Human cloning as an assisted reproductive tool has numerous harmful effects. The goals of human cloning include creating human beings or developing human tissues for empirical studies. The practice is now the subject of discourse with critical implications on moral, economic, and political issues among others.
This report evaluates various harmful effects associated with human cloning. The effects are broadly categorized into three, including effects on health, sociopolitical and ethical issues. Under the health issues, are various effects, which are associated with the uncertainty and the failure rate of cloning. The harmful ethical effects of cloning include issues pertaining to human dignity, human rights, and the expected social treatment of clones. Sociopolitical effects are discussed as legislative, criminal, and regulatory issues associated with human cloning while critical issues related to ethics are raised.
The report concludes that human cloning is dangerous and unsafe and, therefore, total or partial bans should be imposed appropriately. As such, more research aimed at improving efficiency and social inclusion is recommended. Further, a proper and standardized definition of terms should be adopted in order to efficiently regulate research on fertilization.
Human cloning can be termed as asexual reproduction that leads to the production of genetically identical human beings. The reproduced organisms (which have a genetic makeup similar to the original organism) are referred to as clones. 1
Researchers and scientists have cloned a wide range of “biological materials, including genes, cell organs, and other organisms”. 1 The successful cloning of the sheep “Dolly” in 1997 unlocked the discussions about the possibilities of human cloning. Unlike in the past when the discussions were limited to the scientific and medical realms, the current discussions involve people from all walks of life, including religious leaders, politicians, and global leaders, human rights activities among other groups.
Human cloning is among the most controversial topics, eliciting both support and opposition from various groups. Protagonists for human cloning perceive cloning as an exciting step forward that permits genetic engineers to lessen uncertainties associated with natural reproduction. Other proponents argue that freedom of reproductive choice and freedom for scientific inquiry should be upheld.
On the other hand, those against the idea of human cloning argue that the practice is an attack on human dignity and an abuse of human rights. Further, opponents of human cloning do not see any strong, self-justifying and substantiated opinions supporting cloning as an alternative for getting children.
Several countries have passed regulations that either partially or totally ban human cloning. The UK and Germany, for instance, have outlawed human cloning as a method of child reproduction. However, cloned embryos of not more than two weeks may be used in biomedical research in the UK. The Weldon-Stupak Bill was passed in the US banning all human cloning. In 2009, however, the Obama Presidency lifted the ban on stem cell research, an activity that experts argued that created an opportunity for human cloning (Stolberg, 2009). 2 Efforts by the UN and other international organizations to outlaw human cloning globally are apparent. However, these attempts are hindered by several differences, especially on a specific global ban to pass.
The variations in approaching the issue of human cloning could be linked to numerous biological and social effects it has caused. This report discusses the numerous harmful effects associated with human cloning.
The debate on human cloning remains among the most controversial discussions globally. While some consider human cloning a scientific breakthrough, opponents consider human cloning as a retrogressive practice.
Animal cloning has been relatively successful (amidst many challenges), especially with the success of “Dolly” creation. However, human cloning still faces multiple challenges some of which include the uncertainty and high failure rates of animal cloning. The practice has generally faced a myriad of problems, which are likely to be experienced in human cloning too.
The purpose of this report is to demonstrate that the human cloning phenomenon is associated with adverse effects. Thus, the paper suggests that human cloning should be given appropriate caution taking into consideration the high risk of failure and many harmful effects it has.
This report discusses the harmful effects of human cloning. Human cloning has a number of problems ranging from low success rates, adverse social impacts, damaging medical outcomes to the embryo, political issues, moral, and religious concerns among other issues. The paper gives recommendations on the way forward for human cloning.
Many critics of cloning have generally agreed that it is downright risky to perform human cloning. In most cases, risks are attributed to death before birth or severe abnormalities if at all the cloned humans have survived to birth. 3 This warning relies on multiple high failure rates noted in cloned animals. Sample noted that Wolf Reik of Babraham Institute, Cambridge had observed that nearly 99 percent of clones die while in the womb or experience severe genetic abnormalities. 3 That is, cloning humans by somatic cell nuclear transfer is purely ineffective. In fact, the achievement rate can range from less than zero percent to a maximum of three percent. 4 That is, only 30 clones may succeed from 1,000 procedures. 4
Scientists have attributed high failure rates to several factors. First, the incompatibility of the transferred nucleus and eggs without nucleus contributes to cloning failures. Second, failure in proper division or development of an egg containing transferred nucleus also leads to failures in cloning. Third, during the “embryo implantation into the surrogate women, the process may be unsuccessful”. 4 Finally, clone pregnancy may also fail. As such, critics have directly expressed that the use of nuclear transfer for human reproduction cannot be allowed because it is impossible to evade all risks associated with trial and error. 5
Cloning of human has drawn major criticism, and discourses tend to assess drawbacks of human cloning from various perspectives, including health, sociopolitical and moral. 6
Potential multiple cases of health complications have been linked to human cloning. While it is difficult to ascertain the extent of risks prior to the procedure, such health risks are known to exist. Human cloning leads to reduced gene pool, which renders the body weak to resist most infectious disease, particularly for mutating types. It is noted that human clones are most likely to face increased health threats from mutating infectious parasites. Possibly, cloned humans may die from a single infection relative to other individuals conceived naturally who possess better gen distribution. The group impact is most likely to overwhelm the human race if cloned humans increase in numbers because of their impaired immunity systems.
Another health risk attributed to human cloning focuses on cell aging and potential birth abnormalities among successful births. Specifically, cases of increased risks of cancer, brain malfunction, kidney issues, and accelerated biological aging are rampant. Researchers have raised critical question on the age trajectory with reference to genes of clones relative to genes of the sources. It is believed that genes of cloned cells may fail to express the right genes at the right time, 7 or not regenerate the transferred nucleus. That is, genes may fail to copy normal natural development processes. Therefore, if genes of cloned individuals fail to regenerate as expected, then cloned humans may not live longer and proceed to experience severe cases of degenerative conditions ahead of time.
In addition, human cloning could lead to widespread birth defects if such persons start marrying and producing children with similar genes. The increased danger associated with weaker genes would escalate in the later generations while increasing health related complications.
While it is vital to recognize complications related to human cloning, it is equally important to avoid overstressing such challenges. 7 It is however important to point out objectively legitimate reasons for shunning human cloning. Scientists are therefore encouraged to delay their aspiration for human cloning until more information and possible interventions are available on health risks. Meanwhile, it is still impossible to identify genetic abnormalities generated through cloning procedures prior to birth. 3 This implies that further research is necessary before human clones can be allowed.
Human cloning has also been associated with some sociopolitical risks. These challenges are generally related to abuse of human clones if they possibly land among craze scientists, criminals, and politicians. In fact, instances of cloning misuse are widely captured in some literature. For instance, science fiction authors have often dwelt on possibilities of misusing human cloning if it becomes legal. Irrational researchers may use genetic engineering and cloning science to create humanoid species that are more dangerous to the original human race.
Criminals could develop duplicates of themselves and use such doppelgangers to evade law enforcement officers and escape justice. In addition, it is noted that dictators could strive to eternalize themselves or use cloning technologies to produce lethal armies to capture the entire world. In fact, some critics have thought of cloning in relations to Hitler and the Aryan race. 8 Lastly, social engineers with uncontrollable behaviors may want to establish a complete authoritarian influence by using widespread, reproductive cloning.
Of course, fiction writers imagined these risks. However, they are not trivial because science has proved that adult mammals can be cloned successfully. That is, cloning is now beyond scientific fiction and could happen in reality. The possibilities of misusing human clones should inform decision-making on the most effective ways to establish a control before human clones are unleashed. Woo Suk Hwang cloning scandal highlights how scientists could misuse human cloning science to achieve their intended goals. 5
Furthermore, several risks are linked to human cloning. The unwanted outcomes of misusing human clones could raise legal, political, and ethical issues. Given such dangers, visionaries have already called for a total ban of human cloning. 9 This implies that no individual should assume that no risks associated with human cloning exist. The decision to ban human cloning is the best for the human race. Therefore, any persons who believe that a ban is not warranted should bear the burden of proof.
Moral risks, although not regarded widely, could be equally difficult to overcome due to immoral outcomes associated with human cloning. Such risks are inevitable even if sufficient measures are implemented to curb risks associated with misuse and human health. These risks may classified as human dignity and worth trivialization; curtailing human freedom; possibilities of inevitable discrimination; and mass commercialization of human species.
Human Dignity and Worth
Cloning human is tantamount to trivialization of human life, dignity, and worth. 10 Any attempts to portray humans as less important, less worthy and less useful lead to trivialization, which denies them respectful treatment expected for human beings. Human cloning, if legalized, enhances the possibility of trivialization of human worth and dignity by lessening the inherent value attached to humans. This situation will perhaps lead to confusion about the relevance of human life. Human dignity and worth are regarded as strong aspects for moral valuation necessary to sustain cultured social order.
While some proponents may relate human cloning to identical twin naturally conceived and argue with regard to selfhood and threats to individuality because of the inevitable resemblance, they must however focus on the increased number of genetically identical people and possible impacts on the public perception. It occurs because of the concerns of the potential impacts of mingling the real human race with large number of genetically identical human clones. This situation would automatically lead to identity confusion to due lack of history, past, and unknown future for human clones.
Human clones can also threaten human dignity and worth in other ways. For instance, several ideas have been raised on the possibilities of raising another child from a dead one to console grieving parents about their loss. The cells from the deceased may be used to produce another child. Cloning further enhances trivialization of human dignity particularly when it is used to replace certain body parts. Aging persons or victims of accidents, for instance, may use cloning to replace their degenerated body components.
While it is worth to use science to save human lives, the interest in human cloning to achieve such objectives depicts that individuals may be willing to disregard moral positions and use humans as tools to experiment on possibilities of living longer. As such, legal human cloning will lead to unnecessary to pressure to conduct experiments and develop human instruments that could detrimental and, therefore, leading to immoral use of human clones to achieve certain desirable outcomes to serve the benefits of certain individuals.
Curtailing Human Freedom
Crazed scientists and politicians are most likely to use to human cloning to achieve certain immoral goals. Specifically, the alteration of human gene pool to produce the most preferred strain of human clones will be highly tempting. This possibility is most likely to threat human freedom, particularly of the undesired races. While it may not be fully attained, scientists are always tempted to achieve more beyond the expectation. Hence, this idea could look more likely and reasonable to them.
It is also possible for scientists to collaborate with policymakers to introduce the aspect of expert control. That is, human clones without any expert control could be reckless science. Thus, the desire to control the gene pool is most likely. Scientists will focus on potential threats from human clones to divert attention from risks associated with the heavy government regulations on human reproduction. Should this situation arise, it will occur by disregarding multiple moral obligations, principles, and human rights. Consequently, the inherent need to respect human freedom, obligations of self-reproduction, human sanctity, the superiority of human over the state on procreation, human privacy, and independence among others will also disappear.
Possibilities for Discrimination
There are possibilities that human cloning would open new avenues for human discrimination. Odious discrimination is not morally right. It generally involves assessing the moral significant of individuals by judging their self-worth and dignity. This judgment does not have any moral support. Engaging in assessing the worth and dignity of other persons is generally wrong, and moral persons should avoid such practices. In fact, it is sensible to avoid any situations that could lead to such judgments. The possibility of human cloning will open new opportunities for odious discrimination through putting a value on human clones because of their different or weak genetic makeups.
While one may imagine a society free of discrimination and allow human clones to thrive, it would be difficult to ensure that all persons refrain from judgment and imagination on cloning, sexual origin, gene composition, and desirability of individuals against other individuals. Therefore, discrimination of human clones will naturally occur. In fact, it will be impossible to control discrimination. As the population of cloned people increases, odious discrimination will also increase.
Such threats have often been associated with the Nazi actions and some comments attributed to its members particularly with the references to clone individuals of only Aryan race while the undesirable race like Jewish, for instance, would be extinct by now. These observations are accurate. For instance, the decision on specific persons to be cloned to be biased. Individuals may be subjected to screening to identify the best candidates for cloning. Screening will obviously lead to discrimination and the pressure will mount as human cloning becomes widespread.
Human Life Commercialization
Entrepreneurs are most likely to exploit new opportunities that would emerge from human cloning for the purpose of economic gains. Trading in human life is highly immoral practice. In fact, it is unacceptable violation of human rights, dignity, decency, equal treatment, and sanctity attached to human life. Human cloning could take back people to the period of slavery and slave trade. Human cloning poses a significant threat to gains achieved in combating human trafficking and immoral economic gains. As more scientists get patents on certain discoveries on human genome and the receive court backing on the claim of ownership and possibilities of selling such genes, odious, immoral acts will persist on the human race.
The legal system has already granted rights of ownership and subsequent commercialization of human cells. Consequently, scientists will automatically benefit from human cell business. It will however be difficult to control commercial interests for entrepreneurship who wish to focus on the business of human clone production. The action of the courts will raise difficult legal and moral questions on commercialization of human life specifically with attempts to put commercial claims and ownership. A tussle could rise between the entrepreneur and the individual providing the genetic code for commercialization.
Besides, it would be immoral for people to benefit commercially from trading on their body genetic codes. This practice may be compared to the idea of generating humans for a slave trade. It would be interesting to see how human clones and originating persons claim identity after several generations and claim genetic codes once sold. Besides, it is not clear how human body parts obtained from cloning would be sold to other parties. These are technical inevitable issues associated with human cloning and subsequent commercialization.
These issues raised are likely to be experienced once human cloning is legalized and commercialized. As such, they reflect the reality and challenges that must be addressed as societies seek to sustain human dignity and worth. Given the possibility of performing successful human cloning, all stakeholders must not ignore its risks, including a new form of slavery associated with the commercialization of genetic codes and human clone products. In fact, human cloning presents massive economic opportunities, which many entrepreneurs would like to exploit, and as such, they face pressure to make it a reality.
Banning Human Cloning
It is generally acknowledged that cloning of embryos for meaningful research efforts should continue and there is no pressure to ban the practice. 9 According to Caulfield, a lack of well-thought analysis on the issue of human dignity impedes the any potential meaningful public debate on human cloning and, therefore, the issue of the value of human dignity is trivialized as a benchmark to the extent that it becomes difficult to evaluate any proposal objectively. Nevertheless, most policymakers have disapproved human cloning for human reproduction activities.
First, studies in cloning may be supported by a functional claim that the ultimate outcome could lead to treatment of millions of individuals and saving millions of lives relative to lives of embryos that would be compromised during the experiment. 9 However, ethical issues still arise because the practice lacks ethical justification when even a single life is sacrificed for real or possible benefits of human cloning.
Second, human cloning considers human life as a means to an end. In this case, irrespective of the age, the position is unethical. Even proponents of embryonic stem cell studies and other researchers have agreed that the development of special embryos purely for research purposes is not acceptable. 9 Nevertheless, this is exactly what human cloning entails. Therefore, to avoid raising any further concerns, researchers have stressed that human cloning for research does not involve human embryos. Instead, the practice entails activation of cells. Others have focused on the term ‘cloning’ to eliminate it from the research. Instead, researchers want the phrase ‘nuclear transplantation’ to be used. At the same time, some members of the Senate have sought to drop the use of ‘therapeutic cloning’ due to its relationship with cloning and therefore could stir opposition.
Third, human cloning would automatically promote a widespread abuse of mothers, particularly for experiments. For instance, scientists require large volumes of women eggs to develop adequate cloned embryos to increase chances of success. To achieve this aim, several women are required for superovulatory drug injections and for invasive surgeries. 9 Most of these injections have been associated with nausea and abdominal pains in three to five percent in which some experience hyperstimulation with severe pains.
In rare circumstances, such women may undergo surgery and become infertile. Women who undergo the processes associated with human cloning are oftentimes driven by the desire to earn some cash rewards as opposed to other women who need vitro fertilization for babies. In fact, women could earn between $3,000 and $4,000 for egg donation when the experiment failed. This could open an opportunities for researchers to exploit women from poor socioeconomic classes.
Overall, human cloning has several unaddressed risks, specifically the challenges for human harm. In addition, other critical issues relate to moral and sociopolitical issues. Cloned persons may also have difficulties in relating with other members of the society without discrimination while the issue of freedom, human sanctity, freedom, and commercialization raise major concerns.
While these are some of the challenges facing human cloning, some researchers have also focused on emotional and psychological harm to individuals. 9 Hence, it is important to assess social aspects of human cloning. 6 In fact, critics argue that human cloning should never happen and its possibility could lead to a new dangerous world. During human cloning discourses, moral, ethical, scientific, sociopolitical, and medical issues have taken the center stage. Nevertheless, one must not underestimate the possibility of real human clones in the future.
The discussion above provides evidence that shows numerous harmful effects of human cloning. The progress realized with animal cloning and the associated objectives and goals are not exactly suitable for humans due to the grave effects noted.
This report has shown that many harmful effects (on health, sociopolitical, and moral realms) propel human cloning controversy. First, human cloning is associated with health risks such as widespread birth defects/abnormalities, the possibilities of weaker genes in later generations, brain malfunctioning, kidney problems, and the possibility that the realization of the desired outcome may not be achieved.
In the moral realms, the report has revealed that human cloning has adverse effects. Human cloning will lower human dignity, limit human freedom, raise the level of discrimination (against the clones), and the possibilities of commercialization of human species.
The sociopolitical risks associated with human cloning include both legislative and criminal risks.
Moreover, some scientific findings may be subjective and not appeal to the intended audience. It is imperative to note that allowing human cloning would not only drastically alter the existing concepts of humanity and of proliferation, but also put thousands of embryos at myriads of risks.
From the conclusion of this report, is imperative for all the stakeholders to implement the following recommendations.
Under the current technological conditions, human reproductive cloning should not be practiced since it is both unsafe and likely to fail. As such, countries should impose legally enforceable bans on human reproductive cloning. However, there should be provisions for reviews on the ban.
Each nation should consider giving their inspectors authority to all type of facilities to ensure legislation is upheld.
There should be a standardized definition of the human embryo to regulate research in fertilization. Research on fertilization should be limited to first cell division.
Therapeutic cloning that uses the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) should only be allowed in countries with technological sufficiency and proper regulatory and legislative systems.
Science must serve the human interest and, therefore, societal, ethical, religious, and political issues should affect decisions on scientific paths to explore. Besides, policymakers while incorporating concerns of human dignity should consider well-thought analyses and discourses to determine the best policies for human cloning.
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