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Khanh M. Ensign
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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This paper will focus on various arguments against human cloning as well as various arguments in favor of human cloning. Human cloning had been an idea of science fiction until the introduction of Dolly the cloned sheep. Dolly was cloned from a cell of another adult sheep. With the introduction of Dolly, society has realized that human cloning is now within reach. The idea of human cloning is moving from the realm of science fiction into the realm of reality. With the possibility of human cloning becoming a reality, several arguments against human cloning as well as several arguments in favor of human cloning have been raised. These arguments address issues of religious beliefs, problems of mishaps and quality control, concepts of individuality, concepts of human dignity, the welfare of the child, and formulating legislation or regulation of human cloning.
Some of the arguments that have been raised in reference to human cloning involve religious beliefs. There are many religious groups that adamantly oppose human cloning, as Stephen G. Post explains: "Christians side with deep wisdom of the teachings of Jesus, manifest in a thoughtful respect for the laws of nature that reflect the word of God. Christians simply cannot and must not underestimate the threat of human cloning to unravel what is both naturally and eternally good" (22). These religious groups stand firm in their opposition against human cloning. They believe that human cloning oversteps certain moral and ethical boundaries. These religious groups also believe that human cloning crosses over into forbidden territory, territory where only God should be.
Although arguments have been raised by some religious groups against human cloning, there are still other groups that raise arguments in favor of human cloning. Contradicting some of Stephen G. Post's ideas, Yitzchok Breitowitz claims: "The most common arguments that people invoke - that it is wrong to play G-d, that cloning is not the natural way of producing children - is a type of rhetoric that I think Jewish tradition rejects categorically" (330). Some groups have taken strong stances in favor of human cloning. And although some of these groups do not fully support human cloning, they do support certain aspects of human cloning. These groups often point out what they believe as faulty logic of the arguments from the opposing religious groups.
Although Stephen G. Post argues against human cloning and Yitzchok Breitowitz argues in favor of human cloning, they share some of the same concerns in regards to human cloning. Some of the concerns that are shared are the problems of mishaps and issues of quality control. As Stephen G. Post writes: "Dolly the celebrated ewe represents one success out of 277 embryos, nine of which were implanted. Only Dolly survived" and "As one British expert on fertility studies writes, 'many of the animal clones that have been produced show serious developmental abnormalities, and, apart from ethical considerations, doctors would not run the medico-legal risk involved'" (21). Sharing similar concerns with Stephen G. Post, Yitzchok Breitowitz acknowledges: "Dolly followed hundreds of attempts that resulted in nonviable "offspring" and the studies indicate that at least the initial human clones are likely to have some very severe, permanent injuries or defects. Although some proponents of cloning assert that preimplantation screening could eliminate these defects, science indicates that many of the defects will not be amenable to preimplantation screening" (335). Although both Stephen G. Post and Yitzchok Breitowitz disagree on whether or not there should be human cloning, issues arise such as problems of mishaps and issues of quality control that they share the same concerns about. These are very serious issues and should be closely addressed before accepting or discarding the issue of human cloning.
Arguments have also been raised in reference to human cloning that involve the concept of individuality. In opposition to human cloning, Dan W. Brock argues: "One concern expressed by some opponents of cloning, and I believe intuitively felt by many members of the public, is that human cloning would undermine our individuality or uniqueness. The central feature of cloning is to create an individual with exactly the same genome as that of some other already existing or even dead individual" (314). If the central idea behind human cloning involves creating an exact copy of an individual, then the issue of individuality or uniqueness becomes an important issue. To what extent human cloning undermines individuality or uniqueness is what should be thoroughly investigated.
Supporting the claims of Dan W. Brock, B. Gogarty suggests: "Cloning is said to breach a fundamental right to individuality, by allowing cloning, humanity would be forgoing the intrinsic knowledge that each person is new and unique, not predetermined, prejudged by what or who has gone before or after, each person. Uniqueness of identity and individuality are some of the most deep felt and inherent signifiers of self. Just as a great art work would lose its value in identical reproductions, so human beings can be said to lose their intrinsic inimitability in reproductions of themselves" (85). If there is a fundamental right to individuality, then indeed human cloning would breach that right. The question if individuality being a fundamental right should be confirmed, and if so, how far does that right extent?
Further supporting the claims of Dan W. Brock and B. Gogarty, Helen Watt claims: "... cloning can have harmful effects on the individual concerned. The case of identical twins is often cited as evidence that genetic similarity is in itself innocuous. It should be noted that identical twins can, in fact, experience problems in their social and personal development (Bryan 1998, pp. 813-815), particularly in those environments where others do not adequately recognize their separate identity. Such problems would be, on the face of it, more likely to occur in the case of cloning ..." (35). If human cloning is to become a reality, issues that effect a clone's social and personal development would need to be addressed. Establishing an environment where people would adequately recognize clones as individuals, would be critical.
Contradicting the claims of Don W. Brock, B. Gogarty, and Helen Watt, Justine Burley and John Harris argue: "Typical in discussion of this claim is the notion that the harms and benefits which concerns us, occur to the same child. However, as exploration of the non-identity problem will now make clear, claims of this kind cannot explain what it is that might be thought problematic about a decision which results in a clone being harmed in any way at all" (109). The concept of a clone's individuality and uniqueness is a very important issue in regards to human cloning. To be a copy of another person undoubtedly would have an adverse effect on a clone's sense of individuality. To claim that there is no effect in this regard is irresponsible.
Some other arguments that have been raised in reference to human cloning involves the concept of human dignity. In opposition to human cloning, B. Gogarty writes: "One of the most common ethical objections to cloning is reflected in the UNESCO declaration and Council of Europe 1998 Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, Which declares the practice "contrary to human dignity"" (85). Many people have different ideas on what constitutes human dignity. Depending on that individual or group's concept of human dignity, dictates whether they believe human cloning is contrary to human dignity or not.
In opposition to some of B. Gogarty's ideas, John Harris suggests: "Appeals to human dignity, on the other hand, while universally attractive, comprehensively vague and deserve separate attention. A first question to ask is when the idea of human dignity is invoked is: whose dignity is attacked and how? Is it the duplication of a large part of the genome that is suppose to constitute the attack on human dignity?" (354). John Harris presents some very thought provoking questions. Depending on how an individual answers those questions, reveals whether or not they support human cloning in regards to human dignity.
Still other arguments that have been raised in reference to human cloning involve the welfare of the child. In favor of human cloning, Justine Burley and John Harris state: "We conceded that cloned individuals might indeed suffer welfare deficits (relative to a non-clone) but argued that even the likely occurrence of them is not sufficient to warrant state interference with the procreative choices of the people who wish to clone their gene (or those of others, providing consent to their use in this way has been given)" (112). At what level of welfare deficit would warrant state interference? Before any decisions are made to allow or ban human cloning, this important questions needs to be answered. In regards to child welfare, any deficit should be investigated. If there is any level of welfare deficit, then there should be an appropriate level of state interference.
Debating some of Justine Burley and John Harris' ideas, Helen Watt argues: "The most fundamental objection concern the welfare of the child created (Callahan 1997) and the nature of his or her relationships with the social parents and with others. In the first place, there is the physical well-being of the child to be considered. Even after extensive research had been performed - research, which would itself raise very serious moral questions - risks to the health of the child, both long-term and short-term, would be difficult to justify" (37). The physical well-being of a child, cloned or not, should be of a top priority. If there is a possibility of short-term or long-term health risks, can human cloning be justified?
Finally, there are arguments that have been raised in reference to human cloning that involve formulating legislation versus regulation. Supporting the need for legislation, B. Gogarty explains: "Political and academic shaming and even expelling of one of the would be cloners from the International Infertility Association has done little to deter them from their objective. What is needed, therefore, is legislation which is sufficiently proscriptive and sufficiently proactive, a regime with adequate power and jurisdictional reach, to ensure that it cannot be circumvented or undermined" (85). If human cloning was allowed, controls would need to be in place to ensure compliance.
Disputing B. Gogarty, by arguing regulation rather than legislation, Adam Greene claims: "Any single piece of legislation will be deemed too strict by some and too lenient by others. Furthermore, a single law cannot adapt to the changing nature of science. A law may be too narrowly-tailored, prohibiting valuable and uncontroversial research ... In the alternative, a law might be too lenient, allowing human cloning research to circumvent the regulation ..." (356). Adam Greene presents strong evidence why regulations would be more beneficial than legislation. Whether legislation or regulation, some sort of controls need to be in place prior to allowing human cloning.
Various arguments in opposition to and in favor of human cloning have been presented. Currently, it appears that the majority are opposed to human cloning. However, as history has shown, opinions, thoughts, and ideas are subject to change. As arguments rage on in reference to human cloning, these arguments presented, along with others, will need to be thoroughly evaluated, before any solid decisions can be determined.
Breitowitz, Yitzchok. "What's So Bad About Human Cloning?" Kennedy Institute of Ethics
Journal 12.4 (2002): 325-41.
Brock, Dan W. "Human Cloning and Our Sense of Self." Science 296.5566 (2002):
Burley, Justine, and John Harris. "Human cloning and child welfare." Journal of Medical Ethics
25.2 (1999): 108-13.
Gogarty, B. "What exactly is an exact copy? And why it matters when trying to ban human
reproductive cloning in Australia." Journal of Medical Ethics 29.2 (2003): 84-89.
Greene, Adam. "The World after Dolly: International Regulation of Human Cloning." The
George Washington International Law Review 33.2 (2001): 341-62.
Harris, John. ""Goodbye Dolly?" The ethics of human cloning." Journal of Medical Ethics 23.6
Post, Stephen. "The Judeo-Christian Case Against Human Cloning." America 176.21
Watt, Helen. "Thinking Twice: Cloning and In Vitro Fertilisation." Ethics & Medicine 18.2
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