Human Cloning and Ethics

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Author : krishnaa
Published on : December 16, 2012

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A Brief Study on Human Cloning and Ethics

Cloning is a very interesting and new concept developed with the huge technological advancements made in the field of science. The cloning of the animals is becoming common. Dolly, a cloned sheep was the first cloned animal. The questions of bioethics come into picture over here as cloning human beings is the next step to be taken in the field of cloning. The cloning of human beings and the question of bioethics is the main focus of the study. To understand the topic and the concept of ethics, first of let’s understand what cloning is and how it is actually done.

In common terms, cloning is asexual reproduction accomplished by introducing the nuclear material of a human somatic cell into a fertilized or unfertilized oocyte whose nucleus has been removed or inactivated to produce a living organism( at any stage of development) with a human. In biological terms, Cloning is the creation of an organism that is an exact genetic copy of another. This means that every single bit of DNA is the same between the two.

How is cloning done?
You may have first heard of cloning when Dolly the Sheep showed up on the scene in 1997. Cloning technologies have been around for much longer than Dolly, though.

How does one go about making an exact genetic copy of an organism? There are a couple of ways to do this: artificial embryo twinning and somatic cell nuclear transfer. How do these processes differ?

1. Artificial Embryo Twinning
Artificial embryo twinning is the relatively low-tech version of cloning. As the name suggests, this technology mimics the natural process of creating identical twins.

In nature, twins occur just after fertilization of an egg cell by a sperm cell. In rare cases, when the resulting fertilized egg, called a zygote, tries to divide into a two-celled embryo, the two cells separate. Each cell continues dividing on its own, ultimately developing into a separate individual within the mother. Since the two cells came from the same zygote, the resulting individuals are genetically identical.

Artificial embryo twinning uses the same approach, but it occurs in a Petri dish instead of in the mother's body. This is accomplished by manually separating a very early embryo into individual cells, and then allowing each cell to divide and develop on its own. The resulting embryos are placed into a surrogate mother, where they are carried to term and delivered. Again, since all the embryos came from the same zygote, they are genetically identical.

2. Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer
Somatic cell nuclear transfer, (SCNT) uses a different approach than artificial embryo twinning, but it produces the same result: an exact clone, or genetic copy, of an individual. This was the method used to create Dolly the Sheep.

What does SCNT mean? Let's take it apart:
Somatic cell: A somatic cell is any cell in the body other than the two types of reproductive cells, sperm and egg. Sperm and egg are also called germ cells. In mammals, every somatic cell has two complete sets of chromosomes, whereas the germ cells only have one complete set.

Nuclear: The nucleus is like the cell's brain. It's an enclosed compartment that contains all the information that cells need to form an organism. This information comes in the form of DNA. It's the differences in our DNA that make each of us unique.

Transfer: Moving an object from one place to another.

To make Dolly, researchers isolated a somatic cell from an adult female sheep. Next, they transferred the nucleus from that cell to an egg cell from which the nucleus had been removed. After a couple of chemical tweaks, the egg cell, with its new nucleus, was behaving just like a freshly fertilized zygote. It developed into an embryo, which was implanted into a surrogate mother and carried to term.

The lamb, Dolly, was an exact genetic replica of the adult female sheep that donated the somatic cell nucleus to the egg. She was the first-ever mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell.

How does SCNT differ from the natural way of making an embryo?
The fertilization of an egg by a sperm and the SCNT cloning method both result in the same thing: a dividing ball of cells, called an embryo. So what exactly is the difference between these methods?

An embryo is composed of cells that contain two complete sets of chromosomes. The difference between fertilization and SCNT lies in where those two sets originated.

In fertilization, the sperm and egg both contain one set of chromosomes. When the sperm and egg join, the resulting zygote ends up with two sets - one from the father (sperm) and one from the mother (egg).

In SCNT, the egg cell's single set of chromosomes is removed. It is replaced by the nucleus from a somatic cell, which already contains two complete sets of chromosomes. Therefore, in the resulting embryo, both sets of chromosomes come from the somatic cell.

So, it’s clear now that what cloning is and how is it done. Now the question which comes into picture is that can anyone imagine a society of cloned human beings where there are no emotions, no feelings; only a bunch of human beings acting like a robot. Cloning human beings seems frightening to the over-populated world today and it is likely to cause a sort of identity-crisis. Cloned humans can never take the place of the natural beings and cloning is against the laws of nature.

Human cloning is ethical in conduct and nature.

A. Whether cloning is good or bad for human society?
B. Is cloning ethical or is it unethical?
C. Will not cloning human beings pose a threat to human beings?
D. Is not coning against the laws of nature and bioethics?

· To study the positive and negative aspects of human cloning.
· To study the impact of human cloning on human society.

The research is limited to the study of human cloning and its positive and negative aspects. The references are taken from various articls.

The main purpose behind conducting this research is to study the ethical nature of human cloning. Many scientists and biologists say that there are many positive aspects of human cloning. But the cloning may have some really bad consequences which may lead human society to the destruction. There can be massive misuse of the technology challenging the basic notions of morality. There can be moral degradation in the society. So, there is need to study different aspects of cloning and to conclude whether cloning would be a good option or a bad one.

Arguments in favour of Human Cloning
There are many arguments which can be made in favour of cloning when the biological concerns related to cloning are taken into consideration. Below mentioned are some such benefits.

There are many ways in which human cloning is expected to benefit mankind. It suggests that it may someday be possible to reverse the aging process because of what we learn from cloning. Human cloning technology could be used to reverse heart attacks. Scientists believe that they may be able to treat heart attack victims by cloning their healthy heart cells and injecting them into the areas of the heart that have been damaged. Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States and several other industrialized countries. There has been a breakthrough with human stem cells. Embryonic stem cells can be grown to produce organs or tissues to repair or replace damaged ones. Skin for burn victims, brain cells for the brain damaged, spinal cord cells for quadriplegics and paraplegics, hearts, lungs, livers, and kidneys could be produced. By combining this technology with human cloning technology it may be possible to produce needed tissue for suffering people that will be free of rejection by their immune systems. Conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, heart failure, degenerative joint disease, and other problems may be made curable if human cloning and its technology are not banned. In case of infertility, infertile couples could have children. Despite getting a fair amount of publicity in the news current treatments for infertility, in terms of percentages, are not very successful. One estimate is that current infertility treatments are less than 10 percent successful. Couples go through physically and emotionally painful procedures for a small chance of having children. Many couples run out of time and money without successfully having children. Human cloning could make it possible for many more infertile couples to have children than ever before possible. In case of Plastic, reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, because of human cloning and its technology the days of silicone breast implants and other cosmetic procedures that may cause immune disease should soon be over. With the new technology, instead of using materials foreign to the body for such procedures, doctors will be able to manufacture bone, fat, connective tissue, or cartilage that matches the patients’ tissues exactly. Anyone will able to have their appearance altered to their satisfaction without the leaking of silicone gel into their bodies or the other problems that occur with present day plastic surgery. Victims of terrible accidents that deform the face should now be able to have their features repaired with new, safer, technology. Limbs for amputees may be able to be regenerated. In case of ibreast implants, most people are aware of the breast implant fiasco in which hundreds of thousands of women received silicone breast implants for cosmetic reasons. Many came to believe that the implants were making them ill with diseases of their immune systems. With human cloning and its technology breast augmentation and other forms of cosmetic surgery could be done with implants that would not be any different from the person's normal tissues. In case defective genes, the average person carries 8 defective genes inside them. These defective genes allow people to become sick when they would otherwise remain healthy. With human cloning and its technology it may be possible to ensure that we no longer suffer because of our defective genes. In case of Down's syndrome, those women at high risk for Down's syndrome can avoid that risk by cloning. In case of Tay-Sachs disease, this is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder could be prevented by using cloning to ensure that a child does not express the gene for the disorder Liver failure. We may be able to clone livers for liver transplants Kidney failure. We may be able to clone kidneys for kidney transplants Leukaemia. We should be able to clone the bone marrow for children and adults suffering from leukaemia. This is expected to be one of the first benefits to come from cloning technology. In case of Cancer, we may learn how to switch cells on and off through cloning and thus be able to cure cancer. Scientists still do not know exactly how cells differentiate into specific kinds of tissue, nor do they understand why cancerous cells lose their differentiation. Cloning, at long last, may be the key to understanding differentiation and cancer. In case of Cystic fibrosis, we may be able to produce effective genetic therapy against cystic fibrosis. Ian Wilmut and colleagues are already working on this problem. In case of Spinal cord injury, we may learn to grow nerves or the spinal cord back again when they are injured. Quadriplegics might be able to get out of their wheelchairs and walk again. Christopher Reeves, the man who played Superman, might be able to walk again. In testing for genetic disease, Cloning technology can be used to test for and perhaps cure genetic diseases.

The above mentioned benefits of cloning are the ones to be claimed by different scientists. Human Cloning is beneficial in many senses but what about the moral and ethical aspects. Well, these benefits may help build a healthy society and thus may build a morally sound society with a very less likelihood. The science and ethics are two very different concepts. As one is substantial in nature and the latter is related to human conscience. So, even though cloning has many benefits, we cannot conclude that it will be ethically beneficial.

Arguments against Human Cloning
Ethical Concerns Regarding Human Cloning
Compared to other technologies that might be used to address reproductive limitations and organ and tissue shortages, these potential harms of human cloning appear to outweigh the potential benefits at this time.

A. Physical harms introduced by cloning
It is important to note that techniques used for cloning humans could potentially endanger the developing individuals. At present, this cannot be assured with any degree of certainty with human cloning. Somatic cell nuclear transfer has not yet been refined and its long-term safety has not yet been proven. The possibility of genetic or cellular conditions, and perhaps an array of illnesses associated with cloning, is of great concern. While the demise of countless amphibian, lamb, and mouse foetuses may be disturbing, similar wastage and mortality among human foetuses is unacceptable. Moreover, we might have significant concerns about offering such technology to women as a mechanism to facilitate reproduction given the potential harms from the expected high miscarriage rate.

The risk of producing individuals with developmental anomalies is serious and precludes human cloning for the time being. Producing disabled human clones would give rise to an obligation to seek better understanding of— and potential medical therapies for— the unforeseen consequences that could arise from human cloning.

B. Psychosocial harms introduced by cloning
Human cloning has the potential to introduce psychosocial harms to individuals. If a person with known genetic predispositions and conditions is cloned, the cloned child’s genetic predispositions and conditions will, due to the very nature of cloning, also be known to a certain extent. For the most part, environment will also play a significant role. Presently, a child’s genetic predispositions can be predicted to varying degrees if the parent’s genetic predispositions have been determined. Knowledge of a child’s genetic predispositions raises concerns about the autonomy and best interests of the child. Knowledge of genetic information holds great significance to an individual. The harm of pre-empting the child’s future choice in knowing or forgoing knowledge of his genetic status and the danger of abrogating the child’s right to privacy with respect to this status must be weighed carefully.

Foregoing choice in learning one’s genetic predispositions may seem trivial compared to the concerns about identity raised with human cloning. If raised by the clone-parent, a clone-child could see what he or she has the potential to become. In this respect, human clones would differ dramatically from monozygotic twins who develop simultaneously. The timing of development is a key difference between monozygotic twins and human clones. Having insight into one’s potential may cause enormous pressures to live up to expectations (or inappropriately relieve pressure to do so), even more so than those generally experienced by children.

Presumably, a person would clone him or herself or another individual because that person has desirable characteristics that would be reflected in the clone. For example, the person who cloned a sports star presumably would hope that the clone-child develops into another sports star. A sports star’s clone-child unable to live up to these expectations could be dubbed a failure unable to capitalize on his or her genetic gift. Moreover, although the clone-child of a sports star might feel more confident of his or her abilities from the outset, other clone-children may feel limited by their genetic lot. If a clone-child saw that he or she was likely to develop certain diseases or had failed at certain tasks, his or her undertakings might be bounded by what the clone-parent had done. Therefore, cloning might limit the clone-child’s perception of self and increase external pressures. Human cloning may diminish, at least psychologically, the seemingly unlimited potential of new human beings and may exacerbate disturbing motivations for having children.

C. The impact of human cloning on family and society
In addition to concerns about individual privacy and identity, the implications of cloning for family and broader social relationships remain uncharted. What would be the consequence to, say, the father daughter relationship if the daughter and wife were genetically identical? Would a woman have a normal mother-daughter relationship with her clone?

These examples illustrate that the family unit might be quite different with the introduction of cloning. As one philosopher wrote, “cloning shows itself to be a major violation of our given nature as embodied, gendered, and engendering beings— and of the social relations built on this natural ground.”

Additionally, some problems are technical and legal in nature. For instance, birth cousins could be genetic siblings, and this might result in a need to revisit laws governing marital eligibility. Also, the courts have had difficulty sorting out parental rights in cases of assisted reproduction. In one case, a court found a child conceived using assisted reproductive technologies to have no parents despite having eight individuals from which to choose.

While discussion and resolution of these issues is not the province of physicians, the impact of human cloning on family and society is an important factor for physicians to consider when weighing the costs and benefits of cloning. Until more thought is given on a societal level regarding how to construct familial relations in this context, physicians should not participate in human cloning.

The human cloning has both positive and negative sides but as per my conclusion, cloning will pose a threat to the identity of the individuals. The cloning is against the laws of nature. It has many benefits but there is no guarantee that the technology will not be misused by the people. It can be misused in a way that may be really dangerous for human society and moral ethics. Even if cloning proves essential as per the situation or the circumstances, there should be regulations and legitimate authorisation in using this technology. There can be severe consequences of illegitimate cloning. We can’t come to straightforward conclusion determining whether cloning is ethical or unethical in nature. But, we can conclude that every technology has positive aspects and negative aspects; and there should be a proper use of the technology and not misuse.
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· Dr. John I Fleming [Bioethics Research Notes 11(2): June 1999] CLONING: SOMETIMES ‘NICE’ AND SOMETIMES ‘NASTY’?

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