The Ethics of Cloning
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A couple that had been married for only two years was in a terrible car accident. The wife walked away with a few cuts and bruises. The husband, however was unconscious when the paramedics arrived. He went into a coma shortly after arriving at the nearby hospital. He came out of the coma but was never to be the same again. It turns out that when he was in the accident he had severe head trauma, and would be a vegetable the rest of his life. He could not take part in the reproduction of children. The wife is now distraught because they will never have children together. She heard about the possibility of cloning and believes that it is the only way that she will ever have children. Is it so?
The ethics of human cloning has become a great issue in the past few years. The advocates for both sides of the issue have many reasons to clone or not to clone. This is an attempt to explore the pros and cons of human cloning and to provide enough information of both sides of the arguments in order for the reader to make their own informed decision on whether human cloning is ethical or not. Cloning will first be defined. Then a brief explanation of why questions concerning cloning humans have arisen will be presented. Some things cannot be known for sure unless it is tested, i.e., human cloning is allowed. Followed by that, a discussion of the facts and opinions that support cloning will be presented and then the same against cloning. Please remember that not all of this has proven true nor is able to be proven yet, but has simply been argued as a scientific hypothesis. Finally, my own personal opinion will be stated.
Defining Human Cloning
When speaking of human cloning, what is meant? Different groups and organizations define it differently. To use a specific definition, the American Medical Association (AMA) defined cloning as "the production of genetically identical organisms via somatic cell nuclear transfer. 'Somatic cell nuclear transfer' refers to the process which the nucleus of a somatic cell of an existing organism is transferred into an oocyte from which the nucleus has been removed" (Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs 1). In other words, cloning is the method of produce a baby that has the same genes as its parent.
You take an egg and remove its nucleus, which contains the DNA/genes. Then you take the DNA from an adult cell and insert it into the egg, either by fusing the adult cell with the enucleated egg, or by a sophisticated nuclear transfer. You then stimulate the reconstructed egg electrically or chemically and try to make it start to divide and become an embryo. You then use the same process to implant the egg into a surrogate mother that you would use with artificial insemination. (Eibert)
However, many groups have used a broader definition of cloning. They include the production of tissues and organs through growing cells or tissues in cultures along with the actual producing of embryos to be born. This is done with the use of stem cells. When an egg is fertilized and begins to divide, the cells are all alike. As the cells divide, certain cells differentiate and become the stem cells that produce certain tissue and then organs. Research in this very active. There is still much for scientists to learn about cell differentiation and how it works. To a clone an organ, a stem cell must be produced and then used to a clone that specific organ. For the sake of this paper, both definitions will be used in order to cover all opinions.
One must understand that cloning does not produce an exact copy of the person being cloned. What cloning does, is that it copies the DNA/genes of the person and creates a duplicate genetically. The person will not be a Xerox copy. He or she will grow up in a different environment than the clone, with different experiences and different opportunities. Genetics does not wholly define a person and the personality.
How It All Started
In February 1997, when embryologist Ian Wilmut and his colleagues at Roslin Institute in Scotland were able to clone a lamb, named Dolly, the world was introduced to a new possibility and will never be the same again (Nash). Before this, cloning was thought to be impossible, but now there is living proof that the technology and knowledge to clone animals exist. Questions began to arise within governments and scientific organizations and they began to respond. Are humans next? Is it possible to use this procedure to clone humans also? Would anyone actually try? What can we learn if we clone humans? How will this affect the world? These are only a few of the questions that have surfaced and need answered. A whole new concept in ethics was created when the birth of Dolly was announced.
There are a great number of possible medical benefits and disadvantages to cloning and its technology. They include the following:
Potential Medical Benefits
The possibility that through cloning technology we will learn to renew activity of damaged cells by growing new cells and replacing them
The capability to create humans with identical genetic makeup to act as organ donors for each other, i.e., kidney and bone marrow transplants
The benefit of studying cell differentiation at the same time that cloning is studied and developed
Sterile couples will be able to have offspring will have either the mother's or father's genetic pattern
Potential Harms and Disadvantages
The possibility of compromising individualities
Loss of genetic variation.
A "black market" of fetuses may arise from desirable donors that will want to be able to clone themselves, i.e., movie stars, athletes, and others
Technology is not well developed. It has a low fertility rate. In cloning Dolly, 277 eggs were used, 30 started to divide, nine induced pregnancy, and only one survived to term (Nash).
Clones may be treated as second-class citizens
Unknown psychosocial harms with impacts on the family and society
The Governments Make a Move
The governments went to work shortly after the cloning of Dolly. They wanted to take control and make laws before anything drastic could ever happen. Several ethics committees were asked to decide whether scientists should be allowed to try to clone humans. Many of the committees found the data displayed above. In the United States, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission recommended a five-year moratorium on cloning a child through somatic cell nuclear transfer (Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs 1). In the state of Michigan, Governor Engler signed a law last year making human cloning illegal with harsh penalties if it is attempted ("Governor Engler..."). In the United Kingdom, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission (HGEC) have approved human cloning for therapeutic purposes, but not to clone children ("HFEA supports Human Cloning in U.K."). Many organizations have come out and stated their opinions also. Amongst all this ethical defining, many people are being ignored by the governments. People are speaking out about what they want done.
Let Us Clone
After a couple has had their first child, to their disappointment they become infertile and cannot have more children. Cloning would enable such a couple to have a second child, perhaps a younger twin to the child they already have. This example has a very good argument. Many couples have difficulties having children, and sometimes it is impossible for couples to have children because they are infertile. Cloning would allow these couples to have children. Also, occasionally a woman is born without a uterus or has other complications and cannot produce eggs, then with the help of a surrogate mother, she can have a child of her own using her own DNA or her husband's.
This and the example at the beginning are both arguments that some have made in promoting cloning. It is hard to tell someone that they cannot use cloning to have children when no other possible ways to produce offspring are available. This is one reason why it is difficult to decide if cloning is ethical or not. The following are some of the reasons why cloning should be allowed.
As just discussed, cloning can be used to help benefit those that are sterile and cannot have children through the normal, natural way. It is the desire of most couples to have children and when it is impossible to bare children of your own, some are willing to do anything to have a child. Cloning will allow them to have a child or many children that have the genetic pattern of one of the parents.
Through cloning, research can progress. It is hard to say what we can learn from cloning if cloning is not allowed. We possibly can learn more about cell differentiation. We can learn enough to produce human organs without having to produce human beings. We may develop technology to allow easier genetic testing and fixing problems such as spinal cord injuries, cancer, Tay-Sachs disease, and many more.
Cloning organs for organ transplants is one of the major practical reasons that cloning should be allowed. There is always a high demand for organs. Some argue for the cloning of humans to create spare body parts. Others talk of just wanting to clone an organ to replace a defective organ.
Rejuvenation is also a key argument for advocates of cloning. Human cloning may one day reverse heart attacks. Some scientists believe that by injecting cloned healthy heart cells into damaged heart tissue will lead to healing of the heart (Human Cloning Foundation). By combining the technology for cloning and the technology for growing human stem cells, conditions like Alzheimer=s disease, Parkinson=s disease, and degenerative joint disease may be curable. The possibilities are endless and may be left undiscovered if human cloning is banned.
Thou Shalt Not Clone
One of the main goals of the government is to protect human life. Some people want the government to regulate cloning and not allow it. Michigan=s government believes this and became the first government to place a ban on cloning. As mentioned before, the governor signed laws that prohibit engaging or attempting to engage in human cloning. A Michigan state senator, Mr. Bennett said, "This legislation boils down to one thing: Prohibiting the creation of human life for scientific research. Human cloning is wrong; it will be five years from now; and wrong 100 years from now!" ("Governor Engler...") Producing clones for research or to use their parts is unethical. It would be against the code of ethics of a doctor to harm a clone (i.e., use it for an organ transplant). The clone would be a human being and deserve all the rights and privileges that a non-cloned human has. A clone should not be a second-class citizen. It is speculated that they would be considered as such.
The American Medical Association holds four points of reason why cloning should not take place. They are: 1) there are unknown physical harms introduced by cloning, 2) unknown psychosocial harms introduced by cloning, including violations of autonomy and privacy, 3) impacts on familial and societal relations, and 4) potential effects on the human gene pool (Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs 4-6). We just simply do not know the harms that will come from cloning.
Cloning would lead to the loss of individuality because one=s genetic predispositions and conditions would be known. If raised by a clone-parent or as a sibling to the cloned, one may have great expectations to live up to. However, the human clones could differ greatly in personality and even grow up with different conditions than the cloned. Even monozygotic twins differ. This could be a great stress to the clone and possibly even the loss of ability to chose for itself (Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs 5).
The long term genetic effects of cloning may cause more problems than can be imagined. The question of what can go wrong in cloning needs to be discussed. In an evolutionary standpoint, cloning is not good. Evolution relies on a continual mixing and matching of genes to keep the gene pool alive (McCormack). With cloning, the natural process of selection of genes would be bypassed and evolution would be impaired. The Council of Ethical and Judicial Affairs for the AMA stated the following concerning possible problems with mutations and clones:
Since the somatic cell from which clones originate likely will have acquired mutations, serial cloning would compound the accumulation that occurs in somatic cells. Although these mutations might not be apparent at the time of cloning, genetics problems could become exacerbated in future generations. (Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs 6)
We can see that cloning can possibly change the gene pool from how we now know it. Most likely, it would not be a good change.
Technology as we presently know it will not effectively support the cloning of humans. As mentioned before, the success rate was quite low when cloning Dolly. Only one of the 277 tries succeeded, see chart 1. The same problems of the difficulty of having the fertilized egg implant parallels with that in in vitro fertilization. Technology has not yet been able to provide an answer to this problem.
The fear that clones will be treated as second-class citizens is also present. If a clone is created to act as bone marrow or kidney donor, the question arises if they would be treated like the first child? Would the parents even love this child the same? If not, this would lead to negative self-esteem and/or other physiological problems.
There is also the fear that some would want to clone people to create large armies of the same soldier or even produce large amounts of workers. This would also lead to the creation of a second and lower class for clones.
From a Latter-day Saint point of view, the Proclamation on the Family clearly does not agree with cloning. The Proclamation states: "We . . . declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God's plan." (Italics added) In other words, the power to create humans is only to be used in a marriage between husband and wife. Cloning only involves one parent, therefore it is not following God's plan in which a man's sperm and a woman's egg are needed to create life.
My Personal Recommendation
As a student studying biology, I have tried to approach both sides and approach them with an unbiased opinion. I personally think that the world of genetics is fascinating, but after learning of what is now possible through technology, I changed my mind about pursuing a career in the field. I see cloning as a wonderful advancement in technology and knowledge. I do not think it should be used to reproduce humans though. I do not believe that we should try to develop other ways beside the natural way to bring life into this world. I strongly believe that God created us and that we are subjected to His laws and must obey. The laws of God that have the worst punishment deal with bringing life into the world and taking life out of the world. I believe that cloning people would fall under these laws also.
Cloning tissues and organs falls under a different category that cloning human beings. I think it would be advantageous to science and medicine to clone tissues and organs. However, the research in this involves fetal tissue which is a completely different ethical discussion. I do not know enough about the procedure be against it. So, with my present understanding I would allow cloning for tissues and organs.
Cloning can revolutionize the world and the way we live or it may be so minimal that it would not affect us at all if it is allowed. [Two sentences taken out during update.] Is this the world you want to live in? Each person individually must decide for himself or herself if they believe that cloning should be allowed or if the governments should intervene with it.
Alton, David. Send on the Clones. no date. (No longer on line.)
Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, American Medical Association. Report 98: The
Ethics of Human Cloning. Jun 1998. Unpublished Report. Online Posting.
Eibert, Mark D. Human Cloning: Myths, Medical Benefits and Constitutional Rights. 1999. < http://www.humancloning.org/users/infertil/humancloning.htm>
Governor Engler Signs Legislation to Ban Human Cloning. 1999.
HFEA supports Human Cloning in U.K.. no date.
Human Cloning Foundation. The Benefits of human cloning. 1998.
McCormack, Chris. To Err is Human, but to Clone One Divine?. 21 Jan 2000.
Nash, J. Madeliene. The Age of Cloning. Online Posting. Time. 10 Mar 1997. vol. 149 no. 10.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Salt Lake City, UT: The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 23 Sep1995.
Additional Works Referenced
Human Cloning Foundation. All the Reasons to Clone Human Beings. 1998.
Human Cloning Foundation. The First Cloned Human Embryo. 1998.
Kluger, Jeffery. Will We Follow the Sheep? Online Posting. Time; 10 Mar 1997. vol. 149 no.10.
Steinberg, Avraham. Human Cloning - Scientific, Moral and Jewish Perspectives. No date.