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Some Human Cloning Ethics Explored

By Edited Apr 24, 2016 1 0


There are a few historic notes to remind you of the lead up to the human cloning debate and the ethics questioned:

  • 1978 - The year of the first test tube baby born, Louise Brown. In vitro fertilization (IVF) ushered in a new way of reproduction that became and remains quite popular.
  • 1997 - Scientists in Scotland made the first adult mammal clone, Dolly, the lamb. This really incited the human cloning to be or not to be morality discussion.
  • 2003 - The year the Human Genome Project released the human gene sequence publicly. DNA tests resulting from the research are available for use to find out diagnosis of genetic conditions and diseases.

Just these highlights in the controversial history of reproduction have led to ethical questions regarding genetics.

Genetic engineering includes gene enhancement and gene replacement therapy. The enhancement manipulates the egg to improve the being's genetic code. But this is subject to an answer of "What is disease, what makes a human human, do gene interventions make us different, or just modify us?" Bioethicists don't all agree on the answers to these questions. Who decides?

Cloning is a procedural production of a genetically identical being through asexual reproduction. Immediately the use of the word asexual sets one at unease because it surely isn't bisexual which is how humans have reproduced, as in the normal knowledge of reproduction. Clones are thus, human inventions, and can be made for good or evil.

Genetic Engineering Pros:

  • Prolong human life - If aging genes are identified, they could be replaced or enhanced to prolong human life.
  • Direct human evolution - Through gene replacement or enhancement the human species could continue to evolve.
  • Desirable genes replicated - Get the good stuff from favorite musician, artist, actor, leader, etc.

Cloning Technology Pros:

  • Save extinct or endangered species.
  • Replace dying or dead children.
  • Customized drugs for individual genome.

Both have their cons also. First of all, genetic testing for diseases (depression, Alzheimers, Huntington's, alcoholism, etc.) can cause social stigmatization, anxiety, and discrimination. Mostly, it is a good thing because it is nice to know what is causing the symptoms, and if treatment is desirable. I had a genetic test for one of the most common genetic diseases (Hereditary Hemochromatosis) known. It is, unfortunately, one of the most misdiagnosed diseases also. I am a perfect example of that, as I was misdiagnosed for one year before I had the DNA test. It proved positive and I was treated and now continue maintenance for a common genetic mutation that could have killed me by now, or caused worse problems.

Many advances in gene research have actually enhanced people's lives. The side problems are ethical questions like, who has the right to know our genetic status? Can human DNA info be owned? In a way it is owned - by the labs that do the testing. Will employers mandate genetic testing? Will insurance companies be able to discriminate per a human's gene make-up? "Flawed" gene holders are at the mercy of what society deems prejudicial. Is homosexuality a disease? If so, should genetic engineering means be used solely for disease treatment - not enhancement, or improvement?

Cloning extinct animals from the past, like the recent mammoth find in Snowmass, CO, could definitely change an ecosystem here and there. It's a huge undertaking, but it may happen- didn't Jurassic Park show the evil side of cloning extinct animals? Doesn't this entertain a limited vision of God? I mean that man begins to make like God creates. It doesn't matter what a person's belief in a god is, if you have electricity or internet access- you know there is something greater out there. This isn't about religion, it's about human interaction with nature in a limiting way. Yes, we have what we think is the complete human genome sequence. We are using this information carefully. There is more to it than we know though. For instance, replacing a child by cloning will not really give the exact child back because the nurture part is different. The cloned child will not have DNA from both parents. The cloned child may not have the same dreams as the dead child. How does anyone know someone else's dreams?

A cloned being would be one with intended genes. Would this clone become a commodity, a super athlete, musician, artist, etc.? The human slave trade is still quite prosperous, and those aren't clones. Is there a master race in the making? The capacity to make designer babies is real, and possibly happening somewhere. It does feed the sci-fi hunger for possible outcomes. Sometimes I think the Chinese have been cloning forever because they have such a large population. The point is - we really don't know the entire makings of a human being- at least the present definition of human doesn't include clone. Human clones could be used for organ donation, military soldiering (just like drones), drug testers, and more genetic selection.

Even if future laws continue to ban cloning humans, they would have to be uniform throughout the earth, and that doesn't mean that they would be kept. Laws are broken continuously, and no matter how much control is involved in the breaking of or keeping laws, humans will continue to be human. There is the unknown (non-limiting) aspect to human nature, and curiosity about humanity is a big research by not only scientists.

Genetically modified plants are now quite common, and there has been no laws controlling the telling of whether a food is genetically modified. Crops that are cloned may produce a greater yield, and could be used to end world hunger. Cloned animals are abundant and used in drug testing. So are xenotransplants being tested. That means an organ from a different species is used. Humans are considered to be 90 plus percent animal- humans and animal DNA is similar. So, should a line be drawn about this justification of nonhuman animals given human genes to make organs more suitable to ours? Many humans believe there is a moral here that is being transgressed: the separation of humans and nonhuman animals is really not that great. If so, what right is it of ours to destroy or clone another animal?

Is cloning de-humanizing? Surely people can get tested for a disease, but may not be able to get treatment, and may be villified for having no means of care - an untouchable, like lepers, or AIDS victims. Should donor consent be mandated before any genetic testing becomes mandatory, better yet, will it be?

"Human nature becomes merely the last part of nature to succumb to the technological project, which turns all of nature into raw material at human disposal, to be homogenized by our own rationalized technique according to the subjective prejudice of the day." (pg 165) (Analyzing Moral Issues, third ed., Judith Boss)

Lamb photo from FreeFoto.com



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