The Biothics of Cloning
Bioethics, which is the study of value judgments pertaining to human conduct in the area of biology and includes those related to the practice of medicine, has been an important aspect of all areas in the scientific field (Bernstein, Maurice, M.D.). It is one of the factors that says whether or not certain scientific research can go on, and if it can, under which rules and regulations it must abide by. One of the most recent and controversial issues facing our society today is the idea of cloning. On February 23, 1997, Ian Wilmut, a Scottish scientist, along with his colleagues at the Roslin Institute and PPL Therapeutics, announced to the world that they had cloned a lamb, which they named Dolly, after Dolly Parton, from an adult sheep (Mario, Christopher). The two share the same nucleic DNA, but differ in terms of their mitochondrial DNA, which is vitally important for the regulation of the cell. The media and the press ignored this fact, and thus claimed that Dolly and her "mother" were genetically identical, which sparked a fury of outcry all around the world. The technique of transferring a nucleus from a somatic cell into an egg cell of which the nucleus had been removed, called nuclear transplantation, is an extension of research that had been ongoing for over 40 years. Up until now, scientists thought that adult cells could not be "reprogrammed" to behave like a fertilized egg and create an embryo, but the evidence obtained by Dolly's success prove otherwise.
The issues of cloning have been around for a long time, starting with the publication of Joshua Lederberg's 1966 article on cloning in the American Naturalist, and the publics interest has been perked by many sci-fi books, films, and movies including Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel "Brave New World," 1973's "Sleeper," the 1978 film "The Boys from Brazil," and most recently, the movie "Multiplicity" (Mario, Christopher). The ethical, legal, and moral issues aroused by cloning have been raised by previous projects, and are now simply emerging again, with its focus on three major points: the shift from sexual reproduction with that of asexual replication of existing genes; the ability to predetermine the genes of a child; and the ability to create many genetically identical children (Report/Recommendations of the NBAC).
The public responded to Dolly with a mixture of fear and excitement, questioning the benefits and the disasters that could happen in the future if research was to continue. From a poll taken by Maurice Bernstein, M.D., the results showed that 72% of the votes said that cloning should be prohibited by law. They believe that cloning for any reason would be an unethical and immoral thing to do. A common misconception of cloning is that it is the instantaneous creation of a fully grown adult from the cells of the individual. Also, that an exact copy, although much younger, of an existing person could be made, reflecting the belief that one's genes bear a simple relationship to the physical and psychological traits that make up a person. This is one point that those against cloning are often worried about. That the clone would have no soul, no mind, no feelings or emotions of their own, no say in how their life will be with their destiny predetermined for them, and that each individual clone would not be unique. They are also afraid that the clone will not be treated like a person, more like a worthless second copy, or a fill-in for what was there but now is lost. Although the genes do play an important part, its the interaction among a person's genetic inheritance, their environment, memories, different life experiences, and the process of learning that result in the uniqueness of each individual (Mario, Christopher).
People think that by cloning, we are taking the creation of life into our own hands, giving us all the control over something never before in our power, and in essence "playing God" (Mario, Christopher). But what they don't realize is that for hundreds of years, humankind has been controlling nature with the domestication of plants and animals, which is a violation of the natural order of things as God has put them here on earth. Another point that those against cloning seem to agree on is the potential of physical harm put upon those involved with the process. First, Dolly was the only success out of 277 attempts. With humans, there is the risk of hormonal mutations, multiple miscarriages, and possibly developmental deformities in the child, and no one knows how many attempts it will take until a clone is finally "born". But as with all pregnancies, the prospective parents are allowed to carry the baby to term, because of the parent's right to reproductive freedom. But the aspect of physical harm is not a liable one, because there is no way for us to know if the child will go through any kind of harm until human cloning is attempted (Report/Recommendations of the NBAC).
One of the basic fears associated with cloning is eugenics, basically an attempt to improve the human race. These fears are based on the visions that one man will develop the "master race" of people in order to rule the world, as Hitler did with Germany during WWII, that people would clone those considered "perfect" to make our society better, and this fear is reinforced through many of the comic books, films, and comic books circulating throughout the world. But this is not a credible fear, because people's visions of perfection vary drastically from one another, and if someone did try to create a master race, it would take many years to form his "army" of his clones, and by the time they were old enough to have any sort of impact on the world, we would have already figured out what they were trying to do (Bernstein, Maurice).
The reasons why people are for the thought of cloning are many. They include: recovering a loved one; treating infertility; megalomania, which is a desire to reproduce one's own qualities; assisting medical research; using the clone for spare parts; and even just for curiosity's sake (Dixon, Patrick). Many think that cloning would be useful in the event of having a loved one die. With the use of cloning, you could "recreate" that person and bring them back, but most likely, the new individual would have a personality different than the one in the memories. Also, people believe that cloning could treat people with infertility problems. If a couple is unable to reproduce on their own, with the use of cloning, they could, in theory, have a child that is their own. People argue though, that the world is overpopulated as it is, and plus, god did not mean for us to reproduce that way. Since we have reproductive organs, we should use them.
In the case of medical research, cloning would help aid in finding cures for fatal and cancerous illnesses. Also, it would be an important key in the understanding of genetics and development, and in how to manipulate organisms. It may also help treat diseases like diabetes, Parkinson's disease, or even cancers of the blood. Cloning can also tell us about the aging process, and the role of telomeres in aging (Encarta). A point closely associated with the thought of using cloning for medical research is of cloning people for spare parts. Many people believe this would be a good idea because you'll always have what you need, such as bone marrow, or a kidney in case of a need for a transplant, that will be identical to the one that is needed. But those against cloning argue that this is a violation of one of the many rights given to individuals. Better yet, would be the ability to clone a heart, or any of the other organs from the cells, so this way, the rights of the individual would not be violated (Bruce, Donald).
The ethics surrounding the issue of cloning are many, and it will be many years before a final decision on whether or not cloning will be considered ethical or not. Personally, I believe that humans should not be cloned. It seems wrong for people to have the same genes, to be exactly alike in looks, just because the parent wanted the kid to look that way. It does happen in the case of identical twins and triplets, but that is from a work of God, and in considered a miracle, but when this happens by cloning, it is no longer a miracle, it is an item that is man-made. In most cases, I believe that using cloning for spare parts would be a positive thing, if the clone was not made to be a real person. If the only thing that came out of the cloning was the part that needed to be used for a serious illness or for a transplant, then I would consider that to be ethical, because you are saving a person's life, without taking one in return. Furthermore, I don't believe in the theory of eugenics. The idea of someone who believes that he could create a master race of his cloned self is totally inconceivable to me, and the idea of the perfect race full of perfect people could never in actuality exist, because of the fact that perfection is in the eye of the beholder. What symbolizes perfection to one person, could be considered a major flaw in another. The best use of cloning, in my opinion, would be to use it to help fight off hunger and starvation. Scientists should put all the new information from what they have learned from Dolly to clone plants and animals so that people in other part of the world who are hungry, could finally have something to eat. Furthermore, I believe that it would be a good idea to clone those animals and plants that are in jeopardy of extinction. This would help their species survive and hopefully end extinction of many of the beautiful plants and animals that were once plentiful on this earth.
1. Bernstein, Maurice M.D. "Cloning of Humans." Feburary 27, 1997. http://www-hsc.usc.edu/~mbernste/
2. Bernstein, Maurice M.D. "-The Ethical Issue- Cloning of Humans: Will it be Ethical? Should it be Done?" http://www-usc.usc.edu/~mbernste/ethics.cloninghumnas.html
3. Bernstein, Maurice M.D. "Topic 4: Poll Results." http://www-usc.usc.edu/~mbernste/index.htm#Topic 4
4. Dr. Dixon, Patrick. "Life after Dolly - Human Cloning" http://people.delphi.com/patrickdixon/clonech.htm
5. Dr. Dixon, Patrick. "Headless Human Clones will Grow Organs in 10 Years." October 19, 1992. http://people.delphi.com/patrickdixon.frogs.htm
6. Voice of America. "The Ethics of Cloning." March 13, 1997. http://www.kaiwan.com/~mcivr/clon19.html
7. Voice of America. "Britain/Cloning/Ethics." February 25, 1997 http://www.kaiwan.com/~mcivr/cloning2.html
8. Dr. Bruce, Donald. "Society, Religion and Technology Project. Church of Scotland. Cloning Animals and Humans," May 27, 1997 http://webzone1.co.uk/www/srtproject/ga97clon.htm
9. "Why Clone?" http://www.encarta.com/explore/yearbook/archive/may97/cloning/ybfeatur/asp
10. Mario, Christopher. U.S. 1 Newspaper. "A Spark of Science, a Storm of Controversy." March 5, 1997. http://www.princetoninfo.com/clone.html
11. Dr. Bruce, Donald. "Cloning - How Should Society Decide?" http://webzone1.co.uk/www/srtproject/clonres.htm
12. Dr. Bruce, Donald. "Should We Clone Humans?" http"//webzone1.co.uk/www/srtproject/clonhum1.htm
13. "Cloning Human Beings: Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission." Rockville, Maryland. June 1997 http://www/berzerk.com/acro/mime.acro