The Ethics of Reproductive and Human Cloning
Saginaw Valley State University
Over the past decade reproductive and human cloning have become heated topics throughout the world. There is also over a century worth of history in the cloning field. There are three types of cloning; therapeutic, DNA, and Reproductive cloning. It can be argued that reproductive cloning is a necessary and helpful technology that can be used while maintaining sound ethics. Human cloning on the other hand is unethical and dangerous to the human race. Human cloning could change the family culture for the worse. Similarly, the technology to use human cloning safely has not been developed yet. People’s individuality could also be under threat as people become more and more alike. The last reason is that human’s resistance to disease would be much weaker, due to the fact that our gene pool would shrink if human cloning was used. There are many different views including religious, gender, and nationalistic views. The United Nations accounts for each of these views in their worldwide policy for cloning.
The topic of Cloning has been one of the most heated debates in the past decade. In particular, the ethics of reproductive and human cloning have been discussed by people all around the world. The question that has been argued is this; is reproductive cloning ethical? More specifically, is human cloning ethical? Reproductive cloning has many uses that could help humans in the future, and can be used ethically. Human cloning, a type of reproductive cloning could prove to be very dangerous and all mankind would be better off without. To better understand the question one needs to understand the process of cloning, of which there are three types. The first is referred to as DNA cloning. This is the process of isolating a specific DNA fragment or sequence and then replicating it (Cloning Fact, 2009). DNA cloning has been around since the 1970’s. The second, called therapeutic cloning, is the creation of human embryos for scientific research, which is where stem cell research comes from. Many are against therapeutic cloning because it involves the destruction of human embryos during the research. The last type of cloning is the type that one would usually hear about in the news, and is the process that would be involved in cloning humans. Reproductive cloning is the process of taking the DNA of a previously existing organism and creating another organism with the same nuclear DNA (Cloning Fact, 2009). This technology has been used on animals for over a decade, and many believe it is only a matter of time before humans are cloned. This theory has been met with a hail of protest from people of all professions and living classes.
Cloning has been an ongoing scientific project for over 100 years. In the late 1800’s, Hans Dreisch created the first cloned animals using sea urchins (History of Cloning, 1999). Since then cloning has been one of the most fascinating topics in science, and has progressed through the years. Cloning took a backseat to many other technological advances of the past few centuries, that is, until February 22, 1997. On this day, Dolly the sheep, named after Dolly Parton, was born in Scotland at the Roslin Institute, becoming an instant celebrity (Dolly the Sheep, 2012). Dolly was the culmination of over ten years of research for scientist Ian Wilmut. Dolly was the first animal cloned from the nuclear DNA of an adult animal. This created a firestorm of press releases. The most famous experiment in the history of cloning, or the history of science in general, had occurred. Dolly made people realize that cloning animals, and one day humans, was theoretically possible. Before this it had seemed that cloning humans would exist only in science fiction books and would remain as untouchable as time travel. Dolly was closely watched over the course of her lifetime during which she became an even greater success. One reason of this is the fact that Dolly gave birth to multiple lambs during her lifetime. The odds of Dolly living past youth, let alone giving birth, amazed scientists. The odds of this happening were minute, but Dolly lived until February 14, 2003, six years. Her death was not a result of being a clone, but a viral infection (Dolly the Sheep, 2012). Dolly showed the world that cloning could be a safe and useful process. Because of this cloning has become one of the most important and most practiced arts of modern day humans.
There are many advantages to reproductive cloning. One use would be the recreation of animals that are endangered or even extinct. Dolly was the stepping stone that has led to the cloning of over twenty other animals. Among these are carp, mice, cows, monkeys, deer, and wolves. Also among these animals are gaurs and mouflons (Business Pundit, 2009). These two animals are endangered. The ability to add to their dwindling numbers could save these species. Humans have been responsible for the extinction of more than one species of animal. Examples of this are the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon (Extinct Animals, 2012). If man could repair some of the damage that has been done to animal species that still have a chance, then perhaps these animals will not face the same fate. Similarly, reproductive cloning has the potential to revive extinct animals. It would be far-fetched to think that scientists will be bringing back dinosaurs anytime soon, so the movie Jurassic Park is not likely to occur in the near future. However, a few years ago there was a baby mammoth found that had its DNA extracted. The technology is not within our grasp to bring back herds of mammoths yet, but in the future this could be a very real possibility. Not everyone agrees that bringing back extinct animals is a good idea. The animals that have been driven to extinction by humans should have another chance, and would benefit greatly from reproductive cloning. On the other hand, animals that have gone extinct naturally may upset the balance of nature if they were to be brought back. Perhaps, if the technology is improved, animals could be brought back to the world to be studied or live in captivity, but not placed in the wild.
Although some forms of reproductive cloning can be used ethically and usefully, there are types that would be unethical and morally hazardous to use. Supporters of human cloning would say that it would solve many problems for gay and lesbian partners. Using both parents DNA, the couple could have a child. “Currently, gay and lesbian couples who want to bear a child must enlist a third party of the opposite sex to contribute sperm or an egg. With cloning, this will no longer be necessary” (Will Doig, 2003). There is much opposition to this “excuse” for using human cloning. The problem with letting gay or lesbian couples use cloning to create a child would be that “it would be impossible to allow reproductive cloning for lesbians or gay men without making it generally available to all” (Reproductive Cloning, 2006). Lesbian and gay couples would not be the only benefactors of cloned children. Parents who cannot produce either egg or sperm would greatly benefit. Also, parents who have lost children may be able to overcome this emotional loss if with an exact replica of the child. On the other hand “this is done more for their own comfort and to satisfy their own emotional ends” (Oreopoulos, 2005). The parents would not have their child back, only a copy. As stated before, it would not be possible to give only a portion of citizens the right to have child clones, but to legalize cloning entirely or even partially could present many problems.
Other groups such as religious groups believe that it is morally wrong to clone humans. Numerous religious groups feel that cloning is taking the creation of life out of God’s hands. Conservative Christians such as Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists believe that there should only be one creator of life (Sullivan, 2005). The influence of some religions has led to countries in Europe, France, and Germany to name a few, to ban even genetically altered crops. However, some members of the Protestant and Lutheran sects showed that they either supported human cloning or were tolerable of it. This shows that there is not one definite opinion for all Christians, but there are patterns. Not all religious groups are against human cloning. Hindus and Buddhists believe “there may be no gods or many gods, and there is no master plan for the universe” (Tierney, 2007). Buddhists believe that advances in modern science could lead to a better understanding of the self, and lead to a path of enlightenment. Furthermore, Buddhists believe that life can be started in more ways than one, supporting the idea that they would not be against human cloning (Sullivan, 2005). In the end there is a definite trend toward monotheistic religions being against human cloning. This includes most of the wealthy countries; U.S., Europe, and the Islamic countries. However, the opinion of members of polytheistic religions could be quite the opposite, showing how the battle over who is right and who is wrong has raged for over a decade.
It is important for one to take a worldwide view of opinions on human cloning instead of looking only at certain groups. In 2001, the United Nations started debating a declaration on the subject of cloning (Arsanjani, 2006). The debate was at first split into two groups. The Franco German Initiative set out to ban both therapeutic and reproductive cloning. The United States backed this initiative at first. The debate showed how religion can affect policy making even in the United Nations. Catholics and the pope took the side of the Franco German Initiative, so Islamic nations took the opposite side so as not to be seen siding with the Catholics. These two sides argued for the next three years until 2005. The argument for the comprehensive ban was that if it was not put in place, the technology would advance through therapeutic cloning, and eventually the technology for human cloning would arrive. It was said even if there was a partial ban on human cloning, as soon as the technology was advanced enough, human clones would be created. The tides turned when the United States switched to favoring a partial ban only on human cloning in 2005. The votes were split showing that there is still no worldwide agreement, even though the declaration passed. For all the work that went into the declaration, it failed in completely banning cloning. It did put restrictions on cloning, but the wording can be interpreted several ways. This has increased the tension between countries who are waiting to see what will happen in the future (Arsanjani, 2006).
Whatever the opinion of certain groups or individuals, the welfare of mankind must be foremost in one’s mind. The ethical implications of human cloning are too great to bear. As of right now only 0.1 to 3 percent of cloning attempts are successful (What are the Risks, 2012). Dolly the sheep was a huge success, but she still took hundreds of tries before she was created. This means that hundreds of embryos were destroyed in the process (Dolly the Sheep, 2012). Killing hundreds of embryos will not be an acceptable cost to creating human clones. Furthermore, there is no telling how healthy clones will be. Many clones have “more compromised immune function and higher rates of infection, tumor growth, and other disorders” (Cloning Fact Sheet). The technology is one problem that scientists face before human cloning can be considered ethical.
If human clones were allowed to be produced, family life would change greatly. Parents have children, for the most part, because they are committed to each other and wish to have a child to raise as their own. They will love this child no matter what faults the child has. If parents are allowed to choose specific characteristics for their children and make them into what they want, then family values will change (Disadvantages of Cloning, n.d.). Children are traditionally seen as gifts, not possessions, therefore “individuals, who want a specific child and no other, raise serious questions about their motivations” (Oreopoulos, 2005). Parents would have the ability to make their children into a superstar athlete or a brilliant surgeon. While the traditional route would be having a child and guiding them as best they can, but still loving them no matter who they become. Knowing what your child will be like beforehand may sound good, but having a child for the wrong reasons could have serious repercussions. The idea of what a family really is would forever change for the worse.
Individuality is a valuable asset in the world today. Individuality and creativity are stressed more now than they ever have been. “Reproductive cloning would diminish the sense of uniqueness of an individual. It would violate deeply and widely held convictions concerning human individuality and freedom” (Reproductive cloning, 2006). With cloning, there could be more than one copy of an individual, leading to a number of terrible possibilities. People would not be able to tell clones apart. Crimes could be committed but the perpetrator would be unknown. Eventually, there would be less value put on human life. This could lead to wars with which clones are used. It would be an endless war as more and more clones are created. This leads to the question of what the clones’ rights would be. It would be unethical to use a clone as a body for spare parts, a soldier, or a slave, but the monetary value may become a factor. Clones would still be people, not objects. Like any other product that has a large price tag, it would be abused. It could be worse than any drug or weapon that has ever existed.
An additional side effect of human cloning could be a diminishing resistance to disease. A “horrendous part of identical genes is that it will weaken our power and adaptations, which make us subject to great diseases easily” (Disadvantages of cloning, n.d.). One of the greatest fears of mankind is that one day, whether created by humans or not, a disease will wipe out the population. It could be similar to the black plague or it could be even worse, wiping out our entire race. Without diversity in human genes, an airborne pathogen could possibly destroy billions of lives in a short time span. This shows that the containment of human cloning should be a priority. Unfortunately, the containment of human cloning has not been easy. Bills introduced to congress have been shot down and has been a struggle getting bills put into legislation (Congress Bills, 2012). If there are no laws to control human cloning then it should not be attempted now, if ever. Without a firm grasp on the labs or scientists who are given permission to attempt cloning humans, nations may not be able to control the outcome and ensure that humanity will remain safe.
The future for both reproductive and human cloning is hard to predict. Reproductive cloning has several excellent uses including helping endangered animals repopulate their species and bringing back extinct animals. Human cloning is a dangerous subject and we do not have yet the technology to properly use it. It is also unethical and potentially harmful for the future of mankind. The opinion of the majority may not matter. Over the years science has never been contained. Technology has always found the way out no matter how hard nations or religions try to hide it. It is likely that in the next generation human clones will begin to appear. It will be up to the nations of our world to develop ways to contain and possibly ban human cloning. How human cloning will react with the world remains to be seen, but many are afraid once the cloning begins, it will be unstoppable.
Arsanjani, M. (2006, Jan). Negotiating the UN declaration on human cloning. American Society of International law, 100, 164-179. Retrieved from http://0-www.jstor.org.library .svsu.edu/stable /pdfplus/3518835.pdf?acceptTC=true
Cloning fact sheet. (2009, May 11). Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://www.ornl. gov /sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning.shtml
Congress bills. (2007). Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://www.govtrack.us/congress/ bills/110/s812
Disadvantages of cloning. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27,2012, from http://library. thinkquest.org/C0122429/ethics/disadvantages.htm
Doig, Will. (2003, Jan 16). Born Again. Metro Weekly. Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://www.metroweekly.com /feature/?ak=303
Dolly the sheep. (2008). Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /articles/d/dolly_the_sheep.htm
Extinct Animals. (2012). Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://www.50birds.com/extan/ gextanimals.htm
History of cloning. (2009). Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://library.thinkquest .org/20830/Frameless/Manipulating/Experimentation/Cloning/longdoc.htm
Oreopoulos, D. (2005). Ethical issues of human cloning. A Journal of the Art and Science of Medicine, 5. Retrieved from http://www.humanehealthcare .com/Article.asp?art_id=684
Reproductive cloning arguments pro and con. (May 16, 2006). Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://www.geneticsandsociety.org/article.php?id=282
Sullivan, B. (2005). Religious views of cloning do not agree. MSNBC.com. Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://home.honolulu.hawaii.edu/~pine/phil120/phil120web/cloning-religion.html
Tierney, J. (2007, November 27). Are scientists playing god? It depends on your religion. The New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://www.nytimes. com /2007/11/20/science/20tier.html?pagewanted=all
20 animals that have been cloned. (2009). Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://www businesspundit.com/20-animals-that-have-been-cloned/
What are the risks of cloning. (2012). Retrieved November 27, 2012, from http://learn.genetics. utah.edu/content/tech/cloning/cloningrisks/