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Debate: Ban on human reproductive cloning

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Should human reproductive cloning be banned and punishments leveled against it?

Background and context

Naturally, human clones exist as a pair of identical twins, arising in the course of early reproduction from a split of a single fertilized egg. In a sense, identical twins are one human physique provided for two people both sharing the exact genetic make-up, which along side their unique environment and experiences results into who they are individually.

The debate on human cloning and its position in modern society only became loudly contentious after the public introduction to Dolly in 1997, the first sheep clone that was successfully brought to term by a group of Scottish scientists from Roslin Institute. Since then, human cloning that was once thought impossible became a viable technology, and the debate has focused on ethical implications of the technology: whether it should be allowed, and a further refinement of the debate, in which circumstances should it be allowed.

As human cloning, in theory, is producing an exact genetic duplicate of either a human cell, tissue, or reproductive (in which a cloned embryo would rise into becoming another human being), the different arguments both for and against human cloning vary according to the level of human cloning that is being discussed.

There are general principal arguments against any act of human cloning, deeply rooted within the more religious community that is against any form of direct meddling of human creation and technology that is seen as ‘playing God’. Medically, human reproductive cloning is seen as a possible means of child bearing for some infertile couples, though not without its fair share of criticisms, mostly because of the low success rate and the possibility of hundreds of 'flawed embryos' being discarded in the process. Socially, the possibility of bringing forth another human being that is the exact copy of another human being, blurs the definition and scope of individual rights, because these human clones, if brought to term, will never be like any other human being with a proper lineage, nor would the clone be anyone’s child, grandchild or sibling, but he or she would only be, scientifically, someone’s clone.

Pertinent questions that arise in human reproductive cloning debates, among others, are: is human cloning safe? Is it fair to clone humans? Does cloning undermine individualism? Is human cloning means playing God? Is human cloning compromises human dignity? Is human cloning within parental rights? Will human cloning reduce genetic diversity?

Popular opinion and weight of arguments seem to be against human reproductive cloning, mostly because of ethical and safety issues, with many calling for the halt of research in human reproductive cloning. Whether or not popular opinion is the best stand for this controversy is addressed by attempting to answer the above questions and to conclude whether or not human reproductive cloning should be effectively banned.

For more information: Cloning Fact Sheet. Human Cloning

Contents


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Clone: Is cloning fair to cloned humans?

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Yes

But the likelihood of such a birth by no means suggests that this demeaning practice should remain legal. Why not?
At the deepest level, cloning should be prohibited because it turns procreation into a species of manufacture. It treats a child-to-be as an object of production."
  • Human cloning produces sub-humans without ordinary souls. Human cloning produces individuals artificially. As such, these individuals cannot have ordinary, God-given souls. Sadly, therefore, clones are sub-humans.


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No

  • Cloned humans have a soul and are ordinary humans in every way "The case for cloning humans". The Age. January 1, 2003 - "But what of the souls? Can two people share the one soul? Is it not wrong to force two personalities on to one piece of divine substance? Again, the fact that there are identical twins counts against there being a problem. Twins seem to manage, and that seems to suggest that each person is able to be ensouled regardless of their genetic make-up. That is, assuming souls exist at all. These days theologians don't make a big thing of the soul. But even if there are souls, it seems unlikely to count against cloning. It's hard to imagine that God would have any difficulty telling the difference between one clone and another, or in ensuring that each person has a distinct soul - if that is how it works."
  • Cloned humans should have equal rights Brendan Tobin of the Irish Center for Human Rights, an author a UN report on cloning: "Failure to outlaw reproductive cloning means it is just a matter of time until cloned individuals share the planet. If failure to compromise continues, the world community must accept responsibility and ensure that any cloned individual receives full human rights protection. It will also need to embark on an extensive awareness building and sensitivity program to ensure that the wider society treats clones with respect and ensure they are protected against prejudice, abuse or discrimination."[1]
  • Clones' quality-of-life depends on how they are received/treated If clones are treated poorly by society, they will lead less happy lives as others. If they are treated well, they will likely lead equally happy lives as normal people. Because their happiness will depend largely on how we receive them, we need only adjust our attitude to be more receptive. Banning cloning because we will mistreat them is not fair; it punishes clones for our failures.


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Clone safety: Does human cloning encounter safety problems?

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Yes

  • Cloning technology is unsafe for the resulting life. The nuclear transfer technique that produced Dolly required 277 embryos, from which only one healthy and viable sheep was produced. The other foetuses were hideously deformed and either died or were aborted. Moreover, Ian Wilmut and other commentators have noted that we cannot know whether clones will suffer from premature ageing as a result of their elderly genes. There are also fears that the reprogramming of the nucleus of a somatic cell in order to trigger the cell division that leads to the cloning of an individual may result in a significantly increased risk of cancer.
  • Pushing forward with human cloning violates the precautionary principle "Why Environmentalists Oppose Human Cloning And Inheritable Genetic Modification". Friends of the Earth. Retrieved June 3rd, 2008 - "Why Environmental Groups Oppose Human Cloning. While all of us seek to improve the quality of human life, certain activities in the area of genetics and cloning should be prohibited because they violate basic environmental and ethical principles - principles that form the core values for which the environmental movement stands. Precautionary Principle - The precautionary principle is a cornerstone of environmentalism. It requires that we have some regard for the consequences of our actions before we carry them out. In this century alone, the list of unforeseen and unintended consequences of modern industrial civilization is enormous; so is the attendant economic and environmental damage. The unforeseen and devastating consequences of the use of CFCs, DDT, and PCBs illustrate the need for this underlying principle."


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No

In early October, for instance, a dozen cloned Holsteins were introduced at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis. The reaction was curiosity more than shock. “We just wanted people to realize that [cloning] was moving very rapidly from science to a commercial technology,” Michael Bishop, vice president of research for De Forest biotechnology company, told a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We want to show that [the calves] are normal, healthy and growing, and there’s nothing to be afraid of.”"


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Individualism: Will individualism be undermined by cloning?

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Yes

  • A cloned human would have a diminished sense of identity/individuality Instead of being considered as a unique individual, the child will be a copy of his parent, and be expected to share the same traits and interests, such that his life will no longer be his own. This is an unacceptable infringement of the liberty and autonomy that we grant to every human person. The confusion of the offspring is likely to be compounded by the fact that his ‘parent’, from whom he is cloned, will be genetically his twin brother or sister. There is no way of knowing how children will react to having such a confused genetic heritage.


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No

  • It is a false requirement that clones possess individuality Why should it matter that clones posses individuality? Do other humans have full individuality? Yes and no. Similar to clones possessing the genetic code of their parent, so too do normal ordinary children. And, in the same way that an individual is influenced and shaped by their parents, so too are clones. That clones have a fully individual identity is, therefore, a false requirement.
  • Individualism will be maintained despite cloning, as "clones" will develop their own unique identities: Children produced by reproductive cloning will be ‘clones’ but not ‘copies’ of their parents: Different environmental factors, nurture, and the process of gestation mean that children will not be emotionally or mentally identical to the people from whom they are cloned. Furthermore, this objection would apply to all identical twins. A small proportion of identical twins do indeed suffer from psychological problems related to feelings of a lack of individuality. However, cloned children would in fact be in a better position than these monozygotic twins, as the clones will be many years younger than their genetic twins, which are of course their parents. They will not be daily compared to a physically identical individual, as there will be a gap between their ages, and hence psychological and physical characteristics, of tens of years.


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Playing God/nature? Is human cloning playing God and/or nature?

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Yes

  • Cloning plays against God's intentions for reproduction and family. It is not merely intervention in the body’s natural processes, but the creation of a new and wholly unnatural process of asexual reproduction. Clerics within the Catholic, Moslem and Jewish faiths have all expressed their opposition to human cloning.However, this objection to cloning is not specifically theological. David Hume, the eighteenth-century Scottish moral philosopher, warned us to heed our feelings as much as our logical reasoning. Leon R. Kass of the University of Chicago has stated in relation to human cloning, that mere failure to produce scientific reasons against the technology, does not mean we should deny our strong and instinctive reactions to it. As he states, there is a "wisdom in repugnance".
  • Asexual reproduction is sub-optimal for the human species Dr. George Johnson. "Should A Clone Have Rights?". On Science. Retrieved July 9th, 2008 - "Asexual reproduction, in which all offspring are genetically identical clones, is common in nature in both plants (dandilions are a common example) and animals (some lizard species have only females), but usually only in extreme or high-risk environments, where survival is uncertain. Nature has not favored asexual reproduction in any mammal because the 20% of variation due to nurture is just not enough protection against an uncertain future if you are going to make a major investment in each offspring. It is thus the very nature of our species that places such value on variation among individuals, and I find that the deepest and most compelling reason to carefully consider the implications of human cloning before proceeding."


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No

  • This argument assumes that we know God’s intentions. Evidently, there is no biblical statement on the ethics of human cloning. Who is to say that it is not God’s will that we clone ourselves ? At least one Hindu writer has indicated that Hindu thought embraces IVF and other assisted reproduction technology (ART). Moreover, every time that a doctor performs life-saving surgery or administers drugs he is changing the destiny of the patient and could be thus seen as usurping the role of God. Furthermore, we should be very wary of banning something without being able to say why it is wrong. That way lie all sorts irrational superstition, repression, fundamentalism and extremism.
  • Human cloning "plays God" less than lauded therapeutic cloning "The case for cloning humans". The Age. January 1, 2003 - "I mention God, and to some people it seems that God alone should have power over life and death. It is playing God for us to interfere in this way with the reproductive process. Such an objection may actually be the most powerful for some people. The sin of hubris - Icarus trying to be like God and flying too high - there has always been literature about the need to accept human limitations. The recognition of limits and acceptance of our destiny is an attitude we have admired and thought noble.
When it comes to playing God, stem cell research might be more of a problem. I refer to the cloning of embryos in order to harvest cells. God's purposes for embryos may be presumed to include that of procreation. Whatever else embryos are intended for, one of their purposes is to make it possible for babies to be born. Cloning involves the use of advanced reproductive technology precisely for this purpose - to produce a baby. However, therapeutic cloning (for stem cells) is a matter of starting the reproductive process and then killing off the embryo so that stem cells can be collected. In which case, can we be said to be playing God? And yet there is widespread agreement as to the rightness of therapeutic cloning."
  • Humans have the right to choose to practice cloning "Why cloning people is a good idea". Everything 2. Retrieved June 7th, 2008 - "Cloning is the freedom to choose. We have that right. The only ones out there who think we don't are the theists, whose ideological basis is that they are slaves anyway to some invisible master. These people believe it is wrong to "create" life. We create life every time we plant a plant or breed livestock. We create life every time we mate, but that union's outcome is random. Humans aren't special. Our planet takes up such a tiny part of the universe and so many things could kill us off. We need every bit of luck and innovation to survive."
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Human dignity: Is human cloning contrary to the notion of human dignity?

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Yes

  • Reproductive cloning undermines human dignity: ‘Donum Vitae’, the declaration of the Catholic church in relation to the new reproductive technologies, holds that procreation outside the conjugal union is morally wrong. Many secular organisations, such as the WHO and UNESCO have issued statements that similarly find cloning violates human dignity. Assisted reproductive technologies might all be seen as challenges to human dignity, including IVF and sperm donation. However, human cloning is a completely artificial form of reproduction, which leaves no trace of the dignity of human procreation.


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No

  • Why is sexual procreation more "dignified" than scientific procreation? It is difficult to understand why the act of sexual intercourse that leads to sexual procreation is any more ‘dignified’ or respectable than a reasoned decision by an adult to have a child, that is assisted by modern science. The thousands of children given life through IVF therapy do not suffer a lack of dignity as a consequence of their method of procreation. The Catholic church regards every embryo from the moment of existence as a living person. This position is not shared by most Western governments, and it would deny not only cloning, but IVF and all the medical knowledge and benefits that have accrued from embryo research.


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Eugenics: Will cloning lead to an unethical eugenics movement?

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Yes

  • Cloning will lead to eugenics, or the artificial manipulation and control of the characteristics of people. An American geneticist, Dr. Dan Brock, has already identified a trend towards ‘new and benign eugenics’ that is perpetrated by developments in biotechnology. When people are able to clone themselves they will be able to choose which type of person shall be born. This seems uncomfortably close to the Nazi concept of breeding a race of Aryan superhumans, whilst eliminating those individuals whose characteristics they considered unhealthy. The ‘Boys from Brazil’ scenario of clones of Hitler, the baby farms of ‘Brave New World’, or even the cloning or armies of identical and disposable soldiers, might soon be a very real prospect.
  • Dictators will use cloning to produce massive armies.
  • Cloning evil people will not result in evil clones "Why cloning people is a good idea". Everything 2 - "even if a person wanted to go and clone Hitler - let them. The Hitler they create would have only the tiniest chance in the universe, considerably less than winning a lottery, of turning out even remotely the same. The two Hitler's wouldn't look anything like each other - our clone might be short and fat, tall and thin, excitable or calm, determined by what childhood he led. His world outlook would have nothing in common with Hitler, and even if we force-fed him the same ideology there would be no guarantee he would accept it."
  • Cloning leads to the commodification and manufacture of humans Aldous Huxley, Brave New World - "Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!” The voice was almost tremulous with enthusiasm. “You really know where you are. For the first time in history.” He quoted the planetary motto. “Community, Identity, Stability.” Grand words. “If we could bokanovskify indefinitely the whole problem would be solved.”


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No

  • Cloning will not lead to the mass production of clones "Why cloning people is a good idea". Everything 2 - "What about factory producing children? Long production lines churning out infants? Dream on fear-mongers. Cloning still requires mothers to bear the children to term. There is no such thing as an artificial womb. Furthermore, there are too many people on this planet now to even consider the vast population increases you are fantasizing about. Could Saddam Hussein clone an army? Yes, but it would be easier and cheaper just to hire one. He would need thousands of Iraqi mothers to bear children, who he would then have to house, feed and educate for 20 years before they would be old enough to fight for him. He'd be dead of old age long before and the issue in conflict long forgotten."
  • All parents will not try to clone the same kind of individual "Why cloning people is a good idea". Everything 2 - "What about blue-haired blond-eyes? Well, personally, if I wanted to clone a kid there's no way they would be Aryan. No Asian couple would choose the stereotypical Western child either. No Africans would go for that Caucasian look. The concept of everyone designing the same child is in itself ridiculous, as humans have a tendency to express themselves as individually as possible. A couple would design a child like no other. Having the freedom to create any child would enhance individuality creating more unique offspring rather than less unique ones."


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Parental rights: Do parents not have a right to clone?

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Yes

  • Human cloning ends do not justify means President George W. Bush - "I strongly oppose human cloning, as do most Americans. We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts or creating life for our convenience .... Even the most noble ends do not justify any means."[3]
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No

  • Opponents of cloning must tolerate the practice. "Human Cloning is Good". Help Me.com - "Freedom sometimes means having tolerance for others and their beliefs. In our society today, some people believe there should be gun control while others do not. Everyone is free to decide what faith, or religion they will follow. Pro cloning individuals feel that in a free society we know that we must tolerate some views that we don't agree with, this is what make our freedom so valuable, we have the right to choose."


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Family integrity: Does human cloning harm the integrity of the family?

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Yes

  • Reproductive cloning harms the integrity of the family: Single people will be able to produce offspring without even the physical presence of a partner. Once born, the child will be denied the love of one parent, most probably the father. Several theologians have recognised that a child is a symbolic expression of the mutual love of its parents, and their hope for the future. This sign of love is lost when a child’s life begins in a laboratory.
  • Cloning treats children as objects: Children will be manufactured by an expensive technological process that is subject to quality control. The gulf between an artisan and an artefact is immense. Individuals will be able to have a child for the sake of having children, or as a symbol of status, rather than because they desire to conceive, love and raise another human being. Cloning will not only allow, but actually encourage, the commodification of people.
  • Parents will suffer identity problems trying to raise a clone.
  • Human cloning turns the parent into a despot over their child
  • Cloning will involve the creation of children for predetermined roles. A father that desires a star football player for a son may seek cloning for these purposes.



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No

  • Parental motives can't be used against cloning and not normal child-rearing Furthermore, we should not pretend that every child conceived by sexual procreation is born to wholly well-intentioned parents. The desire to have ‘a son and heir’ is common around the world but does not concern the welfare of the future child. Similarly, children are often conceived out of marital custom, in order to consolidate a relationship, or even in order to gain free accommodation from local housing authorities. Finally, many children are not intended at all, but are born as a result of unplanned pregnancies. There would be no fear of ‘accidental cloning’ that could bring a child to a parent who was unprepared, or unwilling, to love it.
  • The "family integrity" argument is wholly unsuited to the modern age. Society freely allows single people to reproduce sexually, whether by accident or design. Existing lawful practices such as sperm donation allow deliberate procreation without knowledge of the identity of the father. Surely it is preferable for a mother to know the genetic heritage of her offspring, rather than accept sperm from an unknown and random donor? Moreover, reproductive cloning will allow lesbian couples to have children genetically related to them both. It might be better for the welfare of the child for it to be born into a happy relationship, but the high rates of single parenthood and divorce suggest that this is not always possible.



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Diversity: Will cloning lower genetic diversity in human populations?

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Yes

Cloning represents a fundamental shift in our relationship with nature. It is a break from the process of natural evolution known to build strength into species through diversity. It is the ultimate in monoculture.
In this “brave new world,” any distinction between the natural and the technological will be erased, deepening an alienation that fosters destructive behavior toward ecosystems. Why, for instance, protect habitat when a few cloned trophy specimens could be perpetuated in zoos?"


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No

  • Human clones will not reduce human biological diversity The expense and time necessary for successful human cloning should mean that it will only be used to the benefit of the small minority of people who require the technology. The pleasure of procreation through sexual intercourse does not suggest that whole populations will prefer to reproduce asexually through cloning. The only significant lack of diversity which can be expected will be in women who suffer from a severe mitochondrial disease. They will be able to use cloning by nuclear transfer in order to avoid passing on the disease which is carried in their egg cells to any offspring. This elimination of harmful genetic traits from the gene pool is no different from the eradication of infectious disease, such as small pox, and should be welcomed.



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Infertility: Is it wrong for infertile couples to seek a cloned child?

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Yes

  • The ends don't justify the means in cloning a child. Even if there is a utility for infertile parents, the ends (obtaining a child) don't justify the means (human cloning).
  • By the will of nature/God infertile couples are not meant to reproduce Nobody has a right to have a child. If someone is infertile, they were likely meant to remain infertile and go without a child.


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No

  • Human cloning would enable infertile couples to have children "Human Cloning is Good". Help Me.com - "Many other individual supports believe that with cloning, infertile couples could have children. Despite getting a fair amount of publicity in the news current treatments for infertility, in terms of percentages, are not very successful. One estimate is that current infertility treatments are less than 10 percent successful. Couples go through physically and emotionally painful procedures for a small chance of having children. Many couples run out of time and money without successfully having children."


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Equality: Will human reproductive cloning lead to greater social inequality?

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Yes

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No

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Value: Is human cloning unnecessary to the advancement of humanity?

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Yes

  • Human reproductive cloning is unnecessary: The development of in vitro fertilisation and the practice of sperm donation allows heterosexual couples to reproduce where one partner is sterile. Moreover, merely 300 babies are adopted each year in the United Kingdom. It might be better for potential parents to give their love to existing babies rather than attempt to bring their own offspring into an already crowded world.


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No

  • The desire to have one’s own child and to nurture it is wholly natural: The longing for a child genetically related to oneself existed long before biotechnology, but it is only recently that medicine has been able to satisfy it. In vitro fertilisation remains an imperfect technology. Couples typically submit to four cycles of costly treatment before producing a child. Evidently, the technique does not assist homosexual couples, couples where both partners lack gametes, or where the female partner suffers from a mitochondrial disease. Cloning would allow a child to be born to all these couples.


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Public opinion: Where does the public stand?

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Yes

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No

See also

External links

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