“It’s a busy morning in the cloning laboratory of the big-city hospital. As always, the list of patients seeking the lab’s services is a long one–and, as always, it’s a varied one. Over here are the Midwestern parents who have flown in specially to see if the lab can make them an exact copy of their six-year-old daughter, recently found to be suffering from leukemia so aggressive that only a bone marrow transplant can save her. . . . In nine months, the parents, who face the very likely prospect of losing the one daughter they have, could find themselves raising two of her–the second created expressively to keep the first alive” (Kluger p. 67).
This is just one of the many scenarios people are imagining after the successful cloning–manipulating a cell from an animal so that it grows into an exact duplicate of that animal–of the sheep, Dolly. It is not the first time that cloning a mammal has been accomplished; however, it is the first time that a mammal has been cloned from an adult cell, not an embryonic one (Nash). The new cloning technique is raising many questions, the most controversial being the possibility of human cloning. Scientists say that, theoretically, the process used to clone Dolly would work for humans as well (Herbert). However, the cloning of humans should be regulated because of ethical, moral and religious issues.
On March 4, 1997, President Clinton temporarily banned federally funded research for human cloning in the U.S., and gave the National Bioethics Advisory Commission 90 days to report on whether human cloning should be banned or regulated (“Clinton Bans. . .”). In June, the Advisory Commission recommended that Congress impose a five year ban on human cloning (Rosenblatt). President Clinton endorsed the ban, stating that, “Each human life is unique, born of a miracle that reaches far beyond laboratory science” (“Clinton Endorses. . .”). Many members of the commission, including scientists who have been opposed to legislative restrictions in the past, are also endorsing the proposed law, citing that cloned babies would have a high risk of “developmental defects and other physical abnormalities” (Rosenblatt). Even Ian Wilmut, the scientist who created Dolly, is against human cloning, categorizing it as “ghastly” and “appalling” (Carlin).
Theologians are also against human cloning, but for different reasons. Catholic opposition is due in large part to their belief that “natural moral law” prohibits most types of tampering with human reproduction. Protestant and Jewish theologians encourage the use of technology to improve nature, but agree that human cloning would cross the line (Herbert).
Banning all research on human cloning may be premature; if, for example, scientists discover a way to clone individual organs and tissues for transplants and treatment of diseases, this type of cloning would be beneficial. However, regulations on human cloning are needed in order to prevent it from becoming out of control.
One of the most significant arguments in favor of human cloning is that children who need bone marrow or organ transplants could clone themselves and be provided with a matching donor. This seems like a good idea, as it would increase the chance for a compatible donor from approximately 25% to almost 100%. Most experts agree, however, that if a child sensed that he had been created for the sole purpose of providing organs or tissues for someone else, it would be psychologically harmful to him (Herbert). It is possible the cloned child would be well cared for, but not well loved (Kluger). Experts also worry that the child would lack a sense of free will and question his own self-identity. If the child felt obligated to follow in the older sibling’s footsteps, it would be an offense against the individual dignity of a person (“DFG”).
The possibility for couples to overcome infertility also makes human cloning appealing to some. For instance, if the man were infertile, the couple could choose to clone one of themselves rather than to involve another man or to adopt a child (Herbert). Father Richard McCormick, a Jesuit priest at the University of Notre Dame insists that, “Infertility is not an absolute evil that justifies doing any and everything to overcome it” (Woodward). Ethicists agree that adult cloning is “bizarre. . . narcissistic and ethically impoverished.” Adults who raise themselves would be raising children who are also their twins. The words “mother” and “father” would no longer fit the traditional meaning; under normal circumstances, each parent supplies half of the DNA in an offspring, but this would no longer be the case with cloning. Instead, words like “original” and “copy” would have to be used. Ethicists say that this confusion would “jeopardize our very sense of who’s who in the world, especially in the family” (Herbert).
Megalomania, a desire to reproduce one’s own qualities, is another reason some would like for human cloning to be attempted. A person who wants to clone himself “is overwhelmingly self-centered” and thinks much too highly of his personal qualities (Woodward). While some argue that cloning oneself with no purpose in mind is unacceptable, they believe that cloning someone like Einstein is acceptable. The production of superior beings like Einstein leads directly to eugenics, an attempt to improve the human race.
Eugenics is yet another reason some people support the cloning of humans. For example, thousands of geniuses, super-athletes, models, etc. could be cloned in an attempt to improve the human race. However, this would not work because everyone cannot agree as to which traits would improve society as a whole (Kluger). Nigel Cameron, head of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity at Trinity International University, explains that, “Part of our notion of human dignity is that we are different. Cloning humans diminishes the dignity in all of us (Carlin). Some ethicists are also concerned that eugenics might lead to the creation of a new social class: “the clones” (Herbert).
If the cloning of humans is not regulated for ethical, moral and religious issues, the future of society looks troubled. The negative results human cloning would bring outweigh by far any of the possible positive results. Only time will tell whether or not this controversial issue can be resolved.