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The Ethics Of Cloning Philosophy Essay

Thesis statement: Cloning in nature has always accrued without incident, but in the past century man has come to harness this ability bringing questions of ethics and morals to the table. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, cloning is a: the aggregate of genetically identical cells or organisms asexually produced by a single progenitor cell or organism b: an individual grown from a single somatic cell or cell nucleus and genetically identical to it c: a group of replicas of all or part of a macromolecule and especially DNA. (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2011)

In simplistic terms cloning can be described as a genetic copy of a cell or an organism. Cloning in nature happens all the time; cells that replicate asexually utilize this process as a means to reproduce. Binary fission is used by prokaryotic organisms (organisms lacking a cell nucleus) to produce genetically identical copies as in bacteria and yeast. In humans, skin cells and the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract are clones. They undergo a process called mitosis. Mitosis is used by eukaryotic organisms (organisms possessing a cell nucleus) to reproduce. Mitosis must exclude human eggs and sperm; they must use a process called meiosis to duplicate. (Rugnetta, 2011)

Utilizing today’s technology cloning is no longer just simple cell reproduction as done in the human body. The power of cloning has been explored and harnessed by man since the late 1800’s. Cloning is thought to not have been brought to the forefront of public eye until July 5, 1996 when Dolly was born, and dubbed the first animal cloned from an adult. Dolly was cloned from a frozen mammary cell from another adult sheep by Ian Wilmut at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. (History of Cloning, 1998) There are three major types of cloning that vary in popularity they are Molecular cloning, Reproductive cloning, and Therapeutic cloning.

Molecular cloning refers to the method of producing numerous molecules. DNA fragments containing whole genes, DNA sequence such as promoters, non-coding sequences and randomly fragmented DNA are all amplified in this cloning process. It is also used in a large amount of biological experiments and practical applications such as genetic fingerprinting and protein production. (contributors, Cloning, 2011)

To amplify any DNA sequence in a living organism, that sequence must be linked to an origin of replication, which is a sequence of DNA capable of directing the propagation of itself and any linked sequence. However, a number of other features are needed and a variety of specialized cloning vectors (small piece of DNA into which a foreign DNA fragment can be inserted) exist that allow protein expression, tagging, single stranded RNA and DNA production and a host of other manipulations.

Cloning of any DNA fragment essentially involves four steps:

Fragmentation - breaking apart a strand of DNA

Ligation - gluing together pieces of DNA in a desired sequence

Transfection - inserting the newly formed pieces of DNA into cells

Screening/selection - selecting out the cells that were successfully transfected with the new DNA (contributors, Cloning, 2011)

Reproductive cloning involves a cloned embryo being implanted into a real or an artificial uterus. The embryo is allowed to develop into a fetus that is then carried to the full length of gestation. The process of embryo splitting was the Reproductive cloning experiment performed for more than 40 years. The process calls for a single early-stage two-cell embryo to physically be separated into two individual cells and then developed as two identical embryos. During the 1990s reproductive cloning has had many significant changes after the birth of Dolly. Dolly was cloned using the process called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). The entire nucleus is removed from a somatic cell of a donor organism. The donated nucleus is then inserted into the nucleus of an egg cell that has had its own nucleus removed. A mild electrical current is used to stimulate the egg and start the process of dividing. Using this process an identical twin of the original embryo is created. In the last 20 years the SCNT process has had important measures put in place to reduce damage done to the eggs and increase the viability of embryos. “Reproductive cloning using SCNT is considered very harmful since the fetuses of embryos cloned through SCNT rarely survive gestation and usually are born with birth defects”. (Rugnetta, 2011)

“Therapeutic cloning is intended to use cloned embryos for the purpose of extracting stem cells from them, without ever implanting the embryos in a womb”. (Rugnetta, 2011) Therapeutic cloning allows the development of stem cells that are genetically the same to a patient. Stem cells have the unique ability to be stimulated into becoming any of 200 cell types in the human body. The driving force behind this is that new cells could be used to replace diseased or damaged cells without running the risk of rejection by the patient’s immune system. Studies show that stem cells could be used to treat illness such as Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, diabetes mellitus, stroke, and spinal cord injury. Along with the treatment of disease and injury stem cells can be used for in-vitro studies of normal and abnormal embryo development. (Rugnetta, 2011)

There are several ways to go about cloning. Are the driving forces behind cloning good or bad? What are the laws on cloning? These are a two of the questions that I hope to answer in this next section.

Clinical research has been the foundation of cloning argument since its inception. Proponents of cloning argue that cloning can save lives.

“If the vital organs of the human body can be cloned, they can serve as backup systems for human beings. Cloning body parts can serve as a lifesaver. When a body organ such as a kidney or heart fails to function, it may be possible to replace it with the cloned body organ.” (Oak, 2011)

They also state that cloning will allow humans to tailor future humans.

“Cloning in human beings can prove to be a solution to infertility. Cloning has the potential of serving as an option for producing children. Cloning may make it possible to reproduce a certain trait in human beings. We will be able to produce people with certain qualities, human beings with particular desirable traits, thus making human beings a man-made being!” (Oak, 2011)

People with the pro-cloning attitude argue genetics as the base.

“Cloning technologies can prove helpful for the researchers in genetics. They might be able to understand the composition of genes and the effects of genetic constituents on human traits, in a better manner. They will be able to alter genetic constituents in cloned human beings, thus simplifying their analysis of genes. Cloning may also help us combat a wide range of genetic diseases.” (Oak, 2011)

For those people that argue against cloning. They bring to light the ethical and moral issues that have plagued cloning for some time now. They argue that cloning will harm the gene pool by taking away diversity.

“Cloning created identical genes. It is a process of replicating a genetic constitution, thus hampering the diversity in genes. While lessening the diversity in genes, we weaken our ability of adaptation. Cloning is also detrimental to the beauty that lies in diversity.” (Oak, 2011)

Anti-cloning sponsors say economic and technical walls will be put up.

“In cloning human organs and using them for transplant, or in cloning human beings themselves, technical and economic barriers will have to be considered. Will cloned organs be cost-effective? Will cloning techniques really reach the common man? (Oak, 2011)

The biggest argument against cloning is humans playing God by creating life.

“Moreover, cloning will put human and animal rights at stake. Will cloning fit into our ethical and moral principles? Cloning will leave man just another man-made being. Won't it devalue mankind? Won't it undermine the value of human life? Cloning is equal to emulating God. Is that easy? Is that risk-free? Many are afraid it is not!” (Oak, 2011)

Over time people have formed their own opinion on cloning whether in favor of or against. In modern times the Federal and State Governments have gotten involved with the argument. Fifteen out of Fifty states have laws that directly or indirectly deal with human cloning. California legislature was the first to address the issues when in 1997 it banned reproductive cloning or cloning to initiate a pregnancy. In time Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Virginia have put in place measure to ban reproductive cloning. Use of public funds for cloning has also been addressed by Arizona and Missouri. Virginia’s law does not define the term “human being”, that allows the law to be widely open for interpretation. (Human Cloning Laws, 2008)

“Virginia Statute Citation: §32.1-162.32-2- Prohibits reproductive cloning; may prohibit therapeutic cloning but it is unclear because human being is not defined in the definition of human cloning; human cloning defined as the creation of or attempt to create a human being by transferring the nucleus from a human cell from whatever source into an oocyte from which the nucleus has been removed; also prohibits the implantation or attempted implantation of the product of somatic cell nuclear transfer into an uterine environment so as to initiate a pregnancy; the possession of the product of human cloning; and the shipping or receiving of the product of a somatic cell nuclear transfer in commerce for the purpose of implantation of such product into an uterine environment so as to initiate a pregnancy. The law establishes civil penalty not to exceed $50,000 for each incident.” (Human Cloning Laws, 2008)

Cloning has found many uses in the modern age to better human life especially when it comes to Gene therapy. Genetic conditions can be treated by gene therapy by placing virus vectors in the body that would then fix faulty genes in cells of the host organism. Dolly was only a success after more than 250 tries. If this small success rate can be improved, reproductive cloning can be used to reproduce animals with special qualities. Endangered animals or animals that are difficult to breed can also benefit from reproductive cloning. (U.S. Department of Energy Genome Programs, 2009)

“Therapeutic cloning technology may someday be used in humans to produce whole organs from single cells or to produce healthy cells that can replace damaged cells in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Much work still needs to be done before therapeutic cloning can become a realistic option for the treatment of disorders.” (U.S. Department of Energy Genome Programs, 2009)

Therapeutic cloning may someday be used to generate tissues and organs for transplants. The demand for organ donations could be cut in half if organs could be created from cloned human embryos. In order for cloned organs to become a viable option many challenges would have to be tackled. (U.S. Department of Energy Genome Programs, 2009)

Cloning has many rewards and risks, but what are the potential moral and ethical risks that come with cloning?

Reproductive cloning (creating duplicate humans):

Conservative position: "...scientists who envision medical breakthroughs using stem cells from human embryos are now moving on to human cloning -- breeding people for the purpose of harvesting their tissues and organs from their bodies, then disposing of them." (Robinson, 2007)

Liberal position: "Human cloning allows man to fashion his own essential nature and turn chance into choice. For cloning advocates, this is an opportunity to remake mankind in an image of health, prosperity, and nobility; it is the ultimate expression of man's unlimited potential." (Robinson, 2007)

Therapeutic cloning (creating human organs for transplanting):

Conservative position: "Cloning, even so-called therapeutic or experimental cloning, creates a new life without a father, and reduces a mother to the provider of an almost emptied egg. Nonetheless, it is a new human life and the determination to destroy it and limit its use to scientific research for therapeutic ends compound further the moral issues rather than protect mankind. As such, cloning embryonic human life under any circumstance crosses an ethical line, takes an irrevocable step, from which science can never turn back." (Robinson, 2007)

Liberal position: "Therapeutic cloning will in time allow scientists to create organs that are a perfect match for those in need of a transplant. The cloned organ would be based on the recipient’s genetic material and would not require the use of debilitating immunosuppressive therapies. There would also be no chance of rejection, which is fatal. Therapeutic cloning represents the ideal in organ transplantation, as it would provide an unlimited source of organs to anyone who needs them. The need for these organs is dire." (Robinson, 2007)

The Holy Bible is also another way to argue the ethics of cloning. The Bible is clear when it says that God is our creator. In Psalm 100:3 it says, "Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves." (Cloning Ethics-A biblical View, 2011) The Bible continues when it says that we are created by God and God alone.

Many other passages tell how God has created us. Here are a few:

In Isaiah 44:2, 21, 24 the prophet Isaiah says, "Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, … I have formed you, …Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone." (Cloning Ethics-A biblical View, 2011)

According to Genesis 1:26; God is our creator and we are created in his image. “Much of the desire in the scientific community is to create clones for "spare parts," to use their stem cells, organs, and so on. Clearly, this is not biblical because one life, the clones, is less valued than the other, non-clone, life.” (Cloning Ethics-A biblical View, 2011)

In Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant wrote that "Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good without qualification, except a good will." (Corvette, 2007) The idea of good will has a close relationship with the idea of character or moral virtue. Good will is determined by the actions we take. Kant wanted peoples actions to be in such a way that they could be a universal law, i.e. “The Golden Rule”. He also believed that we should never treat our fellow man as a means to an end.

Many of the motives used to push cloning are selfish and not done with the intent of selfless service. “An egoist, for example, might want to duplicate him or herself out of conceit. A narcissist may give up mirrors only to look at a reflection of another human being with his or her same genetic makeup.” (Corvette, 2007) These traits do not fall in line with the categorical imperative. (Corvette, 2007)

The guiding principle of Kantian Ethics is that the actions are good or bad based on the intentions of the doer. Cloning could provide some very real help to many people. It can also cause a lot of unimaginable hurt to others. Under Kantian ethics if the intentions are pointed in the correct direction, the actions are okay.

“John Stuart Mill believes actions can be judged on how well they promote human happiness to the greatest number of people.” (Corvette, 2007) According to Mill “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.” (Corvette, 2007) Mill said that happiness is the only true virtue. “Unlike Kant, Mill believes that the consequences of an action determine their moral worth.” (Corvette, 2007)

Genetic engineering, if it benefits more people than it hurts would be permissible in Mill's view. So would cloning, if it promotes the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. But Mill's believes would go beyond just the occasional clone in the occasional rare circumstance. While Kant would view using a clone for "spare parts" as using a person as a means to an end, Mill would argue that if it benefited more than it hurt, it would still be permissible. Mill also believes happiness can be judged qualitatively. (Corvette, 2007)

Under utilitarianism one can come up with many arguments in favor cloning. In almost every situation cloning can be justified to serve the greater good, but I believe it should still come down to actions. Just because we have the capabilities, should we use them?

Cloning has much potential to do great things in the advancement of science. It also has many shortcomings. I am for cloning, but like Kant it depends on the motivation behind it. I do think that one day we can save lives using this technology. However, the question on my mind, to what extent will we go? Cloning full grown humans I believe is to fare and should never be attempted. Cloning brings up many ethical and moral questions in today’s society. But with the advancement in the medical field of cloning many new opportunities have come to light. This is an awesome capability that we as humans have at our finger tips. The hard part will be not letting our ego overshadow our humanity.

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