Imagine a world full of “Mini-Hitlers”, genetic replicates of Adolf Hitler, seeking world domination. Picture them starting a second Holocaust on a worldwide scale, killing millions upon millions of people as a “final solution” to establish a superior race. This scenario is far-fetched, but this is the kind of thing people think about when they hear the word “cloning”.
Cloning has always been considered science fiction. Millions of people have enjoyed stories about a sinister using cloning technology to conquer the world, probably because they hadn’t expected cloning to become reality. The creation of Dolly, a cloned sheep, shocked people, including our federal government. The House of Representatives and the Senate immediately drafted bills to completely ban human cloning. President Clinton instituted a moratorium on federal funds for human cloning experiments. He also established the National Bioethics Advisory Commission(NBAC) to address the science and ethics of human cloning. It immediately published an article entitled “Cloning Human Beings: Report and Recommendations of the NBAC”, which basically said human cloning is morally unacceptable.
Several states have also established restrictions on human cloning; one state has even banned human cloning. These government actions are irrational and should be immediately revoked. The federal government should regulate, not ban, human cloning. This is because significant benefits can result from cloning technology. The ethical implications are also only temporary. They are induced by misconception. Besides, fanatic biologists are going to pursue human cloning technology with or without government consent.
It would be beneficial if I begin by briefly explaining the history of cloning and the processes involved. Dolly was given birth in Febuary 1997. She was created by Ian Wilmut and his colleagues at Roslin Institute in Scotland. She was created using a technique called “somatic-cell nuclear transfer”. This is where a nucleus-omitted ovum is injected by a nucleus
taken from a body cell. A jolt of electricity allows the reconstructed egg to divide. The egg is then inserted into a uterus to develop. This is the way the first human clone will mostly likely be made.
Numerous of remarkable benefits can come from cloning technology. One of these is a treatment for infertility. Infertility is caused by genetic defects, injuries to the reproductive organs, congential defects and exposure to toxic substances and radiation. Many assisted-reproduction technologies have been developed. This includes surrogate mothers for women without a functional uterus, intracytoplasmic sperm injection for males who can’t produce viable sperm, and IVF for women with blocked or missing fallopian tubes. However, these treatments have proven to be highly inefficient and they can’t help people whose reproductive organs have not developed or have been removed. Twelve million Americans are infertile at child bearing age. They will pursue years of painful and expensive treatments to have little chance of success. Human cloning can offer infertile people a higher chance of success. Most people are infertile because they can’t produce viable gametes. Cloning technology wouldn’t require viable sperm or egg, any body cell would do. This technology would be able to bypass defective gametes and allow infertile people to have their own biological children. Cloning technology may even prevent clinical depression, divorce, and suicide among infertile people. This is because infertility often leads to them.
Cloning technology can help “perfect” gene therapy, the actual correction or replacement of defective gene sequences. Gene therapy is currently limited because of inefficient vectors, or viruses that convey new genes into cells. A copy of a defective gene is in every cell of the body. These viruses must infect everyone of these cells and replace the defective genes with the normal genes. However, these vectors only infect a frustrating small amount of cells. This deems gene therapy inefficient. Human cloning can change this. Scientists can determine which cells recieved the desired gene alteration using fluorescent tages; the cells that were affected would glow. Cloning technology would allow scientists to take a cell that had it’s genome modified and use it to produce an offspring. The resulting child and its descendants would carry the corrected gene in every cell. Cloning technology may be able cure Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and Huntington’s disease.
Another benefit of human cloning is that it will allow scientists to better understand cell differentiation. Research on the basic processes of cell differentiation can lead to dramatic new medical interventions. Cell differentiation is where a stem cell, found inside embryos during the first two weeks of development, specializes into cells that perform specific functions. These cells have the potential to develop into any type of cell in the human body. Biologists do not know which internal/external factors induces a stem cell to develop into a specialized cell, whether it be a muscle cell or a nerve cell. A better understanding of cell differentiation will allow biologists to transform stem cell into which ever cell that he/she desires. Burn and spinal cord injury victims might be provided with artificially produced replacement tissues. Damage done by degenerative disorders like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease might be reversed. Biologists might be able to create organs for transplant using merely a dead skin cell.
Ethical implications involved in human cloning is only temporary. This can be shown in the development of In Vitro Fertilization(IVF). During the 1960s & 1970s, oponents of IVF argued that it was unsafe, children would be deformed, American families would be destroyed or changed, and it was against God’s will. These are the same arguments being used against human cloning. Eighty-five percent of Americans thought IVF should be outlawed during the 1970s. Public opinion changed when they saw Louie Brown, the first child born using IVF. People noticed that he was just a child. Their fears of IVF subsided. It became a routine medical procedure within a few years. This will most likely be the case with human cloning.
Many of the ethical arguments against human cloning are induced by misconception. The “Mini-Hitler” scenario I’ve listed above is far-fetched, but that is exactly the kind of thing people think about when they hear the word “cloning”. People think that cloning technology can
produce an exact copy of an existing adult human being. This isn’t true. Cloning technology can only produce a cloned embryo. The embryo must develop in a uterus. The developed child must experience childhood and adolescence. People think that a clone will be both behaviorally and physically identical to its donor. This also isn’t true. The clone will probably be identical physically, but not behaviorally. Genes contribute to the array of our abilities and limits, but our behavior and mentality is constantly shaped by enviromental factors. Even identical twins show differences in behavioral and mental characteristics. Someone trying to clone a future Adolf Hitler might instead produce a modestly talented painter.
Ethicists are afraid that a subordinate class of humans will be created as tissue and organ donors. They are afraid that the rights of these clones will be violated. These fears are outrageous and ridiculous. These ethicists have been the victims of misconception. Cloned humans could no more be “harvested” for their organs than people can be today.
Another ethical dillemma is the psychological well-being of the cloned child. People wonder what kind of a relationship a cloned child will have with his/her parent that is physically identical. They are curious of how the child will deal with the pressure of constantly being compared to an esteemed or beloved person who has already lived. We need to remember that the single most important factor affecting the quality of a child’s life is the love and devotion he/she recieves from parents, not the methods or circumstances of the person’s birth. Since children produced by cloning will probably be extremely wanted children, there is no reason to think that with good counseling support for their parents they will not experience the love and care they deserve. What will life be like for the first generation of cloned children? Being at the center of scientific and popular attention will not be easy for them. They and their parents will also have to negotiate the worrisome problems created by genetic identity and unavoidable expectations. However, there may also be some novel satisfactions. As cross-generational twins, a cloned child and his/her parent may experience some of the unique intimacy now shared by sibling twins.
Animal research will eventually indicate that human cloning can be done at no greater physical risk to the child than IVF posed when it was first introduced. It would be better if such research would be done openly in the U.S., Canada, Europe or Japan. Established government agencies could provide careful oversight of the implications of the studies for human subjects. The most probable way that it will happen will be, if not yet already, in a clandestine fashion. A couple desperate for a child will put their hopes in the hands of a researcher seeking fame. Advanced Cell Technologies(ACT) has already created the first human embryo. They took DNA from a man’s leg and injected it into a cow’s egg with its nucleus removed. There has also been reports of similar work in South Korea. Someone is going to clone a human with or without government assistence. It would be beneficial if our federal government regulated such experiements, rather than outlaw them. Outlawing something will not neccessarily stop it from happening. Regulating human cloning will allow our federal government to closely overlook experiments pertaining to human cloning.
The federal government should regulate human cloning. Banning it would deprieve many beneficial treatments from people who need it. I have mentioned only a few of cloning technology’s significant benefits. Cloning technology can lead to a better understanding of cell differentiation. This would allow biologist to produce tissues and organs for transplant. Cloning can help carriers of genetic defects to have healthy children. It can even help to completely eradicate genetic mutations and defects. Treatment of infertility is one of its most promising benefits. Cloning technology can help infertile people to have their own children, one of life’s most powerful biological drives. Besides, ethical implications involved in human cloning are only temporary. They are induced by misconception. Education will change people’s negative attitude towards human cloning. If we give human cloning a chance, it will most likely become a part of our daily lives.