In 1997, Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell of the Roslin Institute shocked the scientific community and the world when they announced the birth of a successfully cloned sheep named Dolly. After Dolly was born, the cloning of humans seemed, at least in principle, achievable. The possibility of cloning humans sparked heated debate across the world about the acceptability and necessity of such a procedure. Some felt that biotechnology had gone a step too far while others welcomed such a development. Since then, several other species including, goats, pigs, mules, cows, mice, and cats, have been successfully cloned. The possibility of human cloning engages not only religious, social, cultural, and moral challenges but also legal and ethical issues. The debate on human cloning also raises questions of human and fundamental rights, particularly liberty of procreation, freedom of thought and scientific inquiry, and right to health. There are currently several types of cloning carried out by scientists that include cellular cloning, embryo cloning, and molecular cloning. Embryo cloning is further divided into, nuclear transfer, blastocyst division or twinning, and blastomere separation. The cloning technique used to clone Dolly was a type of nuclear transfer.
Arguments In Favor Of Human Cloning
Help Infertile Couples
Human cloning technology, once optimized, will have the ability to help infertile couples who cannot produce sperm or eggs to have children that are genetically related to them. A couple could potentially decide to have a clone of the man born through his female partner or a clone of the woman providing the genetic material. A human clone would, therefore, become a “single parent-child.” Currently, treatment for infertility is not very successful. By some estimates, the success rates of infertility treatments, including IVF (in vitro fertilization) is less than 10%. The procedures are not only frustrating, but they are also expensive. In some instances, human cloning technology could be considered as the last best hope for having children for infertile couples.
Recreate A Lost Child Or Relative
The loss of a child is one of the worst tragedies that parents face. After such a painful ordeal, grief-stricken parents often wish they could have their perfect baby back. Human cloning technology could potentially allow parents to recreate a child or relative while seeking redress for their loss. Cells of a dying child could be taken and used later for cloning without consent from the parents. While the new child would not take away the memory, he/she would probably help take away some of the pain. The technology would allow parents to have a twin of their child, and like other twins, the new child would be a unique individual.
Exercise Procreative Liberty
The freedom to decide whether or not to have an offspring is an important concept of personal liberty. People have the right to utilize human cloning technology in the same way they have a right to other reproductive related procedures and technologies such as the Vitro fertilization or contraceptives. A parent’s right to bear a child through cloning should, therefore, be respected. When the technology is established and becomes no less safe than natural reproduction, then human cloning should be allowed as a reproductive right. Cloning would also allow members of the LGBT community to have children related to them. In a lesbian couple, one of them could be cloned and brought to term in either of the women. In a gay couple, one of the men could be cloned, but the couple would need to find a woman to donate an egg and a surrogate mother to bring the embryo to term.
Offspring Free Of Genetic Defects
Current knowledge of bioengineering coupled with human cloning technology could help many parents have offspring free of defective genetic material that could cause disorders and deadly diseases. In a case where both parents have recessive genes for the fatal disease, they could avoid more traditional methods that could result in a child with dominant genes, which would consequently lead to the disease. The parents could use human cloning technology to have a child without the disease since the genetic makeup of the child would be the same as that of a parent who was cloned.
Provide Medical Cures
Human cloning technology could help children born with incurable diseases that can only be treated through a transplant, where donors with an organ match are not found. Cloning technology would allow a child to be cloned under reproductive purpose, which would allow the resulting clone to donate an organ such as a kidney or bone marrow. In that case, the older child would be saved, and the younger clone child would also live since bone marrow regenerates, and humans can live with one kidney. The technology would allow a parent to save an existing life through a new life. Human cloning technology could also utilize the nuclear transplantation technique to produce human stem cells for therapeutic purposes. Stem cells from the umbilical cord could be cultured and allowed to develop into tissues such as bone marrow or a kidney when needed. Since the DNA of the new organ or bone marrow is matched to the patient, there would be a lower risk of organ rejection as a foreign matter by the patient’s body.
A Step Towards Immortality
Human clones are sometimes called “later-born twins” by those receptive to the idea of human cloning. The term is justified by the fact that the cloned being would have the same genetic material as the original and would be born after the person who is cloned. The process of human cloning can be considered as taking human DNA and reversing its age back to zero. Some scientists believe that the technology would allow them to understand how to reverse DNA to any desirable age. Such knowledge would be seen as a step closer to a fountain of youth. Some people believe that human cloning technology would allow people to have some kind of immortality because their DNA would live on after they die.
Arguments Against Human Cloning
Based on information gained from previous cloning experiments, cloned mammals die younger and suffer prematurely from diseases such as arthritis. Cloned animals also have a higher risk of developing genetic defects and being born deformed or with a disease. Studies on cloned mice have shown that they die prematurely from damaged livers, tumors, and pneumonia. Since human cloning technology is not tested, scientists cannot rule out biological damageto the clone. The National Bioethics Advisory Commission report stated that it is morally unacceptable for anyone in the private or public sector, whether in a research or clinical setting, to attempt to create a child through somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning because it would pose unacceptable potential risks to the fetus or child. Human cloning technology would also put the mother at risk.
Dr. Leon Kass, chairman of the President’s Council of Bioethics, has warned that studies on animal cloning suggest late-term fetal losses or spontaneous abortions occur at a higher rate in cloned fetuses than in natural pregnancies. In humans, a late-term fetal loss could significantly increase maternal mortality and morbidity. Cloning could also pose psychological risks to the mother due to the late spontaneous abortions, the birth of a child with severe health problems, or the birth of a stillborn baby.
Disrespect For The Dignity Of The Cloned Person
One of the most satisfying and difficult things about being a human is developing a sense of self. It involves understanding our capabilities, strengths, needs, wants, and understanding how we fit into the community or the world. A crucial part of that process is learning from and then breaking away from parents and understanding how we are similar or different from our parents. Human cloning technology would potentially diminish the individuality or uniqueness of a cloned child. Even in instances where the child is cloned from someone other than their parents, it would not be very easy for them to develop a sense of self. It could also lead to the devaluation of clones when compared to a non-clone or original. Cloning would also infringe on the clone’s freedom, autonomy, and self-determination. Cloned children would be raised unavoidably in the shadow of the person they were cloned from.
Co-modification Of Cloned Children
Human cloning technology would, in return for compensation, provide offspring with specific genetic makeup. Cloning a child would also require some patented reproductive procedure and technology that could be sold. Consequently, human cloning technology would lead society to view children and people as objectsthat can be designed and manufactured with specific characteristics. Buyers would theoretically want to pay top dollar for a cloned embryo of a Nobel Prize winner, celebrity, or any other prominent figure in society.
Some experts have argued that societal hazards may be the least appreciated in discussions on human cloning technology. Such technology could, for example, lead to new and more effective forms of eugenics. In countries run by dictators, governments could engage in mass cloning of people who are “deemed” of proper genetic makeup. In democracies, human cloning technology could lead to free-market eugenics that could have a significant societal impact when coupled with bioengineering techniques. People could theoretically bioengineer their clones to have certain traits. When done on a mass scale, it would lead to a kind of a master race based on fashion.
International Stand On Human Cloning
In March 2005, the United Nations General assembly approved a non-binding Declaration that called on UN member states to ban all forms of human cloning as incompatible with the protection of human life and human dignity. The Declaration concluded efforts that had begun in 2001 with a proposal from Germany and France for a convention against the reproductive cloning of humans. The US and 83 other nations supported a ban on all human cloning technology for reproductive and therapeutic or experimental purposes. The other 34 nations, including the UK, Japan, and China, voted against the ban. While 37 countries abstained from the vote, and 36 countries were absent.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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