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The Ethical Issues of Human Cloning
Twenty years from now, as you are walking around the square in Wilkes Barre, you pass someone who looks exactly like you. They have your same brown eyes, round face, light brown hair, short stature, and even the same dimples you possess. Can you imagine the shock and even fright that may accompany such a sighting? The world was bewildered when the news that an adult mammal was produced without any eggs being fertilized with sperm. The results of ?Dolly? surprised society and the idea that human cloning was possible created an uproar. Many people disagree with cloning for ethical reasons. Opponents want human cloning banned, saying it would only create problems. On the other hand, scientists say it could have other benefits such as duplicating embryos for in vitro and replacing a dying child (Masci 1). Others argue that human cloning would open doors for treatments of serious diseases.
?Cloning human beings could be beneficial,? says Ruth Macklin, a professor of bioethics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City (Masci 2). One way in which cloning could be beneficial in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. Cloning Research may improve IVF, in which an egg is removed from a woman?s uterus, fertilized by a donated sperm, and then implanted into the uterus. Cloning could improve the effectiveness of IVF. Robert Stillman, one of the investigators in a recent cloning experiment, stated, ?If a woman has only a single egg to be fertilized, the chances of a successful pregnancy are only about ten percent.? He continues, ?If more then four embryos are implanted, the success rates rise dramatically? (Stillman 1993). Cloning embryos could split one embryo into four and then increase the pregnancy rate for many women across the world. Splitting the embryos would avoid the procedure having to be done numerous times. It would reduce the physical risks as well as financial costs.
Cloning may also offer new options for couples who are unable to produce children the normal egg-sperm way. If the couple doesn?t want to use a surrogate mother or father, cloning gives the option of still having a child. However, the child would be an exact replica of one of the parents. Cloning could bring hope into many couples? lives. Another possible use might involve cloning a son or daughter. This use of cloning could help couples too old to produce their own children. It can also help couples who have lost a child to a murder or kidnapping. Producing a child who is identical to their past might relieve some of the pain.
In addition to aiding in reproduction, cloning might help find treatments for certain diseases. Studying how the cells work could lead scientists in the right direction. Some cells in the human body can only perform a certain function. If there were a need for that type of cell, scientists would be able to clone it so it will then perform its function that may be needed in the body. Learning how cells perform different functions can lead to discovering effective treatments for diseases such as cancer. Learning how cells work can also provide scientists with the knowledge of how tissues form. Cloning could form these tissues which would aid in transplants. Cloning tissues, organs, and even bone marrow could increase the success rate in surgery.
All of these examples could be beneficial; however, many scientists still think cloning will cause problems. Wilmut, the scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep, feels that social and ethical arguments still outweigh the scientific benefits (Masci 3). Many researchers believe that there are other ways then cloning to find treatments for diseases and to provide strength in transplants. ?I can?t at the moment honestly see anything in this (cloning) that is going to tell us something about humans that we can?t find out in experimentally more acceptable animals like mice and sheep,? says Collin Stewart, Director of the Laboratory for Cancer Developmental Biology at the government?s Advanced Biosciences Laboratories in Fredrick, Maryland.
Many of the arguments by people who disagree with cloning point to the lack of data about its effects. Whether it is the lack of humanness, loss of individual identity or uniqueness, or religious reasons, the arguments to ban cloning keep adding up.
First, many researchers still believe that cloning is wrong. One argument is that our sense of humanness will be destroyed if we begin to clone human beings. When Leon Kass wrote ?Toward a More Natural Science? he said that the nature of man will be violated if human cloning is allowed (Kass 73). Many researchers agree with Kass, including Father Kevin Fitzgerald, a Jesuit priest and geneticist at Loyola University Medical Center. In an interview with Jim Lehrer, Fitzgerald commented:
? a child is begotten and in this particular technology I think that we could say copied, what purpose is behind this? Are we trying to replace someone? Is this child being brought into existence in order to provide organs or tissue or something like that, and if so, are we actually manipulating, using an irreplaceable, valuable human being for some kind of technical means?
He also feels that cloning humans would be a major loss to our humanity. If humans are cloned, science is comparing a human being to a cell, which has no uniqueness or identity.
One characteristic of a human is its uniqueness, in the way he or she dresses, acts, or expresses themselves. Many scholars support the fact that cloning will not allow uniqueness. Sidney Callahan, a psychologist, states that a child is to be a unique creation. Cloning oneself, she continues, ?would be wrong for its egoistic intent and for the dehumanizing effects of trying to deny the uniqueness of identity.? (33). Kass also agrees with Callahan as he comments that a person in ?inherently injured by having been made a copy of another human being? depending on which human is being cloned. (67).
Critics of human cloning also raise the question of whether the sense of individuality of clones would be diminished. An example would be when one child is cloned to be identical to his older brother a few years later. Critics express concern about whether living with an older or younger twin would lower the child?s individual identity. The confusion of whether or not he was to follow in his brother?s footsteps would make finding his own identity harder (Singer and Wells 145). Parenting such a scenario could also be a problem, because the relationship between the two boys would be more than just brothers.
Ken Jenks, a graduate from the University of Illinois who now works for the U.S. government, believes that cloning a human being would totally crush the idea of a family tree. For example, say a woman named Betty decides to clone herself. Her clone would have identical genetic material to Betty. Her parents, Abel and Anne, are also the genetic parents of her child, Cindy, but Betty carries Cindy to term and gives birth to her. In some ways, this makes Cindy both the daughter and granddaughter of Abel and Anne. Because this scenario is so complicated, questions like? ?Does this make Betty a surrogate mother for Abel and Anne?? or ?Is Betty obligated to obtain permission from Abel and Anne?? would be asked (2). The confusion that human cloning would create within a family is another argument against the process.
Numerous people also disagree with human cloning for religious reasons. Critics believe that science has no business messing with God?s method of creation. Munawar Ahmad Anees, a writer for Islamic and Biological Features writes, ?the human body is God?s property, not man?s laboratory? (quoted in Masci 4). Anee?s view is shared by both Christians and Jews. Religious scholars believe that God created Adam and Eve for a reason that was not to clone humans, but give birth to them.
When the question of human cloning comes up, some biological and social factors spark debate. One of the many concerns is that of mass production where cloning will be taken out of hand, and create numerous clones of the same person. Although it seems very unlikely that mass production would ever take place, the fact that it is capable of being done is what worry many researchers.
Further argument about unknown biological effects include the possibility of laboratory mistakes that would lead to the birth of some sort of seriously damaged or subhuman creatures. ?Until you get the technique one hundred percent reliable, you?re going to have lots of miscarriages, still births, and abnormal babies,? Stewart says (Masci 5).
The possibility that parents might donate to others one of a pair of cloned frozen embryos that they cannot use would mean that twins of existing children might be born at different times and raised by different parents. Since the donor couple would have no connection with the clone or his or her family, would the clone have the right to know his or her parents? Another issue is the accidental meeting of the clones. An unexpected meeting of one another could raise harm or joy.
Animal cloning is in the present; human cloning is in the future. Some scientists believe human cloning is a decade away. Cornell University animal sciences Professor W. Bruce Curtie agrees when he states, ?We could be there in ten years, if we really decided to do it? (Masci 14). Others believe the first cloned human won?t be for many years. No matter when the first human is cloned, it is obvious that the ethical overtones are real and society must be prepared.
Callahan, Sydney. 1998. Challenge of the New Reproductive Technologies. In Medical
Ethics: A Guide for Health Professionals, ed. John F. Monagle and David C.
Thomasma, pp. 26-37. Rockville, MD: Aspen Publication.
Cloning. 1978. The MacNeil/Lehrer Report. Transcript. Library No. 660, Show No. 3200:
(7 April). New York: WNET/13.
Jenks, Ken. Cloning?Mind?s Eye Fiction. 15 June 1997.
http://tale.com/edit-970615.phtml (19 March 2000.)
Kass, Leon R. 1985. Toward?s a More Natural Science. New York: The Free Press.
Lehrer, Jim. Cloning?Multiplicity. 24 February 1997.
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/jan-jun97/cloning/_2-24/html. (15 March
Masci, David. The Cloning Controversy. EBSCO Host. 18 March 2000.
Shannon, Thomas A. Ethical Issues in Genetics. Theological Studies Vol. 60 Issue 1 (1999):
Singer, Peter, and, Wells, Deane. 1985. Making Babies. The New Science and Ethics of
Conception. New York: Scribner.
Stillman, Robert J. 1993. Statement. (Undated press release from George Washington
University Medical Center, Washington, DC.)
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