To clone or not to clone
Cloning humans has recently become a possibility that seems much more feasible in today’s society than it was twenty years ago. It is a method that involves the production of a group of identical cells or organisms that all derive from a single individual (Grolier 220). It is not known when or how cloning humans really became a possibility, but it is known that there are two possible ways that we can clone humans. The first way involves splitting an embryo into several halves and creating many new individuals from that embryo. The second method of cloning a human involves taking cells from an already existing human being and cloning them, in turn creating other individuals that are identical to that particular person. With these two methods almost at our fingertips, we must ask ourselves two very important questions: Can we do this, and should we? There is no doubt that many problems involving the technological and ethical sides of this issue will arise and will be virtually impossible to avoid, but the overall idea of cloning humans is one that we should accept as a possible reality for the future.
Cloning presents as much a moral problem as a technical problem. Cloning is an affront to religious sensibilities; it seems like “playing God,” and interfering with the natural process. There are, of course, more logical objections, regarding susceptibility to disease, expense, and diversity. Others are worried about the abuses of cloning. Cloning appears to be a powerful force that can be exploited to produce horrendous results.
Cloning may reduce genetic variability, Producing many clones runs the risk of creating a population that is entirely the same. This population would be susceptible to the same diseases, and one disease could devastate the entire population. One can easily picture humans being wiped out be a single virus, however, less drastic, but more probable events could occur from a lack of genetic diversity. For example, if a large percentage of an nation’s cattle are identical clones, a virus, such as a particular strain of mad cow disease, could effect the entire population. The result could be catastrophic food shortages in that nation.
Cloning is currently an expensive process. Cloning requires large amounts of money and biological expertise. Ian Wilmut and his associates required 277 tries before producing Dolly. A new cloning technique has recently been developed which is far more reliable. However, even this technique has 2-3% success rate.
There is a risk of disease transfer between transgenic animals and the animal from which the transgenes were derived. If an animal producing drugs in its milk becomes infected by a virus, the animal may transmit the virus to a patient using the drug.
Any research into human cloning would eventually need to be tested on human. The ability to clone humans may lead to the genetic tailoring of offspring. The heart of the cloning debate is concerned with the genetic manipulation of a human embryo before it begins development. It is conceivable that scientists could alter a baby’s genetic code to give the individual a certain color of eyes or genetic resistance to certain diseases. This is viewed as inappropriate tampering with “Mother Nature” by many ethicists.
Because clones are derived from an existing adult cell, it has older genes. Will the clone’s life expectancy be shorter because of this? Despite this concern, so far, all clones have appeared to be perfectly normal creatures.
A “genetic screening test” could be used to eliminate zygotes of a particular gender, without requiring a later abortion.
Cloning might be used to create a “perfect human,” or one with above normal strength and sub-normal intelligence, a genetic underclass. Also, if cloning is perfected in humans, there would be no genetic need for men.
Cloning might have a detrimental effect on familial relationships. A child born from an adult DNA cloning of his father could be considered a delayed identical twin of one of his parents. It is unknown as to how a human might react if he or she knew he or she was an exact duplicate of an older individual.
Supporters of cloning feel that with the careful continuation of research, the technological benefits of cloning clearly outweigh the possible social consequences. In their minds, final products of cloning, like farm animals, and laboratory mice will not be the most important achievement. The applications of cloning they envision are not nightmarish and inhumane, but will improve the overall quality of science and life. Cloning will help to produce discoveries that will effect the study of genetics, cell development, human growth, and obstetrics. Human cloning is not the issue, it is merely a threat to the continuation of cloning research. Their arguments for such research are displayed here.
Cloning might produce a greater understanding of the cause of miscarriages, which might lead to a treatment to prevent spontaneous abortions. This would help women who can’t bring a fetus to term. It might lead to an understanding of the way a morula (mass of cells developed from a blastula) attaches itself to the uterine wall. This might generate new and successful contraceptives.
Cloning experiments may add to the understanding of genetics and lead to the creation of animal organs that an be easily accepted by humans. This would supply limitless organs to those in need. The growth of the human morula is similar to the growth at which cancer cells propagate. If information derived from cloning research allows scientists to stop the division of the human ovum, a technique for terminating cancer may be found.
Cloning could also be used for parents who risk passing a defect to a child. A fertilized ovum could be cloned, and the duplicate tested for disease and disorder. If the clone was free from defects, then other would be as well. The latter could be implanted in the womb.
Damage to the nervous system could treated through cloning. Damaged adult nerve tissue does not regenerate on its own. However, stem cells might be able to repair the damaged tissue. Because of the large number of cells required, human embryo cloning would be required.
In in-vitro fertilization, a doctor often implants many fertilized ova into a woman’s uterus and counts on one resulting in pregnancy. However, some women can only supply one egg. Through cloning, that egg could be divided into eight zygotes for implanting. The chances of pregnancy would be much greater.
Cloning would allow a women to have one set of identical twins instead of going through two pregnancies. The women may not want to disrupt her career, or would prefer to only have one pregnancy. With cloning it would be assured that they would be identical.
Cloning could provide spare parts. Fertilized ova could be cloned into several zygotes, one would be implanted and the others would be frozen for future use. In the event the child required a transplant, another zygote could be implanted, matured, and eventually contribute to the transplant. Some believe that if a parent wanted to produce talents in a child similar to his own, cloning using DNA from the cell of the adult may produce a child with the same traits. Many are skeptical about this possibility.
No matter what we say or do, research for cloning will steadily continue and even more moral and ethical issues will arise. Who knows which of the two kinds of cloning will become the most popular in the future, but right now the main stand we need to take is whether or not it can be done and should be done. Who knows if human cloning done in research labs presently will go beyond the laboratory and affect individuals lives. What we do know however, is that cloning seems to very appealing in some aspects and very frightening in others. Barbara Ehrenreich makes a quite humorous pun commenting on coming possibility of cloning humans. She states,”When the technology arrives for cloning adult individuals , genetic immortality should be within reach of the average multimillionaire. Ross Perot will be followed by a flock of little re-Rosses” (86).