Ethics of Human Cloning for Reproduction

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08/02/20 Sciences Reference this

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Assuming that techniques for human reproductive cloning eventually become safe and effective, should human reproductive cloning be considered an ethically acceptable way for infertile, homosexual, and/or lesbian couples to reproduce? Why or why not?

Since the cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996, scientists, bioethicists, and policy makers have asked the question: “Should we clone human beings?” Some ask this about therapeutic cloning and some emphasis on its potential for procreation. Unfortunately, in this case, the should questions we are asking are probability not relevant. The only question whose answer ultimately matters is “will someone try to clone a human being with the intent to make a living, breathing, hopefully healthy baby.” Before a decision can be answered, it must be remembered that the subject of human cloning, like any issue with wide ranging effects, is full of complexities that cannot be dismissed offhand with a simple affirmative or negative answer.

Cloning is the process of creating a cell, or organism, that is genetically identical to the DNA material to where it originated from. The nucleus of an unfertilized egg is removed and substituted with a nucleus obtained from a fully mature adult cell, which contains virtually all the hereditary genetic material. An infinite number of genetically equal clones could be produced by this process, which is called nuclear transfer. In principle, any person, at any stage of their life, could be cloned in limitless quantity.

For individuals, human cloning would provide a myriad of benefits. The majority of academics are concordant (author; author) that human cloning would provide relief of infertility, for people such as infertile aspiring parents, or homosexual partners. This would, primarily, be the most valuable benefit human cloning offers, assuming safe and affordable human cloning can be performed. With such a change in the way reproduction would be done, the perception of difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals might diminish substantially (Flaks D et al. 1995. Pp 105-114). Within artificial means, it is impossible for homosexual partners or infertile people to birth a child naturally. However, the development of human cloning would lead to with an increase in homosexual fertility, with families headed by same-sex couples will look more like families headed by a heterosexual parent family, with one or more children becoming much more common with same-sex couples.

Moreover, as will be discussed, the children will be genetically related to both parents instead of to one or neither of the parents. As heterosexual and homosexual families become more alike, they will sense a greater sharing of interests. There is good reason to believe that heterosexual couples will see themselves as being less different and more similar to same-sex couples. Accordingly, prejudice might diminish, all thanks to the development of effective human cloning. This is supported by a study done by Flaks D et al. (1995. Pp 105-114), where researchers found “no statistically significant differences in intellectual functioning or behavioural adjustment” between children in the two kinds of families. It is possible, however, that the opposite effect would come about from human cloning to accommodate same sex birth but inciting anti-gay sentiment; however, human nature is to distrust the unknown, and with the lines blurring between the differences between homosexual and heterosexual families, it stands reason to presume that hostile discourse will diminish as well.

As discussed earlier, development in human cloning will, instead of only one nucleic material being used, be able to utilize two or more nucleic DNA in order to create the necessary genetic variation for the clone. With Dolly the sheep, the embryo resulted from the fusion of a maternal breast cell and an egg whose nucleus had been removed (an enucleated egg). Instead of Dolly receiving half of her genes from a mother and half of her genes from a father, as occurs in a natural birth, Dolly received all of her genes from her mother, which were contained in the nucleus of the breast cell. Variations on the cloning techniques used to create Dolly would appear to make reproduction by same-sex couples feasible. For such reproduction, scientists could presumably take a cell from each partner and reduce the number of chromosomes in each cell’s nucleus by one half. They could then fuse the two adult cells with an enucleated egg. If an embryo resulted from the fusion, it would have half of its genes from one member of the couple, and half from the other member. For the case of same sex male parents, then both would supply sperm cells that would have their chromosome count halved, and that fusion of the two sperms with a donor egg would result in a child with the genetics of both males.

Conversely, there is potential for a multitude of tribulations that human cloning could have on society, as, due to the nature of cloning being a duel use issue. The most glaring problem would be a lack, or a loss, of regulation on human cloning. Assuming human cloning is perfected, a lack of regulation could spell disaster. The intention of perfecting human cloning to provide infertile people with a means to reproduce may be pure, but the question on how this would be regulated must be raised. With potential malevolent uses such as exploitation of human clones for purposes such as war, humans becoming lab rats if cloned for science, or creating segregation between naturally born humans and clones. Human cloning would kindle interpretation that humans are but a means to an end, with human beings becoming more of a commodity that can easily be replaced, rather than an individual. One possibility exists where parents who, for whatever reason, are not content children they have cloned, and then could just go clone another child in the hopes of getting the qualities they want the next time around.

Further, human cloning could create potentially new societal division, where clones created would be treated in a different way than people who are born naturally. Twenty-five years ago, the discovery of techniques for cloning and the use of recombinant DNA, presented comparable concerns with human cloning, with both promising to advance the life and biomedical sciences (Berg P, Singer M 1998. Pp 413). In order to limit cloning to strictly aiding procreation of infertile partners, restrictions such as international talks on safety and security concerns and the implementation of a voluntary universal moratorium on human cloning experiments believed to be likely to produce untoward outcomes. Strict and rigorous guidelines defining what is allowable and what is prohibited experiments would also be swiftly promulgated (Berg P, Singer M 1998. Pp 413). Through such regulation, potential consequences that may occur with standardized human cloning would be, hopefully, eradicated.

In the similar mindset, Leon Kass, an American physician and scientist, argues vehemently against human cloning with his prime justification being the feeling of repugnance that is associated with cloning. Kass contends that most people feel deep repulsion to the idea of human cloning, a feeling similar, according to Kass to the one we get “when considering cannibalism or incest” (Kass L 1998). He describes potential circumstances that could arise if cloning is accepted in order to bring incite disgust feelings, such as the mass production of clones for nefarious purposes, women giving birth to and nurturing a genetic copy of herself, replacing someone who has died with an exact duplicate, the narcissism of those who clone themselves, and the hubris required to control life and control destiny allowing man to play God in a way that is, according to Kass, “not natural.” (Kass L 1998).

Kass understands that repulsion is not an effective argument by itself, since there is a plethora of examples of what we consider barbaric to be perfectly acceptable by our ancestors. While I thought the emotive argument Kass posed was ineffectual, he does not leave it unconnected. He supports his argument by providing reasoning as to why cloning would be damaging to the children, the family dynamic, to the child’s identity, and the process of human procreation. Kass contends that, thanks to our belief that “all children should be wanted children” (Kass L 1998). Eventually, only the children who fulfil their parent’s specific requirements will be fully adequate, as, through cloning, we can directly interfere on the very identity of our children, exercising control as never before (Kass L 1998). Thanks to modern concepts of individualism, we see ourselves no longer defined by traditions existing from our forebears, but as projects for our own self-creation, not only as “self-made men but also man-made selves;” and cloning is simply an extension of such narcissistic ideology. Sexual reproduction is firmly rooted in nature and is a process that should not be entangled by human enterprise (Polkinghorne JC 2000. Pp 8-10). This argument, however, would be rendered null due to, as mentioned earlier, the development of success human cloning would create a means to provide both homosexual parents genes into the child, thereby fulfilling his naturalistic argument, despite the child being created my insemination and not by a physical act. Moreover, the regulations that were mentioned previously would be paramount to prevent irresponsible use of human cloning, and thus, in my contention, Kass’ concerns are erroneous since he never took regulations into consideration. Kass does, however, raise a valid point concerning how cloning has the potential to be bathed in the ‘Slippery Slope’ argument, whereby if we allow something relatively harmless today, we may start a trend that results in something unthinkable becoming accepted, and from this, it is impossible to fully hypothesis the implications of human cloning. With the benefit of hindsight behind us for similar issues such as DNA recombination and IVF, it can be extrapolated that, with proper regulation and exclusively unanimous usage for solely procreation uses, then human cloning may not be as serious of an issue that Kass presents.

Conversely, Dan Brocks, an American philosopher and bioethicists, insists that human cloning will provide a wealth of benefits for society. He believes that human cloning inherently makes that clone an equal part of society, by the fact that the clone is, by all accounts genetically, a normal human being. These cloned human beings would, theoretically, have the same individual rights and liberty for an open future, much like natural born humans by disregarding genetic determinism. In terms of identity worries related to reproductive cloning, Brock contends that the sense of identity that might plausibly be within each person, or clone, has a right to have the freedom to become unique, to have that option, rather than have a life predetermined for it, which constitutes the special uniqueness of each individual (Brocks D 1998a).  Only in a genetic determinism according to which an person’s genetics decisively determine everything related to an individual, be it mannerisms and character, together with the entire history or biography, will constitute his or her life (Brocks D 1998b), but there is no evidence to believe in such kind of genetic determinism, as it is well known that environmental factors and life experiences is greatly influential in determining a person’s character, not just their genetics. With individual freedom secure, Brock argues that human cloning has “not seemed to promise any great benefits or uniquely to meet great human needs” (Brocks D 1998a). Therefore, Brocks believes that the debate on the morals behind human cloning should be dismissed, as it doesn’t warrant the attention it gets compared to other global issues, which I would be inclined to agree with as stated previously.

Human cloning has received modicum serious and cautious ethical attention, primarily because, until it is be perfected for human use, is typically dismissed as science fiction. Any ethical assessment of human cloning at this point must be tentative and provisional. The ethical pros and cons of human cloning, as I see them at this time, are tipped towards accepting the use of human cloning exclusively for reproduction purposes. This comes inherent with strictly enforced legislations put in place to prevent irresponsible use of cloning, as I believer in a clone deserving the same rights and freedom as a naturally born human.

Bibliography:

  • Flaks, D, Ficher, I, Masterpasqua, F, Joseph, G. (1995). Lesbians choosing motherhood: A comparative study of lesbian and heterosexual parents and their children. Developmental Psychology, vol 31, pages 105-114. Doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.31.1.105
  • Kass L, 1998. ‘The wisdom and repugnance.’ Catholic education resource centre. Viewed 20th-29th May 2019. https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/science/ethical-issues/the-wisdom-of-repugnance.html
  • Orentlicher D, 2001, ‘Beyond cloning: expanding reproductive options for same sex couples.’ Brooklyn law review, vol. 66, pp. 1-35
  • Polkinghorne JC, 2000, Ethical issues in biotechnology.’ Trends biotechnol, vol. 18, pp. 8-10
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