Esmaeili is studying Computer Information Systems at Eastern Michigan University. E-mail Esmaeili at email@example.com
Early in 1997, Scottish scientist Dr. Ian Wilmot revealed to the world that he had successfully cloned an adult sheep, Dolly. With this invention, the world made a collective gasp at the realization that cloning was no longer a pipe dream or an element of a Science Fiction movie. Since then, human cloning has become one of the most debated topics in the world. From the schoolhouse to the White House, discussions began regarding the ethical implications of human cloning. In several recent polls by TIME magazine (The Ethics of Cloning, 1998 ), it was shown that 75 percent of the responding population thought that cloning wasn’t a good thing. Furthermore, 74 percent of the respondents believed that cloning was against God’s will, and when asked if they would clone themselves, if presented with the opportunity, 91 percent responded with a “no”. However, when asked to define human cloning, an estimated 95 percent of them couldn’t describe it correctly. As a matter of fact, in a personal interview with Miss. Weber, T.A. (personal interview, November 7,1998) when asked, “What do you think about human cloning?” responded, “I don’t know a lot about it, but I know it’s scary”. Opponents of human cloning argue that it is immoral and unethical to clone human beings for both religious and humanitarian reasons. Moreover, other opponents describe human cloning as a luxury for wealthy people or as a tool for organ market development. Conversely, I believe that human cloning can have many benefits for the human race in terms of helping infertile couples and people with genetic problems. In addition, it can be really helpful for a person with diseases such as kidney and liver defects or cancer.
First of all, it seems logical that one needs to know what the process of cloning involves. It is not enough to simply say that it is the creation of another person, which is what many uneducated people think. Although, there have been many proposed methods for cloning, only one of them has been successful so far. Put simply, cloning is the process in which the DNA of a female egg cell is replaced with different DNA from another cell. This technique is also called “Nuclear Transfer” or “Nuclear Substitution.” In the operation, the nucleus, which is the part of a cell and contains the DNA molecules from an unfertilized female egg cell, is carefully removed and then replaced with the nucleus from a cell of another person. Then, “the cell is manipulated into believing that it has been fertilized and is then implanted into the womb of the mother, just as is done in the process of in-vitro fertilization. Afterwards, the embryo develops into a fetus and is born after nine months, just like any other baby” (Shapiro, H. 1997. pp.14-17). What this means is that the cloned baby only differs from other babies in that they share the same exact DNA with another person, just like identical twins, only the clone is much younger than its twin. The child will grow up to be no more like their twin than natural identical twins are alike. Therefore, some peoples’ beliefs that human cloning is a complicated process, which involves techniques found in the movie Frankenstein, is unfounded.
It is true that science fiction novels and movies have given people the impression that human clones would be mindless zombies, Frankenstein monsters, or “doubles”. One can see that this is nonsense after reading about the actual process. Human clones would be regular people, not zombies. They would be carried and delivered after nine months by a human mother and raised in a family, just like everyone else. Consequently, a clone-twin will usually be much younger than the original person, and will not share a common memory. Thus, there is no danger of people confusing a clone-twin with the original person.
Another fear that some people have about this process is that evil dictators might abuse it. There are fears that unscrupulous dictators such as a modern day Adolph Hitler, or Saddam Hussein might try to perpetuate their power by creating a clone of themselves, and transferring power to the double when they die. Or maybe they believe that such people might try to create a super army of thousands of clones of Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc. Researchers understand that “A clone will not carry any of the memories of the original person. Because of these differences, the new double would have the same legal rights and responsibilities as any other human being” (Shapiro, H. 1997, p.74). Therefore, fears based on irrational ideas about cloning include the so called “10,000 Hitlers” scenario, or the idea that immoral dictators could use this process to create an army of clones of themselves to take over the world, are simply an unjustified fear. “First of all, to create 10,000 evil dictators you would need 10,000 women who are willing to carry an evil clone for nine months. Even then, it would take years for the babies to be raised to maturity”(Hume, 1997). Moreover, it could be argued that being “evil” is probably a learned behavior. Each of the ten thousand clones would be a product of their environment, which would not be the same environment in which Hitler (or whoever) was raised.
Other arguments against human cloning involve organ transplants and slavery. Sometimes people who oppose this scientific miracle think that millionaires might clone themselves to obtain organs for transplant. Or, there is a fear that the doubles would be used as slaves for organ banks, to be chopped up whenever a part is needed. This is one of the most ridiculous of all claims against cloning. For decades in China, prisoners have unwillingly had organs removed for sale on the black market. They were humans, not clones. However, a human clone is a human being. In a free society, you cannot force another human being to give you one of their internal organs. You certainly cannot kill another human being to obtain one of their organs. Existing laws already prevent such abuses. Note also that if your clone-twin is injured in an accident, society may want to intervene and declare that the act of organ transplant is prohibited. In fact, the removal of an organ from anyone, clone or not, for transplant into another person is a very questionable practice which must be stringently regulated. Moreover, cloning is not needed for there to be slaves- it was already an institution for hundreds of years in a clone-free America. Therefore, claims against cloning based on organ transplants and slavery are unfounded.
Some of the most commonly cited ethical and moral arguments against human cloning seem to come from people with religious perspectives. These religious arguments are made by people from all walks of life, including scientists. Many religious philosophies teach that human life is unique, and should be created, determined and controlled only by their god(s). Many religions believe in the existence of, and in the individuality of, a human soul. And the only person who can create a soul is God. Richard McCormick, for Christian Century, believes that “human cloning is an extremely social matter, not a question of mere personal privacy. I see three dimensions to the moral question: the wholeness of life, the individuality of life, and the respect for life”(p.148). Moreover, according to my research, many religions such as Judaism, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism think that human cloning is unnatural and is tantamount to “playing God.” This might be a valid argument if every person in the world shared the same religious beliefs and even believed in God. However, this is obviously not so. Religious diversity in America alone is too great to justify one sector determining the lawfulness or morality of anyone else’s beliefs. There are several practices that are not allowed by various religions, yet they are not outlawed. For example, The Jewish and Muslim faiths do not permit the consumption of pork, but anyone can still go to the supermarket and buy bacon. Catholics are not allowed by their faith to use contraception but condoms and birth control pills are still available to whomever wants them (Hume, 1997). So, many views of human cloning are influenced by religious beliefs. Indeed, banning this process because it does not correspond with some religious beliefs is in itself a corrupt idea.
In 1997, immediately after the news about Dolly broke out, some nations banded against the activity of human cloning. Currently, this process is illegal in England and Norway, for example, but it is not totally illegal in the U.S. However, President Clinton announced a ban on using federal funds for human cloning research and to appeal for a voluntary moratorium on any private research involving this process. As President Clinton said, “Any discovery that touches upon human creation is not simply a matter of scientific inquiry. It is a matter of morality and spirituality as well” (Land, R.D. 1997). These actions remind me of the story of Galileo, who first said that the earth is round and immediately after that, many people wanted to hang him. According to my personal studies, most people are usually fearful at first of new inventions and change. For example, when physicians first replaced a real heart, many groups of people called it unethical and opposed it. In my opinion, new inventions make life easier. Therefore, human cloning, as another new helpful technology, should be embraced instead of feared.
One of the biggest reasons for keeping cloning legal is the way that this technology can help infertile couples. There are many couples in the world in which one or both of the individuals is unable to naturally give their genes for the purpose of procreation. Moreover, “…about 15 percent of Americans are infertile, and doctors often cannot help them” (Eibert, 1998). However, through cloning, these people would have a chance to give birth to a child that is genetically related to them. This way, the parents will be assured that their genes will be passed on to future generations. It was announced in late 1997, by (the appropriately named) Dr. Richard Seed that he would open a fertility clinic in either the United States or Mexico by 1999 to help infertile couples using human cloning technology. Thus, human cloning will hopefully prove itself useful as a tool for infertility.
Other very important medical benefits could be obtained through cloning technology. For instance, it is possible throughout cloning to grow “spare parts” to be used in organ transplants. Once the cloning of a cell has been done and the cell has started dividing, it does not necessarily have to grow into an entire person. Researchers understand that through a series of tasks, they can hold the cell to develop into specialized cells or even complete organs. For example, “A heart or a kidney could be grown outside of the body to be used in organ transplants without fear of rejection from the recipient’s body, eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs” (Madeleine, M.J. 1998). Moreover, simpler tissues such as skin cells have already been cloned in laboratories for use in skin grafts for burn victims. Therefore, human cloning will also prove its usefulness in the production of organs in the future.
Another possible medical advance that could be developed through cloning research is the ability to cure genetic diseases. According to the Human Cloning Foundation, this process can help people with genetic problems; those who have a high risk for Down’s Syndrome can avoid that risk by cloning… we may be able to make livers for liver transplants, and kidneys for kidney transplants. We should be able to create bone marrow for children and adults who are suffering from leukemia, and we may learn how to switch cells on and off through cloning and thus be able to cure cancer (Human Cloning Foundation). Thus, before an artificially fertilized embryo is implanted a cell from the embryo, it could be cloned and analyzed for genes that cause diseases. This way an embryo with the highest chance of good health and survival could be selected for implantation. Why should another person suffer and die from a genetic disease, when cloning can control these sicknesses?
In conclusion, people should be educated about cloning rather than being told that it is against God’s will or that it can became a weapon for countries or other kinds of possible abuses. They should learn about this scientific process and draw conclusions based on that, not on what they read in novels or see in movies. Cloning is still a young technology and we should understand that there could be some difficulties at first, the same as any other technological improvement that we have had throughout history. Therefore, only research about its positive aspects will lead to its improvement and growth. To ban this research would result in the loss of a technology that could someday cure diseases, or prevent the deaths of people who wait endlessly for an organ for transplant, or even give hope to people who otherwise cannot make their own choices. Which action, banning or not banning, is really the less ethical choice? I hope that people can move quickly to educate our communities to be ready for this revolution in genetics. This scientific miracle is the result of the hard work of thousands of researchers and physicians who are on the verge of reaching their dreams to help other human beings. Why should their efforts be wasted? Let’s help them reach their dreams, before it is too late.
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Weber, T. A. (November 7, 1998). Person who greatly assisted me with