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Ethics of Human Cloning Essay

In 1971 James D. Watson claimed that one day human cloning would be workable and noted that “as many people as possible be informed about the new ways for human reproduction and their potential consequences, both good and bad”(Burley and Harris 2001, p. 69). Watson’s statement was given little attention. In 1997, the birth of Dolly, today the world’s most famous sheep, caused widespread public excitement. Dolly became artificially produced clone and proof that cloning large animals like sheep or humans would be possible.

More importantly perhaps, Dolly raises many different sorts of important questions for human beings. Human cloning has been met with widespread unease all over the world and generated a series of ethical issues that will be discussed in this paper. Main Body In opposition to productive cloning it is asserted that the method would be causing danger to human beings. For example, Dr Harry Griffin, the director of the Roslin Institute, Scotland, that successfully cloned Dolly the sheep indicates that:

It would be irresponsible to try and clone a human being, given the present state of the technology…. The chances of success are so low it would be irresponsible to encourage people to think there’s a real prospect. The risks are too great for the woman, and of course for the child (Griffin, 2001). However, while the possible success regarding human cloning may be low and there may be risks of undeveloped embryos, against this it could be claimed that similar arguments could have been directed against the potential efficiency of in vitro fertilization techniques (IVF).

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IVF was once considered unsuccessful but today is a well-developed and valued treatment for infertility. IVF would never have developed if negative reasons such as this were successfully used to oppose it. A second concern on the subject of human cloning is about the motivation of those who would want to clone themselves and others. On the one hand, it might be accepted that human cloning would make possible for infertile couples to produce genetically related children.

On the other hand, there seems to be a worry that people may use human cloning not in order to found a family but with purpose to make a ‘copy’ of themselves. In addition, there may be people who hope to produce ‘copies’ of other living or dead individuals. For example, it was this motivation for cloning that was the theme of the fictional film The Boys from Brazil. In the film Hitler’s genotype was cloned to produce a Fuehrer for the future (Harris 1998, p. 169). However, any clone of an existing person will not be a ‘copy’ of that person.

Having the same genotype as another individual does not make a clone the same individual and it is probable that effects from the egg and from the environment would make any clone considerably different from their genetic ‘twin’. While this may be so, it could be likely that those who employ human cloning with purpose to produce a copy of themselves or others will not be proper parents. As a result, the welfare of any produced child will suffer. The motivation of many parents to produce a child may also not withstand close examination. What would be a ‘good’ motivation for wishing to have a sun or daughter?

It could be claimed that all motivations to bring to birth a child are based, at least to some degree, on the selfish feelings of future parents. A third main concern on the regard of human cloning involves these kinds of worries about the well-being of the produced child. It may be possible that any child born as a result of nuclear somatic transfer cloning will experience disadvantage either because he/she is ‘robbed’ of his/her genetic identity or because he/ she will not have an ‘open future’ (Harris 1998, p. 169). To what extent is a cloned person robbed of his/her genetic identity?

While most human beings are genetically unique, there seems to be no indication that permitting the birth of genetically identical twins derived from a single fertilized ovum robs anyone of their ‘genetic identity’ or even that the fact that twins of this kind share a genetic identity is causing harm to these individuals. It could be stated, therefore, that it thus seems not clear why this factor should make human cloning unethical. It has been indicated (Holm, 1998) that clones created by means of nuclear somatic transfer cloning will live their lives in the shadow of their older genetic ‘twin.

As a result, the clones will not have the ‘open future’ that most of ordinary people have and, it might be argued, human beings have a right to. Soren Holm, for example, argues that: Usually when a child is born we ask hypothetical questions like ‘How will it develop? ‘ or ‘What kind of person will it become? ‘ and we often answer them with reference to various psychological traits we can identify in the biological mother or father or in their families…In the case of the clone we are, however, likely to give much more specific answers to such questions.

Answers that will then go on to affect the way the child is reared (Holm, 1998, pp. 160-161). Holm’s point of view is that producing a clone that lives life in the shadow of an older genetic twin is unethical as: It diminishes the clone’s possibility of living a life that is in a full sense of that word his or her life. The clone is forced to be involved in an attempt to perform a complicated partial re-enactment of the life of somebody else (the original) (Holm, 1998, p. 162).

This means that while people usually claim for the importance of the moral principles of respect for individual autonomy or the power to make a decision for oneself without influence from outside, people are violating these principles by robbing clones this opportunity to live their lives in the way they want. The way the clones were produced will putt them in a position where they are living in a shadow. However, even if this claim is true that clones would ‘live in the shadow’ of their genetic ‘originals’, it is not obvious that this fact should compel people to prohibit human cloning.

Arguments that compel people to consider the well-being of a resulting child are questionable. It has been claimed that a person is only wronged by being brought to birth if he/she has a life ‘so bad that it would be a cruelty rather than a kindness to bring it into existence’ (Bennett and Harris, 2002, p. 323). This kind of unfortunate existence is sometimes characterized as an ‘unworthwhile life’. An ‘unworthwhile’ life would be a life of extremely negative experience and worsening. Other lives that may be not perfect, but not so worthless as to deprive that individual of an amazing experience of living, are termed ‘worthwhile lives’.

In this regard, the statement is that as long as a person is likely to have a ‘worthwhile life’ he/she is not disadvantaged by being brought to birth. Thus, even if a human clone is likely to have a life that is somehow less than ideal, his or her suffering is unlikely to be such that it makes life ‘unworthwhile’. It could therefore be claimed that while being born a clone may not be the ideal way of coming into the world, it is the only opportunity of existing in this world and to have a life that is likely to be worth living.

If this position was considered, it would establish human cloning as ethically acceptable at least on the grounds of giving the child a right to exist. Conclusion The topic human cloning has a number of ethically puzzling if not problematic features. Cloning will be one of the most hotly debated and least well-understood phenomena in near future. Today human cloning meets with overwhelming opposition. However, it is clear that human cloning turns out to be the perfect embodiment of the ruling possibilities for new age.

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