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Why Human Cloning is Unethical

Human Cloning:

Why It Is Unethical

     Cloning has been around since 1952 when the first tadpole was successfully cloned.  The first mammal to be cloned was Dolly the sheep in 1996.  Since the announcement of Dolly many questions have been raised as to whether human cloning should be next.  Although a successful human clone would be an enormous accomplishment for the world of science, we must ask ourselves if the reward is worth the risks.  Numerous abnormalities and deformations have been recorded in the cloning of animals.  These problems carry a great risk of occurring in human cloning as well.  Egg donation and carrying a cloned embryo have also shown to have risks.  Science has shown that clones are not always an identical copy.  Cloned babies that are born with severe genetic abnormalities may be left abandoned due to the high medical costs, and extensive needs.

 

Figure 1.  Cloning or Asexual Reproduction, www.arhp.org/cloning (n.d.).

This diagram shows the simple process by which a human clone would be made.

 

     The successful cloning of animals in recent years has shown that human cloning is a possibility.  How many unsuccessful clones are scientists willing to make before a successful clone is born?  Cloning is a relatively simple process, but even the tiniest of mistakes could lead to devastating outcomes.  It took a team of scientists 277 attempts before Dolly was successfully cloned and delivered.  In order to obtain enough human eggs to attempt the first human clone, hundreds of women would need to donate eggs.  Even something as simple as egg donation can have risks for women.  During studies on in vitro fertilization, egg donation carried a risk of ovarian hyper-stimulation which could cause maternal death.  Knowing egg donation could lead to death; scientists might not be able to obtain the amount of eggs needed.  Carrying a cloned embryo in the womb carries its own set of risks for the woman.  Toxemia, abnormal placenta, hydroallantosis, miscarriage, still-born, death shortly after birth and genetic abnormalities in the fetus would pose health risks and psychological risks to the woman carrying the clone.  A cloned baby that does survive the nine month gestation period and birth would have its own set of risks and complications.  A malfunctioning heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, joint defects, an underdeveloped immune system, renal function problems, and the risk of aberrant brain development leading to mental retardation could all be complications that would face the newborn.  Such abnormalities have also been recorded in animals that were cloned.  Even those that appear to be healthy at birth could have underlying genetic abnormalities that will surface later in life.  According to Arthur Beaudet, professor of genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, “Many of the birth defects observed in cloned animals are similar to the gross physical deformities and mental retardation found in rare genetic disorders caused by a phenomenon known as genetic imprinting.” (Friend, January 17, 2003, p.2).  Knowing that genetic imprinting is a major issue in the cloning of humans, science should turn their focus to other issues. Can scientists begin cloning humans who will either die shortly after birth or be born with severe abnormalities?  Gerald Schatten, vice chairman of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said it well when he said, “When people are working with farm animals or laboratory mice and there is a newborn that is suffering, veterinarians can euthanize the animal.  Are people who are attempting to clone humans going to euthanize suffering children?” (Friend, January 17, 2003, p.2).

     Schatten’s comment leads to another issue of cloning; will the parents of these cloned children be willing to care for a child who has severe medical issues?  Many children born today with genetic abnormalities are placed in group homes and rehabilitation centers to be cared for by someone other than the parents.  If there is already an issue with deformed or mentally retarded children not being cared for by the very ones that created them, who’s to say that when cloned babies start showing up it will be different.

Science has already proven that it will take hundreds of attempts before a successful, healthy clone is born.  What will become of the clones that are born with abnormalities?  Caring for a child with mental retardation, autism, or deformities is difficult and no parent would wish such hardships on a child.  With this in mind, why would science begin the creation of humans knowing such abnormalities could exist?

     Many reports have stated that numerous people want to clone a deceased child or a loved one in hopes that the clone would be a “carbon copy”.  “A clone would not in fact be an identical copy, but more like a delayed identical twin.  And just as identical twins are two separate people – biologically, psychologically, morally and legally, though not genetically – so, too, a clone would be a separate person from her non-contemporaneous twin” (Wachbroit, 1999, p.1).  Cc the cat who was cloned from Sunshine’s DNA, is proof that clones are not always identical.    The two cats have different markings, different coat textures and different personalities.  People that would want to clone a deceased child to gain more time with that child would be greatly disappointed to find that the cloned baby is totally different from the original.  Why not just conceive another child naturally?

     All in all, cloning of humans would pose more risks and complications to hundreds of babies than the gain of one successful clone.  With all the testing and research that scientists would want to perform on this one individual, a normal life would be out of the question.  It is unethical to ask that any human being live life under the microscope of a team of scientists, or that life be lived in pain everyday, or that life be taken away too soon because of genetic defects given to the individual during the cloning process.  Although such genetic abnormalities exist in humans today, those abnormalities were not given to the fetus, instead they were simply acquired naturally.  Can people ethically begin making humans knowing that severe deformities or even early death could arise?  Due to all the issues that would arise from cloning humans, scientists should not press forward in the area of human cloning.