Analysis of Human Reproductive Cloning and Its Unethical Implications
Human reproductive cloning is a hot button issue, easily invoking images of Huxley’s Brave New World or Victor Frankenstein’s monster. At one time cloning seemed the stuff of fantasy, confined to the realm of literature. However, the notion that humans might conceivably be cloned -produced from a single somatic cell without sexual reproduction- passed further away from science fiction and closer to an authentic scientific possibility on February 23, 1997. The Observer announced on that day that a Scottish scientist, Ian Wilmut and other researchers at the Roslin Institute were going to reveal the successful cloning of a sheep by a new technique which involved transferring the genetic material of an adult sheep, seemingly obtained a differentiated somatic cell, into an egg from which the nucleus had been taken out. The resulting birth of Dolly the cloned sheep on July 5, 1996 was different from earlier efforts to create identical offspring since Dolly contained the genetic material of only one parent and was, thus, a “delayed” genetic twin of a single adult sheep. Within days of the report on Dolly, President Clinton issued a ban on federal funding to clone human beings in such a way.
He also appointed a Bioethical Committee to examine the legal and ethical issues surrounding the subject of a cloned human being.(“ Human Cloning”, pp.1-2). The Dolly cloned sheep raises many different questions concerning human rights and how we are to respect those rights; in light of that it is necessary to define what human reproductive cloning is and is not to determine the ethical implications. Although many in both the scientific and lay communities cheer this potential breakthrough , still more oppose human cloning on moral grounds because it is unethical and the ban on it should remain in place.
Definition of Human Reproductive Cloning
Although there are several types of cloning, human reproductive cloning is confined to asexual reproduction, or reproduction without fertilization. A cloned individual (clon from Greek klon, ‘twig,’ ‘slip,’) may result from two different processes.
(1) embryo splitting
(2) cell nuclear replication (CNR) or cell nuclear transfer (CNT)
Embryo splitting purposes are often directed toward therapeutic cloning, but can also be used to produce twins. Cloning occurs in nature when an early embryo divides into two separate embryos. These monozygotic twins will be genetically identical. However, the procedure that produced Dolly is CNR. CNR includes two cells, a recipient, which is usually an egg, and a donor cell, such as a skin cell. The nucleus of the donor cell is introduced into the egg with electrical stimulation. These pulses or exposures to chemicals induce the egg to develop until the resulting embryo can be implanted in a viable womb and then developed in the normal way to term, although the failure rate has been high using animal experiments, usually 1 or 2 per hundred. Cloning using this asexual method circumvents the requirements of a genetic contribution from two cells (sperm and egg) demonstrated in sexual reproduction. Human reproductive cloning provides a way of producing multiple offspring from a single individual, embryo, or cell line, ensuring that potential cloned humans would share much the same genetic relationship as identical twins (Pearly, p.28).
Myths and Misconceptions of Human Reproductive Cloning
There are many myths and misconceptions concerning human reproductive cloning.
It is false to think that that the clone produced by CNR is the genetic child of the nucleus donor. It is not. It is simply the “delayed” twin brother or sister of the nucleus donor and the genetic offspring of the nucleus donor’s own parents.(Klatzko, 87). Clones are not Xerox copies because cloning only creates the genes of the ancestor, not what he has experienced or learned. Technically, it creates the genotype, not the phenotype. Half of who we are comes from our genes; the other half comes from the environment. Cloning can neither create what came from the environment, nor can it recreate memories. It is genetic reductionism to believe a person is just determined by his genes. Another misconception believes that human cloning is replication; making children into commodities. However, just because children are created by people who want them using a new method, it does not mean that they are unloved. The opposite is true because these children are created intentionally. Still another myth speculates that human cloning would reduce biological diversity. Yet six billion people already dwell on earth. Thus, population genetics proves otherwise. Cloning is merely a tool which, if used for uniformity, would not work. Cloned people would mate with non-cloned people, producing genetic hybrids which would soon be normalized. The fear that cloned people would have no souls; would be subhuman; is another great misconception. If a person has the same amount of chromosomes as a sexually created individual and was gestated in a human womb, it would be a human and a person and have a soul. Others fear that artificial wombs would be created so cloned children could be grown in them creating a master race. But science has never come close to replicating a human womb. The master race would not occur because a human womb continues to be needed for gestation (Pence, p. 1).
Many advocate human cloning as advantageous because it provides a means for infertile couples to have children. However, the body of evidence on this sort of cloning is negative, counterbalancing the advantages. The use of cloning for the replication of human individuals is ethically unacceptable as it would violate some of the basic principles which govern medically assisted procreation, including respect for the dignity of the human being. In the Bible it states in Genesis that God created man. Man is not to create man; otherwise there could be genetic determinism.(Brannig, p. 107). Although technically there will never be another you (US News and World Report, March 1997, p. 59),the clone might feel that their uniqueness and individuality has been usurped . Also, the technology for reproductive cloning could fall into evil hands, producing a hubris of playing god. In addition, scientists cannot foresee how they could factor in mental development. All of these unethical practices can contribute to a loss of human dignity. Because of all these concerns, the Bioethics Committee appointed by President Clinton advised a continuing moratorium on human reproductive cloning, causing President Clinton to issue the ban, citing,
What this legislation will do is to reaffirm our most cherished belief
regarding the miracle of human life and the God given individuality
each person possesses. It will ensure that we do not fall prey to the
temptation to replicate ourselves at the expense of those beliefs. The
ban on human cloning reflects our humanity. It is the right thing to do .
Creating a child through this new method calls into question our most
(“Human Cloning,” p. 7).
Human reproductive cloning is an aggressive scientific technology that has the potential to recreate human beings through asexual means using embryo splitting, CNR or CNT. Bypassing sexual reproduction provides a means for infertile couples to have children. Although a clone is not a duplicate of the donor, it is a “delayed” identical twin.
This sort of reproduction produces many misconceptions: Xeroxed copies, commodified, soulless children, artificial wombs and a potential master race. While these misconceptions are not true, unethical persons could get their hands on this technology with devastating effects, including genetic determinism. These practices could lead to the loss of human dignity. Because of these moral issues, human reproductive cloning is unethical and the federal ban on it should remain in place, leaving the creation of the miracle of life to remain in the hands of God.
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“Human Cloning,” 2000 Fact Sheet. Accessed 9 October 2006.
“Human Genome Project,” 2005 Fact Sheet. Accessed 9 October 2006.
Klotzko, Arlene, ed. The Cloning Sourcebook. Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2001.
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_____“The Ethics of Cloning”, February 24, 1997.
_____ “Cloning Humans”, March 29,2001.
Accessed 9 October 2006. <www. http://pbs.org/newshour>
Pearly, Anthony. “Cloning by Nuclear Microinjection,” in The Cloning Sourcebook.
Arlene Klotzko, ed. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 2001.
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Accessed 9 October 2006. www.http://uab.edu/phil/facult/pence/
“There Will Never Be Another You,” US News and World Report, 10 March 1997.