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definition - Ethics of cloning

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Ethics of cloning

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In bioethics, the ethics of cloning refers to a variety of ethical positions regarding the practice and possibilities of cloning, especially human cloning. While many of these views are religious in origin, the questions raised by cloning are faced by secular perspectives as well.

As the science of cloning continues to advance, governments have dealt with ethical questions through legislation.


Philosophical debate

Cloning, particularly human cloning, is highly controversial.

Advocates of human therapeutic cloning believe the practice could provide genetically identical cells for regenerative medicine, and tissues and organs for transplantation. Such cells, tissues, and organs would neither trigger an immune response nor require the use of immunosuppressive drugs. Both basic research and therapeutic development for serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as improvements in burn treatment and reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, are areas that might benefit from such new technology.[1] One bioethicist, Jacob M. Appel of New York University, has gone so far as to argue that "children cloned for therapeutic purposes" such as "to donate bone marrow to a sibling with leukemia" may someday be viewed as heroes.[2]

Proponents claim that human reproductive cloning also would produce benefits. Severino Antinori and Panos Zavos hope to create a fertility treatment that allows parents who are both infertile to have children with at least some of their DNA in their offspring.[3]

Some scientists, including Dr. Richard Seed, suggest that human cloning might obviate the human aging process.[4] How this might work is not entirely clear since the brain or identity would have to be transferred to a cloned body. Dr. Preston Estep has suggested the terms "replacement cloning" to describe the generation of a clone of a previously living person, and "persistence cloning" to describe SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) one of the considered options to repair the cell depletion related to cellular senescence is to grow replacement tissues from stem cells harvested from a cloned embryo.

At present, the main non-religious objection to human cloning is that cloned individuals are often biologically damaged, due to the inherent unreliability of their origin; for example, researchers currently are unable to safely and reliably clone non-human primates. For example, bioethicist Thomas Murray of the Hastings Center argues that "it is absolutely inevitable that groups are going to try to clone a human being. But they are going to create a lot of dead and dying babies along the way."[5]

UNESCO's Universal Declaration on Human Genome and Human Rights asserts that cloning contradicts human nature and dignity[6]: Cloning is an asexual reproductive mode, which could distort generation lines and family relationships, and limit genetic differentiation, which ensures that human life is largely unique. Cloning can also imply an instrumental attitude toward humans, which risks turning them into manufactured objects, and interferes with evolution, the implications of which we lack the insight or prescience to predict.[7]

Furthermore, proponents of animal rights argue that non-human animals possess certain moral rights as living entities and should therefore be afforded the same ethical considerations as human beings. This would negate the exploitation of animals in scientific research on cloning, cloning used in food production, or as other resources for human use or consumption.

Rudolph Jaenisch, a professor at Harvard, has pointed out that we have become more efficient at producing clones which are still defective.[8] Other arguments against cloning come from various religious orders (believing cloning violates God's will or the natural order of life), and a general discomfort some have with the idea of "meddling" with the creation and basic function of life. This unease often manifests itself in contemporary novels, movies, and popular culture, as it did with numerous prior scientific discoveries and inventions. Various fictional scenarios portray clones being unhappy, soulless, or unable to integrate into society. Furthermore, clones are often depicted not as unique individuals but as "spare parts," providing organs for the clone's original (or any non-clone that requires replacement organs).

Other ethical (and legal) concerns surround the concept of 'identity': since both the 'original' and the 'copy' are genetically the same person, which one is legally the 'real' individual? Moreover, since they are both 'the same person', for all practical purposes, how are criminal actions prosecuted when one individual is indistinguishable from another? It should be said that similar problems can occur with identical twins which makes this argument invalid.

Another concern, in the case of human cloning, is that if the clone ever learns that they are just a clone, they are robbed of the sense of individuality that is so important in many societies.

Religious views


Roman Catholicism and many conservative Christian groups have opposed human cloning and the cloning of human embryos, since life begins at the moment of conception. Other Christian denominations such as the United Church of Christ do not believe a fertilized egg constitutes a living being, but still they oppose the cloning of embryonic cells. The World Council of Churches, representing nearly 400 Christian denominations worldwide, opposed cloning of both human embryos and whole humans in February 2006. The United Methodist Church opposed research and reproductive cloning in May 2000 and again in May 2004.


Judaism does not equate life with conception and, though some question the wisdom of cloning, Orthodox rabbis generally find no firm reason in Jewish law and ethics to object to cloning.[9] Liberal Jewish thinkers have cautioned against cloning, among other genetic engineering efforts, though some eye the potential medical advantages.


Ronald Y. Nakasone, a Buddhist priest and Professor of Buddhist Art and Culture at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California stated, "The Buddhist response to the possibility of cloning human beings is not if, but when . . . Would we accord a cloned person the benefits enjoyed by those who are born naturally? I would hope so."[10][11]


On the left is Brigitte Boisselier, who made the cloning announcement.

Raëlism is the only religious group of which any part (specifically, the religion's medical arm Clonaid) has claimed to have successfully cloned a human being. Clonaid claims that cloning will bring humanity closer to immortality.

Following the announcement, then-White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan spoke on behalf of president George W. Bush and said that human cloning was "deeply troubling" to most Americans. Kansas Republican Sam Brownback said that Congress should ban all human cloning, while some Democrats were worried that Clonaid announcement would lead to the banning of therapeutic cloning. FDA biotechnology chief Dr. Phil Noguchi warned that the human cloning, even if it worked, risked transferring sexually transmitted diseases to the newly born child. Clonaid claimed that it had a list of couples who were ready to have a cloned child.[12]

University of Wisconsin–Madison bioethicist Alta Charo said that even in other ape-like mammals, the risk for miscarriage, birth defects, and life problems remains high. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technologies said that Clonaid has no record of accomplishment for cloning anything, but he said that if Clonaid actually succeeded, there would be public unrest that may lead to the banning of therapeutic cloning, which has the capacity to cure millions of patients. The Vatican said that the claims expressed a mentality that was brutal and lacked ethical consideration. The White House was also critical of the claims.[citation needed]

Governmental actions

On December 28, 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the consumption of meat and other products from cloned animals[13]]. Cloned-animal products were said to be virtually indistinguishable from the non-cloned animals. Furthermore, companies would not be required to provide labels informing the consumer that the meat comes from a cloned animal. In 2007, some meat and dairy producers did propose a system to track all cloned animals as they move through the food chain, suggesting that a national database system integrated into the National Animal Identification System could eventually allow food labeling.[14] However, no tracking system currently exists, and products from the offspring of cloned animals are increasingly sold for human consumption in the United States.[15][16]

Critics have raised objections to the FDA's approval of cloned-animal products for human consumption, arguing that the FDA's research was inadequate, inappropriately limited, and of questionable scientific validity.[17][18][19] Several consumer-advocate groups are working to encourage a tracking program that would allow consumers to become more aware of cloned-animal products within their food.[20]


  1. Cloning Fact Sheet
  2. Appel, JM. New York Times Magazine, Dec. 11, 2005.
  3. Scientists Prepare To Clone a Human; Experiment Aims to Help Infertile. Washington Post, March 10, 2001
  4. Cloning touted as infertility solution, Washington Times, Dec. 11, 1997
  5. Friend, Tim. The Real Face of Cloning, USA Today, January 16, 2003
  6. "Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights". UNESCO. 1997-11-11. http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13177&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  7. "A dozen questions (and answers) on human cloning". World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/ethics/topics/cloning/en/. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  8. Development Dynamics. 2006 Volume 235, pages 2460-2469.
  9. Michael Brody "Cloning People and Jewish Law" . Avraham Steinberg. "Human Cloning: Scientific, Ethical and Jewish Perspectives" in Assia v.3, n.2 1998.
  10. http://facweb.stvincent.edu/academics/religiousstu/writings/logston1.html
  11. http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/newsarch/1997/June97/clonerep.htm
  12. FDA Probes Sect's Human Cloning, Wired News. December 26, 2002. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
  13. [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16372490
  14. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/12/19/national/w212525S49.DTL&type=politics; http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071231/pentland_gumpert
  15. http://www.cattlenetwork.com/Content.asp?ContentID=291110
  16. http://www.wired.com/medtech/health/magazine/15-11/ff_clonedmeat?currentPage=all
  17. http://www.hsus.org/farm/resources/research/practices/genetic_engineering_and_cloning_farm_animals.html
  18. http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/FINAL_FORMATTEDprime%20time.pdf (PDF)
  19. http://www.consumersunion.org/pdf/FDA_clone_comments.pdf (PDF)
  20. http://ga3.org/campaign/CloneTracking

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