The Ethics Comprehension of Cloning

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On March 11, 1997, a team of scientists in Scotland awed the world by announcing they had successfully cloned a sheep, Dolly. This astonishing accomplishment shifted the question from “is cloning possible” to “how far can we take this technology” (Timmer, 2017). It is just a matter of time until somewhere a human clone will be created. “It is not only a possibility but also a reality”. Cloning is an amazing technological advancement with unknown potential. However, along with potential benefits come detrimental risks and ethical issues. Everything must be done to halt cloning before it damages our world. When evaluating cloning, all types must be considered. There are three types of cloning: therapeutic cloning, gene cloning and reproductive cloning. All three types come with problems that must be evaluated. (Tirabassi, 1998)

Therapeutic cloning is when stem cells are taken from a human embryo with hopes that in the future those cells can be used to repair/replace damaged and diseased tissues and organs, without worrying about immune rejection. In therapeutic cloning, cells from a donor are extracted and placed in cells not related to reproduction (somatic cells). Therapeutic cloning could potentially help conditions such as paralysis, chronic heart attacks, and leukemia. “Therapeutic cloning is a new technology with great medical potential, particularly in the area of transplantation medicine.”(Lisker, 2003). At first thought, therapeutic cloning could be considered the answer as science develops. Cloning could uncover cures that would be beneficial to millions of people. The development of these techniques could save lives or prevent suffering for many. (Green, 2001) While this sounds ideal, there are obstacles and objections that stand in the way. Research cloning is likely to be too costly to be used in the course of routine medical procedures. The creation of cloned embryos would always be very labor intensive and expensive. Women's health advocates are concerned about the health and social justice implications of creating a market for human eggs in which most donors are likely to be impoverished women. (Lowthrope, 2016)

Although therapeutic cloning holds much potential to the public through cloned organs and provides research for diseases, the methods to obtain the necessary stem cells are dangerous and more expensive than the average person can afford. “10 billion eggs are needed from half a million women to make a viable stem cell. The procedures are painful and come with risks of cancer as well as infertility. Not only are the procedures dangerous, the cost to treat a single patient reaches over $100, 000,” (Kumar, 2010). Furthermore, therapeutic cloning is also a waste of time and money. Time and money will be required to create various government panels and boards that will be responsible for awarding grants and to build research facilities and education programs in order to train future stem cell researchers. Currently, almost all “stem cell research funding initiatives being considered on the state level entail bond issues that will ultimately cost tax payers at least twice their investment in embryonic stem cell research related expenditures,” (Fry-Revere, 2008). Many think that cloned embryos are said to be needed for research on embryonic stem cells that promise to revolutionize medicine.

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Scientists believe that embryonic stem cell research will lead to cures for many diseases and will provide tissues and organs for transplant and treatment of degenerative conditions. However, cloned embryos are not needed as a source of embryonic stem cells. “Most supporters of research cloning acknowledge, embryos created in IVF clinics can provide adequate numbers and varieties of stem cells for research purposes.” (Fry-Revere Elgin, 2008). Ultimately, therapeutic cloning is inconvenient and impractical and not in the best interest of society. Not only are there logistical issues, there are also moral issues. According to Senator Sam Brownback, the United States Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, “Creating cloned live-born children begins by creating cloned human embryos, a process which some also propose to create embryos for research or as sources of cells and tissues for possible treatment of other humans. The prospect of creating new human life solely to be exploited and destroyed in this way has been condemned on moral grounds by many as displaying a profound disrespect for life.” (Brownback, 2003). The basis behind cloning, even therapeutic, is unethical. By permitting therapeutic cloning, a gray area is formed and we move a step closer to reproductive cloning due to the processes being very similar.

Another type of cloning is gene cloning, in which gene of interest is located and copied (cloned) out of DNA extracted from an organism. It is used to genetically modify food or plants. Gene cloning is unsafe for us and the environment. It is evident by the fact that companies offer and advertise non-GMO (non-genetically modified) foods to satisfy consumers who aren’t sure about the safety of genetically modified foods. By genetically modifying an organism, not only is the singular organism affected but the whole species. The gene that is changed can be passed through generations, thus potentially putting a species in jeopardy. By permitting gene cloning, the safety of the environment is put in question. (Marvier, 2001) Gene cloning is also extremely dehumanizing. Cloning humans allows for humans to control the genes of the clone. People would no longer be genetically unique if clones were allowed in society (McKinnell, 1979) In addition to the numerous negative aspects of cloning, cloning lessens the diversity in our genes, and weakens our ability to adapt. In other words, if some day we all have the same genetic makeup and lose the technology of cloning, we would have to resort back to natural reproduction. Additionally, there is no benefit to creating an entire population of genetically identical members. (Green, 2001)

The last type of cloning is reproductive cloning, which is creating new life. “Genetic material is taken from an unfertilized egg. The egg is then filled with a nucleus of the subject intended to be cloned” (Nature Publishing Group, 2001). Religion is the primary argument against reproductive cloning. Reproductive cloning violates many central Christian, Hindu, and Islamic beliefs. Taking the responsibility of creating life asexually is like “playing God”. It isn’t natural. (Bainbridge, 2003) Another argument is the quality of life of the cloned organism. In an experiment conducted by Texas A&M University on cloned pigs, only 28 pigs from over 500 were successfully cloned (Muller Konig Doring Glebe Geyer, 2018). Typically, fewer than 10 percent of the cloned animals survived to birth. “The majority of losses are due to embryonic death, a failure during the implantation process, or the development of a defective placenta” (Howard, 2016). Dolly, the miracle clone, took over 277 attempts and died of severe lung disease in February 2003 (Seidel, 2019). As we can tell by these experiments, the success rates of clones are very low. Fewer than 10% of cloned animals, regardless of the species, survive. The ones that do survive suffer diseases. It is also unclear if a clone would want to be parented by the original, or technically its twin. “Cloning blurs relationships and radically ruptures family dynamics and parenthood.” (Chadwick, 1982). A cloned organism not only suffers from physical ailments, but they would also have to deal with deep psychological trauma. Reproductive cloning is not proven successful and creates unnatural relationships. (Rhind et al., 2003) (National Academy of Science, 2002)

As evident though these arguments, all three types of cloning carry risks that outweigh the benefits. Not only is cloning unsafe and lacks a high success rate, it also affects insurance companies, employers, and society. The disciplines of ethics, public health, and genetics would converge as a result. “Whether relatives of someone with a positive predictive genetic test should be notified of the results and risks is a matter urgently in need of debate. Such a debate must encompass the moral and ethical obligations of the diagnosing physician and the patient. The decision to inform or not will vary depending on what moral theory is used. The principles of justice and non‐maleficence will also play an important role in the decision,” (Fula Lynkens, 2006). New training would be required for medical professionals and an established set of morals and ethics would need to be determined. (Dinc, 2003) The public is realizing this potential threat in our future. As cloning becomes more of a reality, people need to become more aware of the dangers that cloning brings. In a survey conducted by Congress in May 2018, 51% voted that cloning is immoral while only 40% voted that is was moral. The rest had no opinion or claimed it depended on the situation. (Gallup, 2017). The nation is becoming aware of the future looming ahead of us. However, people still aren’t fully educated and aware of the negative implications cloning would have on society. (Evans, 2007)

The cloning debate has sparked a serious controversy between science and ethics, conversation of risks versus benefits. How far are we willing to push the limits of science? Will we allow our ethics be compromised in the name of progress? Cloning is unsafe, immoral and doesn’t have a proven success rate. There is no logical reason to force development where development is not needed. Cloning must be brought to a halt before the damage is irreversible.

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