The Debate on Human Cloning In the past decade, there has been no slackening of the pace of scientific research and discovery. On a daily basis, scholarly publications and mass media divulge new and profound discoveries that seem to open doors that no one knew existed. Through their research, scientists have relentlessly attempted, time and time again, to penetrate into the very core of the universe and to unveil the essence of what constitute human beings. Few breakthroughs in research epitomize these extensive developments more than human cloning.
Human cloning is the laboratory-aided replication of a strand of DNA that is used to produce an identical being (Observer, 2001). It is the process of extracting DNA from a donor’s cell and implanting it into another cell, thus growing a new embryo with identical genes and virtually duplicating the donor (Observer, 2001). Cloning offers many applications, especially in the medical field; however, with such a colossal development comes reflection and often concern of its use. The question constantly arises as to how far the practice of cloning should be allowed to proceed.
Scientists and bioethicists have assumed a leading stance in the debates related to cloning and the weighty ethical questions it poses for humanity, but legislators, religious leaders, philosophers, and society at large all have major stake in the ethical debate as well (Weiss, 2001). In 1997 a team of Scottish scientists, led by Dr. Ian Wilmut, revealed the birth of a lamb cloned from an adult sheep (Advocate, 1997)(Morrison, 2001). This research revealed a very high failure rate, with only 1 out of 29 constructed embryos developed successfully (Advocate, 1997).
Failure rates greater than 90% and high morbidity rates strongly suggest its inapplicability to humans (Advocate, 1997). Other studies also reveal that cloned mammals suffer high deformity and disability rates (Advocate, 1997). The sheep cloned by Wilmut and his team lived to only half the age of average sheep, and had to be put down due to progressive lung disease and premature arthritis; both diseases are usually only found in older sheep (Advocate, 1997). Many experts have since hypothesized that if a human were to be cloned they may need hip surgery or suffer from Alzheimer’s disease by the age of 20 (Advocate, 1997).
Societal and philosophical viewpoints have also offered other arguments in regards to cloning being an unethical practice. Some fear that cloning humans would undermine the cultural concept of reproduction and the family model as a whole (Advocate, 1997) (Geer, 2001). Others fear that the personal identity of the clone would be confused and that the psychological development of the clone could be harmed (Geer, 2001). Some even suggest the clone would not have a soul (Geer, 2001). A fourth argument is that human cloning would stimulate a trend of designer babies and human enhancement (Geer, 2001) (Weiss, 2001).
Considering these findings and societal concerns, general agreement has developed that human cloning for the purposes of producing an exact genetic-copy baby would be unethical (Geer, 2001) (Weiss, 2001). While many view cloning as unethical, it has much to offer to the medical field. Cloning could open many doors for couples who are infertile, and could allow them to have their own child (Templeton, 2001). Some researchers hope to develop genetically compatible replacement cells, through the growth of embryonic stem cells, for patients with a range of illnesses (Observer, 2001) (Weiss, 2001).
This type of therapeutic cloning could potentially prove limitless sources of immune-compatible stem cells for tissue engineering and transplantation medicine (Observer, 2001) (Weiss, 2001). Such research could potentially provide the cure to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s (Observer, 2001). Many counter this argument my stating that in order to produce the cells they would need, the companies would need to develop human embryos for the sole purpose of killing them and harvesting their cells (Weiss, 2001).
The public debate on cloning and media coverage often features unreal scenarios that are not based on scientific fact, but rather express a diffuse sense of uneasiness. Before the successful cloning of a mammal, the word ‘cloning’ had a specific meaning, which was shaped not by science but by literature and film, drawing from the ancient myths of creation (Eberhart, 2001). Television documentaries, popular movies and comments in the press frequently reiterate the arguments that cloning threatens humanity or that it could negatively change the entire fabric of society (Eberhart, 2001).
For example, in movies such as Frankenstein four main points are often portrayed: the clone is evil, the creator of the clone is eventually punished, the clone is created in a civilization of catastrophe, and order is eventually restored by the death of the clone (Eberhart, 2001). Research facilities are often presented as disconcerting, powerful, and cold (Eberhart, 2001). Cloning is also a popular topic explored in newspapers and on the radio.
As a topic of everyday conversation, the term cloning is often related to the idea of eugenics, a loss of human individuality, and desecration of the human race (Advocate, 1997) (Eberhart, 2001) (Geer, 2001). As previously suggested in this review, many fear that cloning can and would lead to the ability to create an ideal child (Geer, 2001). Parents, who have the money, would be able to create the blonde and blue-eyed athlete they may have always dreamed of (Weiss, 2001). Overall, the mass media usually present the polarization of horror and wonder when it comes to the cloning debate.
Alongside the risks, promising new developments are often highlighted and exaggerated. The media often touches upon the idea of human immortality, and the general idea that the cure to mortality may be just around the corner (Morrison, 2001). This in itself presents feelings of both wonder and horror. While, ideally, people would be able to live for hundreds of years, would the option only be available to those who could afford it? Would these people suffer psychological damage from watching family and friends who may not be able to afford it live and die?
Would the world not be able to sustain the growing population? The circumstances and processes of cloning run much deeper than the media presents to general society; they just present the tip of the iceberg. While there are many negatives to offer, the media often fail to touch upon the medical advances that cloning has to offer. The mass media seems to use the so-called ‘horrors’ of cloning to their advantage for financial gain through gruesome stories and movies that many members of society are drawn to. Just like the recent vampire fad, people are drawn to the unknown.
In order for citizens to make an educated choice for or against cloning, the media needs to shed light on the medical breakthroughs that cloning has to offer. An uneducated individual may feel differently if they were made aware that cloning could potentially prevent or slow the progression of hereditary diseases such as Alzheimer’s or even certain cancers that run in their family. It must be made know that cloning isn’t just a phenomenon that happens in horror movies; cloning is happening now and whether allowed or banned it will have a large impact on the way the future plays out.
References Cloning of human embyro fuels ethical controversy: (2001). Observer,pp. 5-A5. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/348145966? accountid=37813 Eberhart, J. M. (2001). Are we cloning a monster? there are eerie parallels between sci-fi works like frankenstein and present day science issues. Kansas City Star, pp. 1-I1. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/259951716? accountid=37813 Geer, M. (2001). Renegade science ; human cloning strikes at heart of what ‘family’ means. The Patriot – News, pp. 11-A11. Retrieved from http://search. roquest. com/docview/284908124? accountid=37813 Morrison, B. (2001, Jan 28). Anyone want to live forever? I do geneticists predict life expectancy will double by 2050. roll on the cloning of human embryos if it brings that any closer. The Independent, pp. 25-25. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/311836543? accountid=37813 Science far from cloning your in-laws: sheep case raises issues of fate, human immortality. (1997, Feb 25). Advocate, pp. 1-1. A. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/415291077? accountid=37813 Templeton, S. (2001, Mar 11). Baby cloning: A Frankenstein experiment or the answer to many couples’ prayers? Sunday Herald, pp. 13-13. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/331086471? accountid=37813 Weiss, R. (2001, Nov 26). Human embryo cloned: Breakthrough raises ethical, moral questions. Edmonton Journal, pp. 1-A1 / FRONT. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/252848498? accountid=37813 Witham, L. (1997, Mar 14). Christians oppose human clones ethicists object to children produced by `manipulation’. Washington Times, pp. 9-A. 9. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/409451164? accountid=37813