In 1997 a shocking announcement was made to the world. Scottish scientist Dr. Ian Wilmont revealed that he had successfully cloned an entire sheep. This announcement brought a realization that cloning was no longer a dream or a figment of the imagination, and it immediately became one of the most debatable topics in the world. Discussions began concerning the ethical problems as well as the benefits of cloning. Those in favor of cloning argue that the technology will eventually lead to a number of benefits for human lives, benefits such as assisting reproductively challenged couples in having children genetically related to them, the growing and healing of wounded or diseased tissues and organs, and the curing of diseases such as cancer and leukemia.
Conversely, opponents of cloning state that it is immoral and unethical to clone for religious reasons. Their arguments also include very thoughtful and concerned ideas, such as the fear that cloning will lead to the “10,000 Hitlers scenario, and also the belief that the clone will suffer some sort of trauma because they will not have a unique identity of their own. All of these arguments are valid concerns, but when held to close examination do they really hold up as adequate reasons to put a ban on all types of cloning, some of which may help to save the lives of others?
It is not enough to say that cloning is the creation of something, which is an exact copy of something else.
That just leaves too much to the imagination and leads to the misunderstanding of the process. Cloning is the procedure which the DNA of a female egg cell is replaced with different DNA from another cell. In the operation the nucleus from an unfertilized female egg cell, which contains the DNA molecules, is carefully removed and then replaced with the nucleus from a cell of another person (Harris 4). Genetic engineers then trick the cell into believing that it has been fertilized and is implanted into a female just as it is done in vitro fertilization. After nine months the baby is born like any other baby. What this means, in an extremely simplified form, is that a cloned baby only differs from other babies in the fact that they share the exact DNA with another person, just like identical twins, only the clone is much younger than its twin.
Cloning is a subject that many people have mixed emotions about.
The mass media has explored the concept of cloning in movies such as Jurassic Park. In this movie, the cloning of dinosaurs happens with the help of a crazy scientist who takes the DNA of a dinosaur out of a piece of hard sap from a tree and makes multiple copies of an organism. Stories like these and others stir the imagination and lead to misconceptions of the aspect of cloning as a whole. Cloning dinosaurs, as portrayed in the movies, is technically impossible now.
I n addition to the media, there are many religious concerns as well as fears that society has with the idea of cloning. One of which is the thought of the 10,000 Hitlers scenario. People that accept this idea believe that evil dictators could someday use cloning to create an army using clones of them selves. This would then lead to a take over of the world (Hume 16).
Glenn McGee states in his book The Human Cloning Debate that, cloning would be physiologically unsafe for any clone, and second that cloning would deprive a child of its identity or in other ways rob it of freedom(4). Many people feel that cloning is too risky and the procedure should be banned because too many lives could be lost. Others worry that if someone were cloned they would be in harms way, either directly or indirectly and therefore it should not take place (McGee 3).
The second part of McGees statement against cloning is that it will cause a lack of identity for the clone and might lead to a cheapening of life. He feels that if there were two people with the exact same genetic makeup, they will not be an individual and might have troubles later in life. Both concerns are based on the best interest of the clone itself, and are reasons to convince people that cloning should be banned.
There are also those who say that cloning is a selfish act in the fact that there are thousands of children all over the world who are waiting to be adopted. They dispute that instead of people cloning themselves to have a child genetically related to them, they should adopt the children that are already in the world (Hume 33). Adoption would also help with the over population problem in the world. These people believe that if human cloning is implemented in the future, there will be children who will never get adopted because of the abilities for people to have a child genetically related to them.
As you can see there are many valid points made for the banning of cloning, but the most argued point is the religious context of it all. People say that cloning is not natural and playing God is not justifiable. Hanna Rosin of the Washington Post states, cloning poses a disturbing threat to the fundamental tenets of religion, and exacerbates its tense relationship with science. With cloning, theologians can no longer view scientists as merely illuminating Gods creation, because they are clearly replicating it (3). Rosin explains that the reason some people are against the theory behind cloning is because they feel it is replicating Gods work, hence playing God. Pope John Paul has also expressed his opinions against human cloning for the same principles (Bova 2). Since faith is a very touchy subject, it is hard to sway people who have such strong religious beliefs.
They do not accept any aspect of cloning, whether it is beneficial to mankind or not, because of what they have been taught or have read throughout the course of their lives.
I concede that the cloning of humans is not a good idea. Although it may help couples that can not have a child naturally, I think it would do more harm than good. Those who agree with cloning humans believe that it would give the parents a chance to have a child that is genetically related to them. For some people this is more desirable than raising some one elses child, and this way parents can make sure that their genes are past on for generations. In my opinion, if people would like to have children someday they should seriously consider all the other options before settling on cloning themselves. Besides being extremely expensive, it is also a very risky procedure that could be devastating to the couple if it fails. Overall, the use of cloning in humans should be left to the imagination.
Even though I feel human cloning should not be implemented, one of the arguments against cloning is that the clone will not have an individual identity.
I think an explanation should be made to why this is not a valid argument for the opposing side. As stated earlier, a clone only differs from other people in the fact that they share the same exact DNA with someone else only they would be much younger. For clarification purposes, the clone would have its own identity because it would grow up to be a completely different person. The clone and the person it was cloned from will not grow up in the same generation, have similar experiences, nor share the same memories. With that knowledge, it is seen that a clone would not be deprived of an identity or rob it from its freedom in anyway. This is a good example of the misconceptions people make about cloning before they look further into the subject to find out the truth.
Instead, I feel that it can be very beneficial in furthering medical research.
Once researchers gather the technology, they could diagnose or even cure genetic diseases by altering certain genes or even building new organs. This advancement in cloning could change many peoples lives as well as give hope to parents conceiving a child if they are both donors of a disease.
One of the possible advancements cloning can bring to medicine, is cloning tissues and cells that would develop into whole organs. People would no longer have to wait in order to get an organ transplant nor would burn victims need skin grafts because the organs and skin cells can be cloned using their own cells. This is also beneficial in the fact that the body would be less likely to reject an organ because it would recognize the organ as its own. There is a variety of other applications that can be useful in cloning technology. As long as people understand the many possibilities that can be developed, doors can be open to a new medical revolution.
As you can see, there are many arguments for and against cloning. However, a majority of the arguments against cloning are not based on science or logical reason, therefore they are easily open to criticism. I think morality and ethics are issues of personal opinion that can not really be wrong. Everyone has the right to his or her own opinion, but most of the arguments against cloning are based on religious beliefs that are not shared by all, or on fears which result because of a lack of knowledge about the subject of cloning and the many benefits it can have in medical research.
I believe the 10,000 Hitlers scenario is an unjustified fear. First, in order to clone 10,000 evil dictators you would need 10,000 women who are willing to carry an evil clone for nine months. Even then it would take years for the clone to be raised to maturity. Second, it should be argued that being evil is probably a learned behavior and each clone would not be raised in the same household nor taught the same values (Hume 16).
Finally, how many evil dictators in the worlds could afford this type of technology 10,000 times at once? It is clear that this is a highly unlikely situation and people should not let fears like this affect their opinion on all types of cloning.
The religious aspect is hard to refute considering many people have very strong faith in what they believe in. Playing God is the argument used to ban all types of cloning. This might be a valid argument if every person in the world shared the same religious beliefs or even believed in the same God. However, religion is so diverse that it would not be right to justify the thoughts and opinions of one group and not another. In addition, Hume points out another side of the religious battle by stating:
Cloning no more involves playing God that other forms of reproduction, including sex. All of it, equally, creates life from life. And where the objection is that cloning is unnatural; artificial insemination, surgery, and the use of antibiotics are equally unnatural, yet still permitted (7).
Hume is arguing that the term natural is one of personal opinion. Who is to say what is natural and what is not? He says that surgery and antibiotics, which are both used widely around the world, are just as unnatural as the issue of cloning. Therefore stating that cloning is playing God or unnatural is not easily justified because of mere personal opinion.
Aside from cloning humans, there are certain types of cloning that can be very beneficial in medical research. With cloning technology it is possible to grow different organs needed for transplantation. This possibility can be achieved because once the cloning of a cell has been done and division begins, the cell does not have to grow into an entire person. Different techniques can be applied so the cell can be controlled and they would only grow into specialized cells or complete organs. For example, a kidney could be grown outside of the body to be used in a kidney transplant.
There are many benefits to this procedure. As stated before, people would no longer have to risk their lives waiting for an organ donor to come along. Not only could waiting be deadly for the patient, the body might also reject the organ being transplanted. If one were to clone their own organ the body would recognize the cell as its own and rejection would not occur, eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs (Nash 1). Less complicated tissues, such as skin cells, have already been cloned in laboratories for use in skin grafts for burn victims. This type of cloning would not only save time, but it would also prevent scaring on other parts of the victims body due to the skin graft. Overall, I think cloning is extremely useful in the fact that it can facilitate the organ donation process and save many precious lives as well.
Another benefit of cloning that is remarkable is diagnosing and curing genetic diseases. This is a medical advance that researchers are still trying to develop. Some aspects of it have been implemented and prove to be extremely successful. Others ideas are in the making, and if researched correctly they may be the future in curing genetic problems which have taken the lives of many people in years before.
Marie A. Di Berardino explains the medical advances that can come about from cloning technology in the future:
X Christine is scheduled to have her own genetically reprogrammed skin cells transplanted to replace her severely damaged heart cells.
X Margo, who has Parkinsons disease, receives special nerve cells. She is not concerned about the tissue incompatibility and rejection, because these cells are her own genetically reprogrammed skin cells.
X Patients routinely buy anti-cancer or anti-viral drugs in large quantities to treat their conditions (2)
The above are examples of what further research in cloning may do to help the treatment of genetic diseases. Hopefully they will be implemented and thousands of people with diseases can go on leading relatively normal lives.
You or someone in your family could be diagnosed with a disease such as cancer. Research is now being done with chickens to lay eggs that contain anti-cancer drugs (Cloning 1). The idea behind this is to genetically engineer hens so that their eggs contain extractable antibodies against cancer (7). The hope is to inject a gene package in to a patch of white yolk, the germinal disk, which contains the mother chickens maternal DNA. The new chicks would then take up the packaged implanted and it would trigger a gene in the oviduct (9).
Then the anti cancer antibody would be exclusively in the egg white. Economically this would prove to be very affordable. Hens produce as a good number of eggs a year and each one would contain a certain dosage of the drug. If everything goes as planned the cost of drugs could be less because production of the drug would be so cheap. Just think, in the future something as simple as eating an egg would provide you or the person you love with a hope of recovery from such a life threatening disease as cancer.
Parkinsons disease affects many Americans each year. It is a disorder of the central nervous system that limits the ability to move over time. There are currently drugs that provide minimal treatment which loose effectiveness after 5 to 20 years. With the use of cloning technology, people can be cured of this disease and regain there lives back. Researchers have successfully treated parkinsonism in rats by using fetal brain cells from cloned cows (Key 1). Cloning is a key to this procedure because it produces a large quantity of cells to work with. Although this has not yet been applied to humans, cloning these cells could soon prove to be a wonderful discovery in Parkinson victims.
The most incredible thing I found while researching this topic was HIV and herpes virus vaccines due to cloning, which is currently in the final stages of testing. Incredibly, it is developed by cloning proteins on the surface of the viral envelope. This then triggers the immune system to make antibodies that fight the viruses in the system, which normal HIV suffers cant (Henderson 10). Since the viruses are being fought off, a person infected with HIV could live with the disease for as long as they can naturally live. Hopefully, further research of this topic will be found and finally a cure for this life threatening disease will be available.
Imagine if you and your spouse wanted to have a child, but one of you had a genetically inherited disease such as Tay-Sachs. The parent with the disease could clone an uninfected gene and artificially inseminate it. This would make sure that the child would not be in danger of having Tay-Sachs nor would the parents have to take the risk of putting the child in danger. This is am example of a mitochondrial disease.
The mitochondria of a cell contain their own DNA, separate from the nucleus. Certain genetic diseases are carried in this separate DNA, inherited from their mother (Future 7). By cloning the mitochondria from another cell, a disease could be prevented in a child that could lead to a decline in the amount of people infected in the future.
In order for cloning to be further researched and implemented, government funding needs to be applied for such an expensive matter. The lives of people could be saved in a variety of ways if these ideas of anticancer eggs and HIV vaccinations were worked on. President Clinton put a ban on the use of federal funding for this type of research, which is currently in effect, and urged private sectors to voluntarily follow this example (Herrera 1). He also sent a message to other countries as well. I believe if people are educated in the subject of cloning, they will understand the great need for this research to be available to others. The applications of cloning in medical research will only be available if proper research is done to perfect it. Consequently, scientists need government funding to make it all happen.
In order for cloning to be a successful endeavor in the medical field, misconceptions and fears have to be reduced by educating people on the subject. Things such as the 10,000 Hitlers scenario, a fear of loss of identity in the clone, and playing God are reasons people give to ban all types of cloning. On the other hand, cloning for medical research, as I have demonstrated, can prove to have amazing results. It is still a young science that is imperfect, but with the funding and support of others cloning can cure many genetically inherited diseases, prevent deaths for people who wait endlessly for an organ transplant, and help parents to not pass their genetic diseases on to their children. To ban this research will be a loss of technology that can change the way modern medicine is applied and medical research is implemented in the future.