Cloning is the creation of an embryo by the method of human somatic cell nuclear transfer. This procedure involves implanting DNA cells from an organism into an egg whose DNA nucleus has been removed then chemically treated so that the egg begins to behave as though fertilization has occurred. This results in the creation of embryonic growth of another organism that contains the complete genetic code of the original organism. Through this process, the cloning of mammals has resulted in, to date, hundreds of cloned organisms born. Though this process has produced many live successes, it has proved considerably less likely to produce successful pregnancies than those conceived through sexual reproduction. Replication of an organism’s DNA identity does not occur naturally within mammals. The majority of cloned animals have experienced some type of birth defect, a horrific scientifically proved reality. Therefore, cloning of any form should be illegal due to negative psychological impacts, harmful health effects and its damage to religious beliefs. This unnatural style of reproduction has an overwhelming potential for decisions being made based on reasons of vanity in regard to children. The very nature of the traditional family is in danger of evolving in a strange, unknown and undesirable direction.
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The Dolly Dilemma
Successes and Failures
On February 23, 1997 Ian Wilmut, a Scottish scientist, with his colleagues at the Roslin Institute announced the successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly who was the first animal that matured to a fully developed state by the usage of the nucleus of a somatic cell from one animal. The cloning of animals has stirred the debate about the ethical, legal and social aspects regarding human cloning. (Di Bernadino, 1997). Because of the rate of failure as compared to natural conception in animal testing, scientists, scholars and politicians generally agree that human experiments are also likely to result in a number of clinical failures.
At least at this stage of cloning development, attempts to duplicate human DNA would lead to an unacceptable number of miscarriages, abortions and births of massively deformed offspring. “Recent study of mammalian cloning suggests that a number of defects often created in the reprogramming of the egg do not manifest themselves until later in the life of the resulting clone, so that mature clones have often undergone spectacular, unforeseen deaths” (McGee, 2001). The concept of human cloning is a controversial subject that is problematical to comprehend as the physical and psychological needs, present and future, of someone produced by this method are unknown. Societies throughout the world generally believe that human cloning experiments will violate a moral barrier, taking humans into a sphere of self-engineering.
Do No Harm
Whether for or against scientific constraint, or the idea of cloning any organism, most everyone universally expresses great concern regarding somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning techniques used for human experimentation. Whatever reasoning brought forth by proponents of human cloning must be measured against the Hippocratic precept of ‘first do no harm’ to satisfy public, political and the medical communities’ ethical threshold. At present level of technological advancement, the considerable threats to the physical welfare of a person created by somatic cell cloning far overshadow any possible benefits of this technique. Dolly the sheep was successfully created only after more than 250 attempts by this method of cloning. “If (cloning) were attempted in humans, it would pose the risk of hormonal manipulation in the egg donor; multiple miscarriages in the birth mother and possibly severe developmental abnormalities in any resulting child” (Brock, 1997).
The obligation to justify such an experimental and potentially dangerous technique as cloning falls to the scientists employing these methods. Common sense as well as standard medical practices would not permit the use of a drug or mechanism on a person simply based on preliminary research such as in cloning techniques without benefit of additional animal experimentation. Innovative therapies much endure rigorous investigation before being implemented on a patient. In cloning, the innovative procedure creates the patient and is thus responsible for any ill effects, physically and socially inherent in the technique. In other words, other types of medicine intended to treat an existing patient is carefully examined before being utilized whereas cloning creates the problem. It is inconceivable that any conscientious physician or scientist would attempt to use somatic cell nuclear transfer to create a human at this early period of experimentation. The scientific community, the public and politicians overwhelmingly agree that, at least for now, regulations are warranted on all attempts to produce humans through nuclear transfer from a somatic cell. (Brock, 1997).
Some argue however, that potential parents are today permitted and even encouraged to conceive, or to carry a baby to term, when there is a substantial risk known to the doctor and patient that the child will be born with a profound genetic disorder. Even if the majority of public opinion considered the decision to have the child as morally wrong, the parents’ rights to reproductive free-will always supersede. “Since many of the risks believed to be associated with somatic cell nuclear transfer may be no greater than those associated with genetic disorders, some contend that such cloning should be subject to no more restriction than other forms of reproduction” (Brock, 1997). Harm is subject to speculation only and cannot accurately be determined until after experimental tests are conducted, not simply in the context of cloning humans, but in any innovative clinical procedure. “The first transfer into a uterus of a human embryo clone will occur before we know whether it will succeed” (Robertson, 1997). Many people, scholarly and otherwise, contend that initial attempts to clone humans would be unethical and immoral experimentation on the un-consenting children and because the results are speculative at best, it would possibly result in children who have mental and physical handicaps and other developmental difficulties.
Religious sensitivities should also be taken into account in the cloning discussion. People should not ‘play God’ are opposed to the scientists investigating the dark mysteries of life, which are only God’s to control and that humans lack the divine authority to decide when life begins or ends. In other words, the fallible human does not have the knowledge, especially knowledge of future outcomes, attributed to divine omniscience and would make a disaster in the attempt. “Men ought not to play God before they learn to be men, then, after they have learned to be men, they will not play God” (Ramsey, 1970).
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Creating humans or other living beings by utilizing cloning methods described in this discussion is unethical. Overwhelming scientific evidence suggests that such techniques are not safe at this progression in the state of cloning technology. Even if apprehension regarding the physical and psychological well being of patients were to be resolved, major concerns would continue regarding the destructive influence and the potential for abuse that the technology would cause to both society and to individuals. Human cloning, through somatic cell nuclear transfer, will never be an ethical consideration because it undercuts essential social values that hold together the fabric of society and that cloning will always pose the risk of causing psychological and physical harm to people.
Brock, D.W. “The non-identity problem and genetic harm,” Bioethics 9:269-275, 1995. Web.
Di Bernadino, M.A. “Genomic Potential of Differentiated Cells.” New York: Columbia University Press. (1997).
McGee, Glenn. “Primer on Ethics and Human Cloning.” Philadelphia, PA: University of Philadelphia. (2001).
Ramsey, P. “Fabricated Man: The Ethics of Genetic Control.” New Haven: Yale University Press. (1970).
Robertson, J.A. “A Ban on Cloning and Cloning Research is Unjustified.” [Testimony Presented to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission]. (1997).