Friday, 16 November 2012
Imagine a world where a maniacal dictator or a terrorist organization harnesses the ability to clone a ‘superman’ soldier, creating an invincible army, where a wealthy genius clones himself to expand his empire. Imagine a world with perfect humans, where parents would be able to conceive children at the time of their choice and with their chosen specifications. Imagine a world where humans become mere objects that can be created and destroyed at will. Such a world is possible and even probable, thanks to cloning. Cloning can be defined in general terms as duplication. In biological terms, “cloning describes the processes used to create an exact genetic replica of another cell, tissue or organism. The copied material, which has the same genetic makeup as the original, is referred to as a clone. Cloning mainly has two types, Reproductive cloning, which creates copies of whole animals and Therapeutic cloning, which creates embryonic stem cells. Researchers hope to use these cells to grow healthy tissue to replace injured or diseased tissues in the human body” (“Cloning: MedlinePlus”). All types of cloning use the same basic technique called nuclear transfer. “This cloning is accomplished by transferring the nucleus from a human somatic (body) cell into an egg cell which has had its chromosomes removed or inactivated.” (Prentice). An unfertilized egg cell is extracted from a donor, its nucleus is removed and is replaced with the nucleus of an adult donor cell such as a skin cell. This results in the fertilization of the egg cell and forming into an embryo. “The clone is created as a new, single-cell embryo and grown in the laboratory for a few days. Then it is either implanted in the womb of a surrogate mother (“reproductive cloning”) or destroyed to harvest its embryonic stem cells for experiments (“therapeutic cloning”)” (Prentice). The first milestone in cloning technology was achieved by Robert Briggs and Thomas J. King in 1952, when they successfully cloned northern leopard frogs. In the following years, several other scientists conducted various experiments and did not manage to make any substantial breakthrough until Prof Ian Wilmut of The Roslin Institute, Edinbrough, Scotland managed to create Dolly, a female domestic sheep which was the first mammal to be cloned using the technique of nuclear transfer. The creation of Dolly was sufficient proof to establish that human cloning was theoretically possible. In 2001, Antinori and Zavos announced their plans to clone humans at a press conference organized as part of an International Workshop, which took place on 9 March 2001 in Rome (Nerlich). This announcement sparked a global debate regarding the ethics of cloning and whether human cloning should be allowed or not. Although many argue that cloning is beneficial as it is a source of organs and tissue and provides a treatment for infertility, however, cloning should not be allowed because it violates a person’s right to individuality, is medically unsafe, uses humans as a means and is condemned by all major faiths. It is argued by many biologists that using cloned tissues and organs are highly beneficial due to their potential for easy availability and perfect immunocompatibility. Access to human organs is very limited as the major source of supply of organs is deceased donors which fail to meet the demand by a substantial margin. Jeffry Platts reports, "So great is the demand that as few as 5% of the organs needed in the United States ever become available" (Savulescu). According to National Institute of health, USA, 87,820 patients were awaiting transplant in 2011 while only 17,413 transplants were performed during the year ("Kidney and Urologic Diseases Statistics for the United States Page”). The discrepancy in demand and supply is expected to increase further as David K. Copper reports, “The discrepancy between the number of potential recipients and donor organs is increasing by approximately 10-15% annually" (Savulescu). Not only is there shortage of organs, there is a problem of immunocompatibility (i.e. the degree of similarity between the tissues of different individuals, which determines the acceptance or rejection of transplanted organs). In order to overcome issues of immunocompatibility, immunoisolation therapy is performed which has several serious side effects such as greater risk of infections. Using cloning as a source for organs and tissue would provide a solution to these problems, as it has a potential for abundant supply and there is near perfect immunocompatibility. In order to create organs, the creation of an embryo will be required and the organ would then be extracted from either the fetus or from the cloned human after birth and the clone would then be disposed off. This method has a serious moral issue attached to it. It involves killing a life to save a life and is similar to abortion or even murder. Also, another possible problem with this approach is that it is liable to abuse. It can result in the existence of Black Markets of organs and these organs would be very highly priced. This would limit the access of these organs to the wealthy, making this method an inequitable solution to the problem of organ shortage. Cloning is deemed to be the most efficient treatment for infertility (i.e. The diminished ability or the inability to conceive and have offspring” ("Infertility Definition")). According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Annual Assisted Reproductive Techniques Report 2009, the currently practiced methods of infertility treatment such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilisation (IVF), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) have an overall success rate of 15 to 35% for women of ages 35 to 44 ("Success Rates National Summary and Fertility Clinic Reports."). It is argued that as the treatments are inefficient and inadequate, cloning is a more appropriate solution. However, reproductive cloning cannot guarantee a healthy child as cloning technology is not developed enough. There is also potential for overcharging and exploitation of infertile couples. Also, due to the high costs of cloning this form of treatment would only be limited to the wealthy. A better and more appropriate alternative would be adoption. According to UNICEF, there were 132 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2005 ("UNICEF - Press Centre - Orphans."). These startling statistics highlight the fact that these children need care and the best care they can get is if they are adopted. Moreover, if cloning substitutes adoption then the number of orphans left homeless would increase more rapidly which in turn would increase human suffering. Thus, the argument that cloning should be used for the treatment of infertility is flawed. The fundamental argument against human cloning is that if it is widely practiced, it will violate a person’s right to individuality and will diminish dignity. As cloning is copying an existing human being, it would result in an identity crises because the clone would be associated with the ‘original’. Rajkrishna Paul, in his essay “My life as a clone” expressed the feelings of a clone as, “I am what, which I don’t know, of course, I am a living creature, but what exactly I am and how am I born, I didn’t got an idea. Whats my age? All of these are a hidden mystery” (Paul). Paul’s writing reflects the probable thinking of a human clone and describes the possible confusion of identity. Many may argue that cloning is similar to identical twins, however, in the case of identical twins each twin has his/her individual identity and does not have to live in the shadow of another human but the case is different for a clone as Bruce Anderson, in his famous book “Let us Make Man” wrote, “What is a clone, anyway, but a person forced against his will to duplicate a life already lived? Doesn’t cloning imply ownership by the parents which denies the child’s freedom to develop his or her own nature” (Anderson). The cloned child would have concerns about his individual identity not only because he/she will be similar in appearance to an existing human being but also because that human would be his/her mother or father. Moreover, the clone child would be saddled to a human being that has already lived and will thus, fail to fully surprise the world with his/her hidden potential. The world will always compare the clone to his/her gene donor rather than considering the clone as a unique individual. Imagine a clone of a Nobel Prize winner trying to live up to that reputation and the resulting unreasonable psychological pressure on the cloned child. Furthermore, cloning can result in the reduction of genetic diversity. It may be argued that natural twins also have the same genes and cloning is no different. However the natural twinning occurs at a rate of 3.5/1000 children (Savulescu), which is insignificant to affect the genetic diversity and more than 99% of the people in the world would be unique. However, if cloning is widely practiced this ratio could rise drastically. Thus, cloning has the potential to trigger a grave identity crises. The cloning procedures give rise to various medical complications for the clone as well as the surrogate mother. Cloning technology at this stage is highly inefficient as producing a few cloned embryos a large supply of donor eggs would be needed. According to Hillary Bok, a Professor of Bioethics at John Hopkins University America, “Cloning causes animals to suffer. Egg donors must have their ovaries artificially stimulated with hormone treatments and their eggs surgically harvested. Given the unusually high rates of late-term miscarriages and high birth weights among clones, the surrogate mothers are at greater risk of dying or suffering serious complications than animals who become pregnant naturally. The clones, themselves, however, suffer the most serious problems: They are much more likely than other animals to be miscarried, have birth defects, develop serious illnesses,and die prematurely.”(Bok). As human cloning is theoretically based on animal cloning, thus the conclusions of Ms. Bok can be applied to human cloning as well. If human cloning is performed, the egg cells would have to be extracted from female cell donors which would require surgical procedures. According to an estimate it 50-100 eggs would be required to produce one embryo (Prentice). It took 277 tries to create Dolly (the first mammal to be cloned) and if human cloning is managed in even half the number of tries it took dolly, it would still require a large number of egg cells and thus, a substantial amount of donors would have to undergo surgeries which could pose serious health risks to the donors. Also, repeated miscarriages of the surrogate mother could damage her reproductive system and could make her unable to have children. Moreover, the physical health outcome of clones is unknown and cannot be predicted. Dolly lived for 6 years and developed serious arthritis and lung cancer although the normal life of a sheep is 12 years. If a couple opts for reproductive cloning instead of natural reproduction to prevent a genetic disease, it would be a great risk as the health of the clone cannot be guaranteed. Furthermore, Animal Cloning has been diagnosed with a problem called Large Offspring Syndrome due to which the clones have abnormally large organs. This can lead to breathing, blood flow and other problems. Thus, it can be reasonably said that the health risks of cloning are too high to be applied on humans. Cloning can result in the usage humans as a means and even objects to be created for a specific purpose. In his commentary on cloning, Alex Kahn wrote “The creation of human clones solely for spare cell lines would, from a philosophical point of view, be in obvious contradiction to the principle expressed by Emmanuel Kant: that of human dignity. This principle demands that an individual - and I would extend this to read human life - should never be thought of as a means, but always also as an end" (Harris). In the case of therapeutic cloning, egg cells are extracted from ‘donors’, and after fertilization embryos are either destroyed after the extraction of embryonic stem cells or these embryos are planted into a ‘surrogate’ so that organs and tissues can be extracted later. The usage of humans as surrogates and donors explicitly highlights the usage of humans as a means. The same technique is used in reproductive cloning except that the cloned embryos are allowed to fully develop into a child. Also, it is suggested that human clones may be created to provide specific organs for a patient and then disposed off after serving their purpose. This view assimilates humans to objects that are created at will and after their purpose is served, they are destroyed. Leon Kass, an American physician, scientist and bioethicist said “Cloning represents a very clear, powerful, and immediate example in which we are in danger of turning procreation into manufacture” ("Leon Kass Quotes”). Also, in the novel “A Brave New World”, the author, Alduous Huxley speculates a world in which specific classes of people will be cloned for specific jobs e.g. laborers, rulers, etc (Huxley). The usage of humans as a means is also referred to as instrumentalisation and a ban was placed on it by the European council by the signing of the treaty in 1998 which said “that the instrumentalisation of human beings through the deliberate creation of genetically identical human beings is contrary to human dignity and thus constitutes a misuse of biology and medicine” ("Additional Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, concerning Biomedical Research."). Thus, cloning is derogatory to human kind as it reduces human dignity and uses them as objects. Religious scholars throughout the world have raised several concerns over human cloning. Cloning is referred to as “Playing God”. This claim is based on the claims that “human beings should not probe the fundamental secrets or mysteries of life, which belong to God, that they lack the authority to make certain decisions about the beginning or ending of life and that such decisions are reserved to divine sovereignty. Human beings are fallible and also tend to evaluate actions according to their narrow, partial, and frequently self-interested perspectives. Human beings do not have the knowledge, especially knowledge of outcomes of actions, attributed to divine omniscience. Human beings do not have the power to control the outcomes of actions or processes that is a mark of divine omnipotence” (Rollin). In the case of reproductive cloning, humans are able to make decisions about the beginning of life to some extent. In the case of therapeutic cloning, humans destroy embryos, and by that they end life which is not their authority to decide as it is God who decides the fate of life. African American churches affirm, along with elements of historical Christianity, that human life begins at conception. The use of human embryos for medical research is problematic, since it involves experimentation on living human embryos rather than embryonic material. In addition, the tradition is concerned about the procedures required for creating embryos and those used in discarding embryos. Islam’s view against cloning is clear it describes persons who reject God and follow Satan as persons who “will change God’s creation” (The Qur’an , 4:119). Judaism’s view is described by Rabbi Jakobovits by highlighting the transcendent character of the person within Jewish thought: “...man, as the delicately balanced fusion of body, mind, and soul, can never be the mere product of laboratory conditions and scientific ingenuity.” The Orthodox Christianity Church believes cloning use will inevitably be abused, through such examples as “the commercialization of ‘prime’ DNA, production of children for the purpose of providing ‘spare parts,’ and movement toward creation of a ‘superior’ class of human beings”.(United States) It can be identified that various faiths have very similar views on human cloning. As cloning involves harming embryos and has severe side effects for the donors, surrogates as well as the clones, it is discouraged by most and even prohibited by various faiths. In the recent history various scientists have been conducting a range of experiments related to therapeutic and reproductive cloning and have theoretically established the possibility of human cloning. Initially, the benefits resulting from cloning seem promising. Therapeutic cloning promises the disabled and the patients needing organs and tissues a shining light of hope due to the potential for abundant availability and a very low chance of rejection. However, the method which scientists use to create these organs is morally and ethically wrong. Also, this method is liable to abuse as black markets for such organs can arise. Cloning is also viewed as an efficient cure for infertility. It may be efficient than most infertility treatments but a more appropriate alternative would be adoption. One of the significant potential threats from cloning is the loss of individual identity and human dignity. Also, cloning can cause various medical complications for the clone, the donor and the surrogate. It can result in the usage of humans as instruments to achieve a purpose. Moreover, cloning is generally opposed by all faiths as it is destined to crosses the boundaries set by God for humans. Thus, it can be reasonably concluded that cloning should be banned as positive aspects are negligible when compared to danger posed by human cloning. Works Cited "Additional Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, concerning Biomedical Research." Council of Europe - Treaty Office. European Union, 25 Jan. 2005. Web. 30 Dec. 2011.
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