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Human Cloning: The Ethical Issues

Ever since the successful cloning of an adult sheep, world has been buzzing about the historical event. Dolly the sheep has redefined the meaning of the words identical twin. Not only does she look like her mother, she has the same genetic makeup as her. This experiment was not only was thought of as impossible, but unthinkable. It was achieved in July 1996 by Dr. Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Roslin, Scotland. Dolly was announced to the public when she was seven-months old, on February 23, 1997.

Since the birth of Dolly, the Wilmut’s Institute has cloned seven more sheep from three different breeds. This process that successfully worked with the sheep, is now being tested with humans. In response to the global research, President Bill Clinton immediately ordered a ban on the federal funding of human cloning in U.S. research. This issue is not to be taken lightly. On the surface, human cloning looks like the perfect solution to end many of society’s problems, but in actuality it has tremendous side effects. Human cloning is an unethical procedure that has detrimental negative psychological effects.

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Cloning is the process that ends in one or more plants or animals being genetically identical to another plant or animal. There are two procedures that can be called cloning: embryo cloning and adult DNA cloning.

Embryo cloning is also known as artificial twinning. This form of cloning has been used by animal breeders since the late 1980s and in mice experiments since the late 1970s (Human Cloning 1). The procedure consists of splitting a single fertilized ovum into two or more clones and then transplanting them into other females. This process has not been used to clone human embryos due to the Regan and Bush administrations that banned the public funding of human embryo and fetal research during most of the 1980s and early 1990s. The ban was finally lifted under Clinton’s presidency.

After this ban was removed, the first known human embryo cloning was done under the supervision of Robert J. Stillman at the George Washington Medical Center in Washington DC. They used seventeen flawed human embryos. They all had been fertilized by two sperm and had an extra set of chromosomes. The embryos would never have developed into fetuses. In October 1994, the embryos were successfully split (Human Cloning 1). This experiment began the public controversy over the ethics of cloning.

The government now had to set guidelines. They included the use only of embryos that had already been created for the use of in vitro fertilization, because many of these are either thrown out or frozen. Other procedures were banned, such as implanting the human embryos in other species and cloned embryos into humans, moving the nucleus from one embryo to another, and the use of embryos for sex selection.

The first documented case of successful adult DNA cloning was the Dolly case. Adult DNA cloning, in the case of Dolly, started when a cell was taken from the mammary tissue of a adult sheep. It was then fused with an ovum after the nucleus had been removed. To start the developing, the egg was shocked with an electric pulse. 29 out of 277 of these special eggs began to divide. They were all implanted in sheep, but only 13 became pregnant and only one lamb, Dolly, was born. Animals that have been cloned run the risk of being infertile and having a lower life expectancy.

Although Dolly has been the most publicized animal that has been successfully cloned. There have been other attempts. A monkey has been cloned and many embryos have been made of a cow, but none have survived (Can we Clone 1). The monkey has been the closest animal to the human to be cloned. This makes the issue of successful human cloning more realistic. But will it’s uses be ethical?
Simply put, human cloning is playing God. Manufacturing will replace procreating. Instead of the parent and child being on the same level, the parent would have power over the child. The child would be designed by the parent to serve some purpose.

According to the Human Cloning: Religious and Ethical Aspects article, there are numerous uses that would have positive effects. But in further reading the article there are also some social concerns with these new technological advances. A recent poll conducted by CNN found that 6 percent of the United States think that human cloning might be a good idea (Dixon 2). There were various ways that people wanted to use cloning.

Recover someone who was loved?a twin, a reminder (Dixon 3). Now how could this be a beneficial use? Dying is a process of life. All living things die. That’s the way things happen. Everyone at some point in time has a regret about not telling a loved one something before it was too late and might want to bring them back and tell them. This is not the same thing. This cloned person, will be a baby and a different individual than the person who has died. Even though their outside appearance might be identical, they are two separate people. The poor child will have to live in comparison to their twin that came before them. This could harbor feelings of resentment, towards the dead twin and the parents.

There are some people who would use cloning to end infertility. Rather than using donated sperm and eggs, a cell of the parent is used. Not only would the parent give birth to a child that was his/hers, but it would be his/her twin. This will eliminate procreating all together. But that could also lead to problems. Sex creates new gene combinations that confer new strengths, especially to disease (Economist 20).

Using one parent’s cells to create a child could also lead to megalomania, which is the desire to reproduce one’s own qualities (Dixon 3). Cloning could allow a parent to pass on certain qualities that they want to make sure that their children have. Instead of letting a child be who he/she wants to be the parent is in a way trying to control his/her child.

This is one step away from eugenics. This is a way to improve the human race (Dixon 3), by giving each child conceived a certain characteristic. This concept is rooted in Nazi belief in the Aryan race. Humans will be bred to produce certain traits. Once the perfect human was developed, embryo cloning could be used to replicate that individual and conceivably produce unlimited numbers of clones. The same approach could be used to create a genetic underclass for exploitation: such as individuals with sub-normal intelligence and above normal strength (Human Cloning 4). The population should pride itself in the differences in everyone. This concept of an ideal person is the reason that there are people with depression, causing low self esteem, eating disorders and ultimately suicide.

One of the worst things that cloning could be used for is spare parts. Using a cell from a person’s own body to duplicate yourself would make your twin a specimen more than a person. One suggestion from Dixon’s article was to take tissue like bone marrow, then offer the baby for adoption (3). It is a dehumanizing act that makes the child an object not a person who needs love just like everyone else.

The purpose of human cloning is to create someone exactly like the original. But everyone’s idea about this clone, this copy, seems to be that he or she would be available for experimentation, used as a repository of spare parts, or as some sort of pliable toy one could mold in one’s own image (Shoun 1). The clone itself is seen as inhuman, an it, not a he or she. When, in actuality, the clone is just as much as a person as the person who he/she was cloned from. The clone and the donor are twins separated by time.

This leads to the point that the clone will have serious psychological problems as he/she grows up and throughout his/her life. Cloning causes problems with identity and individuality. If the cloned child is the identical twin of the mother or father, he/she is already born into a world of constant comparison. Being expected to be like the person that he or she is modeled after, could burden down the cloned child. This ultimately gives the parents more control over their children. They can vicariously live through their children and live on as their children. These recreations of themselves can now become just like them and even fulfill their hopeless dreams. Not only will they not have an opportunity to be themselves, but these children will have to constantly try to live up to the hopes of their parents (Kass 6).

Technically, one parent would actually be the biological twin of the child. Through human cloning, parent-child relationships would lose all meaning. As bioethicist James Nelson has pointed out, a female child cloned from her mother might develop a desire for a relationship to her father, and might seek out the father of her mother (who is her biological twin sister) for paternal attention and support. In the case of self-cloning the child is also the donor’s twin, which is the equivalent to the result of incest?to be parent to one’s sibling (Kass 7). The meaning of father, grandfather, aunt, and cousin will drastically change. Family values are trying to be restored in this country, but how can they be restored if this country doesn’t even know what a family is.

Dr. Wilmut has been noted as saying, People are not thinking this thing carefully. I have not heard of an application of this to copy a person with which I would be comfortable. That is not appropriate. He continued that using this technique on humans would be quite inhumane and that he was glad that he lives in a country where embryo experimentation is illegal (Scientist 1).

Would cloning be wrong because it is ?playing God,’ or because, when we want to play God, too often we’re looking for an excuse to demean or mistreat someone? Is cloning wrong because it has the potential to create a subspecies for which we presently have no category, or because our sinful nature likes to relegate one group or another to a class beneath ourselves? (Shoun 2). No matter how one looks at this issue, cloning humans will do more harm than good. It is just one more example of technology getting out of hand before we can control it. This inhumane act must be stopped before we will not be able to stop it.


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