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This paper will explain the significant events of therapeutic cloning and how it should be completely legalized. Readers will be able to understand how therapeutic cloning has multiple medical benefits, including being able to cure diseases, how therapeutic and reproductive cloning are two completely different entities, and how therapeutic cloning does not violate the Nuremburg Code. Finally, the lasting impact of therapeutic cloning and the many benefits of continuing the research will be explained.
The Benefits of Therapeutic Cloning
Imagine being able to cure Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, or Alzheimer’s disease, maybe even being able to cure diabetes. Together, these diseases are found in 26.6 to 27.2 million people in the United States, and there could be a possible cure in the future (Ballaro, 2011, p. 2). It is called therapeutic cloning, which involves using embryonic stem cells to cure or treat diseases which currently have no known cure, such as Parkinson’s Disease. Therapeutic cloning uses a process called somatic cell nuclear transplant, where genetic material from one cell is placed into the nucleus of an egg to create an embryo with stem cells which produce an exact genetic match as the patient. It is then possible to use those stem cells to create organs genetically identical to the patient and will not be rejected by their body. Once obtained, these stem cells can be grown into any type of cell in the body, and, as a result, it may be possible to treat or even cure diseases, like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, Alzheimer’s (ALS) and many others. In the United States one to two percent of people over the age of sixty develop Parkinson’s, approximately 250,000 to 350,000 people have Multiple Sclerosis, 25.8 million people have diabetes, and an estimated 30,000 people may have ALS (Ballaro, 2011, p. 2). Therapeutic cloning may be the best chance for any cures, but the research is widely opposed throughout the United States. Many people believe it should be illegal to continue research because it involves the destruction of embryos to obtain their stem cells. Therapeutic cloning should be legalized in the United States for it has potential medical and scientific progressions, which includes the treatment and antidotes of many ailments. There are many arguments against therapeutic cloning, including: the destruction of embryos, the possibility of the research eventually leading to reproductive cloning, and it is no different than the experimentation which took place during World War II (WWII). However, in the case of life versus death, therapeutic cloning could be extremely beneficial to those who have incurable diseases. Having the prospect of being able to save lives on a regular basis shows therapeutic cloning is more advantageous than harmful.
“Therapeutic cloning requires the deliberate creation and disaggregation of a human embryo.” This quote by scientist David A. Prentice states the biggest argument against therapeutic cloning: it deliberately produces human embryos destined to be abolished. Many people view therapeutic cloning as nothing more than the killing of innocent babies. Some consider it is corrupt to use embryonic stem cells for research uses. They think there are additional cures for scientists to find, and it is not necessary to destroy embryos.
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Many people, who consider therapeutic cloning immoral because of the destruction of potential life, think processes, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), are just fine. When one looks closely at both processes, they see the processes are quite similar. Both are used to generate embryos and both processes dispose of embryos. With in vitro fertilization, however, out of the numerous embryos inseminated, only a scarce amount is used. The extra embryos which are not used are simply discarded (Basertcher, 2011, p. 6). On the contrary, with therapeutic cloning, the embryos are not thrown out, but used in research to discover cures for horrible diseases. Scientist Michael J. Sandel states “To look at the argument from the opposite end, if the creation and sacrifice of embryos in IVF is morally acceptable, why isn’t the creation and sacrifice of embryos for stem cell research also acceptable? After all both practices serve worthy ends, and cure diseases such as Parkinson’s, is at least as important as enabling infertile couples to have genetically related children” (Basertcher, 2011, p. 6). The greater significance of Sandel’s words is both practices involve the destruction of embryos, but in IVF the extra embryos are not used in the same manner they are in therapeutic cloning. Although the embryos are not being wasted, some may still oppose therapeutic cloning because they believe it may lead to reproductive cloning.
Reproductive cloning is defined as making a full living copy of an organism using a surrogate mother. In other words, instead of using the embryo’s stem cells after the first couple of days to create specialized cells, the embryo is implanted into a surrogate mother and allowed to grow to maturity (“Bio Arts &”, 2002). This would create a human being identical in genes to the original cell donor. The possibility of reproductive cloning has created much fear in people today, because they do not know how to react to advancements in science, which were otherwise considered science fiction. They are worried about scientists obtaining any cell off a person and using the cell to create a clone with or without the person’s knowledge, ultimately stealing their identity. However, in reproductive cloning, there is an extremely high chance of death for both the clone and surrogate mother, along with the high chance of birth defects and major health problems later in life (“Bio Arts &”, 2002). It simply is not safe, moral, or worth the risk to experiment with reproductive cloning.
Right now cloning is still a thing of the future. So far a cloned human being has never been confirmed, but sheep, mice and cats all have been. According to the article Human Cloning Treats Human Life as a Commodity, it is stated, “…there is no difference in the nuclear transfer technique or the cloned embryo, allowing ‘therapeutic cloning’ experimentation to proceed will inevitably lead to reproductive cloning,” says Dr. Prentice in a paper on the ethical issues of cloning (Driscoll & Prentice, 2011, p. 3). As he points out, therapeutic and reproductive cloning both use the same process, with reproductive cloning taking it a step further. According to Prentice, letting research for therapeutic cloning continue also means having to let reproductive cloning research to carry forward because there is no way to stop it (Driscoll, 2011, p. 3).
Human embryos have only been claimed to be successfully cloned a handful of times, and therapeutic cloning is still in the initial phases of development. If therapeutic cloning is allowed to continue, it will still be years until it is put into practice. The reality of human reproductive cloning being an issue is small. Most scientists are against trying to clone humans, not just because the success rate in animals has been so low, but as stated in the article The Benefits of Cloning Research, “The aim of research into human cloning has never been to clone people, or to make babies for spare parts. The research aims to obtain stem cells to cure diseases,” (Pearson, 2011, p. 5). According to Pearson, curing diseases is the number one priority. Cloning a huge number of people is not the point of the research, as many people suggest. Dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal, was the only one out of 277 cloned embryos to make it to a live birth, and most resulted in miscarriage. A few years later Dolly died of a lung disease (“Bio Arts &”, 2002). The odds of a human clone living and being healthy are tremendously small; therefore, most scientists would not take the risk, especially when no one knows what the probability of a successful outcome would be. It could be 1 in 300, as Dolly was or possibly higher. The risk is still too large for most scientists to take. The debate on therapeutic and reproductive cloning is very similar to the debate over space travel in the 1960s. Then, many people were opposed to sending men into space; they saw it as a suicide mission. In the end, scientists decided the benefits outweighed the risks, and the men going into space knew what was ahead of them and accepted the mission. In the end, the mission was a success. Without putting aside the risks there can be no gain. The same is true for therapeutic cloning. One has to put aside the risk of someone cloning a human if society is ever going to see any benefits. Therefore, if science is to see any progress in finding cures people so desperately desire, some need to overlook any risks that may be presented, along with not relating such scientific breakthroughs to horrific experiments done in the past.
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Though this may not always come to mind, there are people out there who believe using embryonic stem cells violates the Nuremburg Code, which was established after World War II. As William Saunders puts it, “If human embryos are human beings, then ‘therapeutic cloning’ which creates an embryo only to destroy it in the process of exploiting its stem cells, violates a cardinal principal of the Nuremburg Code: ‘There will be no experimentation on a human subject when it is known death or disabling injury will result. Regardless of the good that might be produced by such experiments, the very experiments are of their very nature an immoral use of human beings'” (Basertcher, 2011, p. 6). In stating this, Saunders is suggesting therapeutic cloning is identical to the experiments done to the Jews by the Nazis: torture, eventually resulting in death. Depending on a person’s belief, some may view cloning as a violation of the Nuremburg Code because cells are harvested from an embryo, rendering it lifeless. However, because there is no actual fertilization of the embryo, it can be argued there is no actual life being destroyed.
Being able to prove therapeutic cloning violates the Nuremburg Code is a challenge in itself, because one would need to prove when an embryo becomes a human being. Since there is currently no clear line as to when that is, one would never be able to officially ban therapeutic cloning on the basis of the Nuremburg Code. In Michael J. Sandel’s paper on therapeutic cloning he uses the metaphor, “To respect the old growth forest does not mean that no tree may ever be felled or harvested for human purposes. Respecting the forest may be consistent with using it, but the purposes must be weighty and appropriate with the wondrous nature of the thing” (Sandel, 2005, p. 241-247).There is no doubt embryos deserve respect, but said respect does not mean they cannot be used to help people when they are crucially needed. Therapeutic cloning is not something being developed to use in needless situations to destroy embryos. To look at it another way, if therapeutic cloning is in violation of the Nuremburg Code, then so are practices such as abortion. Yet abortion is legal and, though still opposed by some, people have accepted it as a person’s own choice. The same would be true if therapeutic cloning became a common practice. No one would be forced to use it, but instead cloning would be a choice since the person with the disease would need to use the DNA from their own cells to be capable of a cure being produced.
Trying to say there is ever going be an undisputed answer where therapeutic cloning is focuesed would be a lie. There will always be some form of opposition. When one looks at the potential benefits therapeutic cloning offers, there is no doubt the research should continue. By looking at the facts against the opposition, one should see the destruction of embryos is not really any different than in vitro fertilization. Instead of throwing out the extra cells like in in vitro fertilization, it uses them to find cures for Parkinson’s, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s. Also, it is noted reproductive cloning is too dangerous for most scientists to risk. It is full of impending threats to both the mother and the cloned child, which includes death, birth defects, and problems later in life. Lastly, it is impossible to prove if therapeutic cloning is in violation of the Nuremburg Code because there are too many variables. To some it is a violation because of their values and beliefs, but to others it is seen as a beneficial medical research. The best realization about possibly being able to use therapeutic cloning is no one would be forced into using the practice, making it under their own power if it is performed or not. All in all, it is unmistakably clear the future of curing twenty six to twenty seven million people suffering from many terrible diseases lies in therapeutic cloning.
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