gray). The reason society cares about human cloning as a social issue is because it involves bringing humans into the world through a completely different way than we’ve been used to up till this point. Also, some people find it very worrying that life can be treated so casually since research pertaining to cloning and stem cells involves the destruction of human embryos. Conversely, advances in stem cell research and cloning could save many lives. Some say that, “embryos would not be ‘created for destruction,’ but for use in the service of life and medicine. They would be destroyed in the service of a great good, and this should not be obscured” (President’s Council on Bioethics). This is where the lines truly become blurred, making human cloning an eminent social issue. If a lot of lives can be saved, how can we decide what is truly ethical or not? Appealing to the inner curiosities of human beings as well as creating a whole slew of ethical dilemmas, human cloning is a social issue that should strike a chord with everyone. Like many social issues, the media has helped build up awareness for it. Many people have strong positions on this topic and organizations, protests, and laws have been made concerning the ethics of human cloning. Cloning could potentially save lives or be a way to create new life. But, it can also destroy lives, particularly human embryos. The possible societal implications are staggering and until something significant happens, human cloning will remain one of the most notable social issues of our time.

Conclusion
In summary, human cloning is a prominent social issue in the world. Even though it is not yet scientifically possible, there is a great deal to be said about it in the way of ethics. Though polls indicate that the general public is against the idea of cloning, there are a variety of opinions on the topic that each has support. It is thought by some that the legalization of cloning could greatly benefit the world as it could be the best way to produce the next generation of human beings. However, many see ethical dilemmas in this outlook and think that cloning should be forbidden entirely. It could spark the dehumanization of our race by turning human lives into something of a commodity and it could also cause a lot of social distress. Finally, the third proposition is that there should be a middle ground. There is a lot of benefit in therapeutic cloning without anywhere near as much of the ethical cost. By legalizing this form of cloning only, research could continue, albeit with limitations. Biotechnology is advancing at an alarming rate and there should be more than enough ways to satisfy the needs of the human race without crossing moral boundaries. Human cloning has a significant effect on society because even though it has little direct impact right now, at any moment scientists might discover something revolutionary. In fact, that is the part that scares some people the most. At any moment, the world could change and for that reason, it is important to be aware of the different directions this ethical debate could take.

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