Cloning is a process in which genetic copies of an individual is produced asexually. During the last few years astonishing results have been produced in the field of cloning, and scientist are saying that we are very near to produce a human clone (AMA, 2006). Cloning can be conducted for several purposes and is of 2 basic types, namely: – reproductive-cloning and embryo-cloning (HGP, 2006). Reproductive cloning involves transfer of the genetic substance form the nucleus of a normal adult vegetative or somatic cell to an egg cell that has been fertilized (oocyte) after removing its genetic material (HGP, 2006).
After the cloned cell attains a particular size, it is transferred to the womb of a surrogate mother to undergo development. This was the process by which Dolly was produced (Ridley, M. , 1999). Through cloning we need not produce exact physical copies of the individual but are in fact creating an individual having the same genetic material (Harris, John, 1998). Embryo-cloning involves splitting the embryo after it has reached a certain stage following cell division (Harris, John, 1998). Embryo-splitting can occur in nature as in the case of identical twins.
It was performed for the first time in humans in the laboratory by Jerry Hall and Company at the George Washington Medical Center (Harris, John, 1998). The embryo cells have the potential to differentiate into various cell types present in the human body that could be utilized for various purposes such as research, organ transplantation and tissue generation (following degeneration, disease or congenital absence of a certain organ). Through embryo-splitting, it may be possible to detect any abnormality in the embryo, following fertilization procedures (Harris, John, 1998).
Several issues have been raised against cloning of human beings. These include moral, ethical, legal, social, religious, and medical issues. One of the major factors that can play an important role in the acceptance of cloning as available technology is that we do know much about this rather new branch of science. There could be several hidden issues that may become obvious later. The procedure of cloning may appear a major success story to us, but there could be several risks, that may become clear later.
Some of the risks that cloning involve include low-rates of success, developmental problems of the clone, faulty gene manifestation patterns and shrinkage of the telomeres (Learn Genetics, 2006). As cloning is seemingly a new technology, the process of successfully transferring the somatic nucleus into the fertilized egg is very low (between 0. 1 to 3 %). This may occur due to several reasons such as incompatibilities between the egg and the somatic nucleus, improper multiplication of the egg, problems during implantation of the egg into the substitute mother, and issues during pregnancy.
It has been seen that animals that have been cloned develop several defects in their body such as defective organs (large organ syndrome), kidney problems, cerebral defects, immune disorders (prone to develop infections), etc. This may occur due to problems in programming of the DNA. In cloned embryos, the DNA does not program the genes to express various types of cells in the body. The scientists have to reprogram the cell in such a way that normal development can occur. If the cloned cell is not programmed properly, it will fail to develop (Learn Genetics, 2006).
Chromosomes have a tendency to become shorter in length each time the cell multiples, because certain DNA sequences present at the end of the cells (known as ‘telomeres’) begin to shrink in size. Hence, in animals, as they become older develop shorter chromosomes containing certain defects (Learn Genetics, 2006). Dolly had unusually short chromosomes suggesting that the animal was in fact older than its real age. It had developed cancer and also had severe arthritis. The animal lived for only 6 years, whereas sheep usually survive for more than twice that period.
Rudolph Jaenisch, a scientist at the Harvard University feels that cloning technology is still in its infancy and a lot has to be still done in order to produce good quality clones. He considers that presently, the cloning technology has been mastered only to an extent in which defective clones can be produced. Before cloning human beings, the problems that could be anticipated should be addressed. Cloning is not merely a scientific or technological issue. It is more of a medical and ethical issue as new genetic, physical and psychiatric problems can develop.
Many scientists feel that at present cloning should not be allowed looking at the animal experiences. Cloning presents several risks and it may be unethical to permit the procedure. However, if the technology is well-understood and if we are able to produce a quality human clone then it may even be more difficult because our ethical and moral principles would really be put to a test. It may not be right to completely ban or accept the procedure without looking at the situation. Before giving a decision for cloning, the benefits and the risks have to be measured, and only if a clear benefit arises, should the procedure be permitted.
It is very important to determine the situation under which cloning should be permitted. Sometimes, cloning may be the only way of saving an individual’ life or may be also used to obtain body parts of the clone followed by its destruction. Destruction of life should be considered unethical and immoral. Cloning should be permitted only in extreme circumstances, in which no other approaches for a solution exist. Several issues such as physical risks, mental risks, family issues and genetic issues need to be considered. Cloning may be performed for several reasons.
One of the most promising applications of cloning is for the process of assisted-reproduction (AMA, 1999). Assisted-reproduction is usually required for childless couples. Scientists are able to help these couples through use of in-vitro fertilization, donor eggs, donor sperms and surrogate motherhood. Some couples may not like to reproduce by the usual method and instead may prefer to use professional means. Cloning could be a very useful option for assisted reproduction, but at present the technology seems to be very risky for use in assisted-reproduction.
However, a situation may exist in which other assisted reproduction methods fail, and cloning may be the only option. Before cloning is permitted in such cases, the ethical concerns should be weighted carefully along with the potential benefits the procedure could be offering to the couples and their families. The risks involved in cloning should also be determined, and only if a clear benefit exists, the procedure should be permitted. The couples and their families should be told about the risks involved in cloning, before conducting it.
Another potential concern that could arise if human cloning is permitted is that clones of an individual may be obtained without the consent of that individual (AMA, 1999). It may be very easy to obtain the somatic cell without consent. The genetic material of this cell could be then transferred to a fertilized egg cell which could then grow and develop into another individual. It may be very difficult to ethically consider this issue. Some people suggest that this would be a similar situation in which a doctor performs a treatment procedure or takes a sample of the individual’s tissues without consent (AMA, 1999).
The genetic information is being misused, and hence can be considered violation of respect or trust and failure to perform any beneficial actions for the patient. Before permitting any assisted reproduction technique, an individual has to give informed consent. The physician has to be informed the details of the procedure, along with their benefits and risks. It may be ethically wrong to procreate without the informed consent of the individual. An individual’s right to reproduction and privacy may be violated if cloning is performed without the permission of the individual.
Cloning without informed consent serious interferes with several rights of the individual and is ethically wrong. If an individual is cloned, the rights that he/she could be enjoying have to be determined. People say that if there is abuse of cloning, there could also be an abuse of the rights of such individuals. People could be producing clones for industrial purposes and they may not be given the same rights that any other individual enjoys. However, it should be emphasized that offspring’s of a particular individual enjoy the same rights as that of its parent, irrespective of the fact that the individual has a single parent.
Cloning technology in the first place should not be abused so that a question of their rights does not develop. Organ donation may be considered as a noble act if the procedure causes significant benefits to the recipient without causing risk to the donor. However, the donor has to give full informed consent to the procedure, as organ transplantation may be considered as unethical if an individual is being forced into donation. Pope Puis XII had approved organ transplantation in the year 1956 (Saunders, W, 2003). The Catholic Church had also accepted that the donor is making a sacrifice to save the life of anoterh person.
Slight risks to the donors could be considered acceptable, for example, a person donating a kidney may lead a near normal life. However, a person should not donate an organ (such as an eye) which would seriously hamper with normal functioning. It may be morally and ethically wrong to donate under such circumstances. Many people have been toying with the idea of using cloning technology to help create a person from which the organs could be removed for transplantation. These organs containing the same genetic material as that of the parent would be better accepted by the immune system.
The clone from which the organs have been removed for transplantation would then be sacrificed. However, such kind of a use of the cloning technology may be considered as completely unethical and immoral, and will not be accepted by any religion or legal system in the World. Use of the clones, even during the early stages of life should not be permitted ethically. Even medically, such kind of a use will is not accepted, as it involves destruction of a human life. Physician and other professionals participating in such acts should be punished for murder crimes.
Children cannot be produced in order to be destroyed later after utilizing them for a specific purpose. However, much thought has to be given in situations in which the clone is not destroyed after organs or tissues have been harvested. If the removal of an organ is going to cause significant harm and disease to the clone, then removal of organs or tissues should not be allowed. However, if a clone is not going to develop significant risks following the procedure, it may have to be permitted, as it may be the only technology available to save the life of the parent individual.
A couple required bone marrow transplantation for their child suffering from leukemia. However, they were not getting a suitable donor. The couple decided that they would produce another child in order to get a suitable donor. They considered that even if the child’s bone marrow tissue is not suitable for donation, they did not mind having the child. In such circumstances cloning can clearly have very useful benefits, as we can be sure that the clone would be having a compatible tissue. Scientists are also conducting research on selectively growing certain organs and tissues in the laboratory using cloning technology.
The individuals own cells can be used to produce a cloned cell. After growing the tissue in the laboratory through selective cloning, it could be transferred in the individual requiring organ transplant. It can be guaranteed that such tissues will be compatible. In fact studies have shown that the body begins to readily accept such tissues (HGP, 2006). Such cloned tissues could be used to produce organs and tissues that are lost following trauma, disease, congenital defects, etc. This procedure may be ethically justified as no tissues are being destroyed, and the individual would be gaining immensely from the procedure.
Many people are suffering due to loss of vital organs, and cloning appears promising to solve their problems. Cloning of human being can also result in several physical and mental problems to the clone. It may be unethically to clone an individual using the genetic material of those with known mental and physical defects. It may seriously affect the interests and the autonomy of the clone. It is also unethical to study the genetic material of an individual in order to predict their behavior, as it would interfere with the ‘right to privacy’ (AMA, 1999).
Many people suggest that cloning could be used to produce people having great intellectual or physical capacities. The technology could be used to produce great thinkers or sportsmen. However, although the genetic makeup may determine the characteristics of an individual, environmental factors may also play a very important role (SRT Project, 1999). Expectations from the cloned child may be high causing a serious impact on their growth and development, which would also be interfering with its rights. Hence it would be ethically wrong to clone for producing a famous individual.
Some people have suggested that cloning could be used to bring back to life a dead person. However, if we use cloning in such circumstances, we would not be appreciating the value of a GOD-given life. It would be morally and ethically wrong, because we are playing the role of a creator, by extending the life of an individual who has already died. As we are interfering with nature and the powers of GOD, it would be ethically and morally wrong. Nature should be left alone and allowed to take its own path. If cloning is permitted under such situations, then there is a high risk that human lives would not be given any respect or value.
Clones would be considered equal to machines that could be created or destroyed, as and when needed, and which could be used in the industry. People may also be killed in order to produce better clones for use in the future. If cloning is permitted, there is a risk that human relationships would lose its meaning. Relationships such as mother-child, husband-wife, etc, would not exist, and the value of gender, reproduction, marriage and social relationships would be lost. These issues may be very complicated and difficult to solve. Similar issues regarding paternity and maternity rights may arise in assisted-reproduction techniques (AMA, 1999).
Cloning could also affect the genetic pool of human beings. However, the real implications are not known. Some people suggest that cloning may help to decrease defective genes, as the procedure should not be allowed in individuals having genetic problems. Others suggest that the human genetic diversity would decrease, and human beings would be more prone to genetic disorders (AMA, 1999). There is also a possibility that the cloned cell could develop mutations in its genetic material, resulting in several medical problems (AMA, 1999). References:
American Medical Association (1999). The Ethics of Human Cloning. Retrieved December 29, 2006, AMA from Web site: http://www. ama-assn. org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/369/report98. pdf American Medical Association (2006). Human cloning. Retrieved December 29, 2006, AMA from Web site: http://www. ama-assn. org/ama/pub/category/4560. html Fr. Saunders, William. (2003). Organ Transplants and Cloning. Retrieved December 29, 2006, Arlington Catholic Herald from Web site: http://www. catholiceducation. org/articles/religion/re0347. html Harris, John (1998).
Clones, Genes and Immorality: Ethics and the Genetic Revolution, Oxford: Oxford University Press. HGP Information (2006). Cloning Fact Sheet. Retrieved December 29, 2006, from U. S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research Website: http://www. ornl. gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning. shtml Learn Genetics (2006). What are the Risks of Cloning? Retrieved December 29, 2006, from University of Utah Website: http://learn. genetics. utah. edu/units/cloning/cloningrisks/ McGee, G. (2001). Primer on Ethics and Human Cloning.
Retrieved December 29, 2006, from American Institute of Biological Sciences Web site: http://www. actionbioscience. org/biotech/mcgee. html Ridley, M. (1999). The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (1st Ed), New York: Harper Collins. Society, Religion and Technology Project (1999). Human Cloning – The Ethical Issues. Retrieved December 29, 2006, SRI from Web site: http://www. srtp. org. uk/cloninf5. htm USC Health Sciences Campus (2004). Cloning of Humans: Will it be Ethical? Should it be Done?. Retrieved December 29, 2006, USC from Web site: http://www-hsc. usc. edu/~mbernste/ethics. cloninghumans. html