Have you ever wanted a second you to go to work while you go fishing? Well, science is closer than ever to achieving just that. And don’t worry about the clone demanding equal rights and to go fishing with you. Through gene manipulation you can make the clone quite subservient, as illustrated in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Are subhuman slaves not for you? How about a living organ bank? Through gene manipulation you can even remove its potential for consciousness, so you don’t have to feel bad when you need that new liver. Yes, cloning technology is a modern miracle with unlimited potential.
Clearly, there are many ethical and philosophical questions raised by the prospect of human cloning. Ever since the Dolly sheep experiment, doctors and scientists the world over have been discussing the prospect of human cloning. Both the American Medical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have issued formal public statements advising against human reproductive cloning. Worldwide, 30 countries have laws that prohibit reproductive cloning. A big part of this, however, is simply because of limitations of current technology.
Over 90% of cloning attempts fail to produce viable offspring. Dolly was only one success out of 276 tries. Such a high failure rate is fine when it comes to animals, but we wouldn’t want to subject humans to that. Dolly was created by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, the main form of reproductive cloning. In it, scientists transfer genetic material from the nucleus of a donor adult cell (say, from a rib) to an egg whose nucleus has been removed. The reconstructed cell must then be stimulated to start cell division, and eventually develop into a cloned embryo, which is transferred into a female host. It develops there until birth.
It isn’t hard to imagine an infertile couple wishing to create an offspring with their genetic traits. A person who needs an extra kidney would love to have one genetically matched to prevent immune system rejection. So if the technology advances to a point where human cloning has a high probability of success, there are legitimate demands that will need to be considered. However, these benefits need to be weighed against the potential for abuse.
Even if the international community comes to an agreement on the ethical standards of human cloning, it is hard to see how such laws can be enforced globally. Where there is a will, there is a mad scientist trying to find a way. The tragic state of human trafficking in the world should be an indication that, if cloning ever becomes economically viable, then there is a large demand in the black market for organs and slaves. These are all issues that need to be addressed before human cloning research can proceed. Like the discovery of nuclear fission, this has the potential to be used for great good and great evil.
Human Genome Project Cloning Fact Sheet: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning.shtml
The University of Utah What Is Cloning? http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/tech/cloning/whatiscloning/
How Stuff Works How Cloning Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/genetic/cloning.htm
Cloning Human Beings: http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/nbac/pubs/cloning2/cc5.pdf
Human Cloning: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001359/135928e.pdf
The American Medical Association The Ethics of Human Cloning: http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/ethics/report98.pdf
The American Association for the Advancement of Science Regulating Human Cloning: http://www.aaas.org/gr/pne/pubs/cloningreport.pdf
Hub Pages Human Cloning in Brave New World: http://hg52.hubpages.com/hub/Human-Cloning-in-Brave-New-World