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In 1978 David Rorvik’s In His Image: The Cloning of Man was published. Though Rorvik’s claim that an adult human being had been cloned was false, it stimulated a great deal of interest in cloning. Cloning (from the Greek klon, meaning “twig” or “offshoot”) has been used for some time in horticulture, but only in this century has it been applied to the animal kingdom. Early work with animals was done by Robert Briggs and Thomas King. In 1952 they transplanted the nuclei of unfertilized cells with nuclei from blastula cells. In 1961 J.B. Gurdon cloned tadpoles from adult frogs. Most of this work with amphibians, however, did not lead to adult animals. In many cases defects arose in the developing organism, and it did not survive. In other cases the experiment ended before the adult stage was achieved simply because the scientists were interested in studying embryology, not cloning per se. Though talk of cloning a human continues, scientists have not yet been able to apply this technology to humans.
Cloning as a procedure is the artificial reproduction of an organism which is the exact genetic copy of a living organism. The nucleus of a mature but unfertilized egg is removed by microsurgery or is incapacitated by radiation. Then, the cell is provided with a nucleus from a donor body cell, often taken from the intestine. While human eggs and sperm cells each have twenty-three chromosomes, when they are fused through natural or artificial reproduction, the product has forty-six chromosomes. The embryo begins to develop, and eventually the baby is born. However, each somatic cell (as opposed to germline cells, i.e., sperm or egg) in any living organism contains the complete genetic blueprint for the organism. When a body cell is transferred into the enucleated egg cell, the result is a cell with forty-six chromosomes, an exact genetic copy of the donor organism. The cell is stimulated to develop, and if all goes well, the donor nucleus controls the development of the egg, and the embryo begins to develop. The developing embryo is then inserted into a host womb, and nine months later a baby is born, an exact genetic clone of the donor nucleus.
There are several potential benefits of using cloning in humans that make it attractive. For example, it offers another reproductive option. For those against artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization because they involve masturbation, cloning removes that objection. For those unable to have children by natural or other artificial means, cloning can give them a child, a child genetically identical to one of them. Second, individuals of great genius, beauty or talent could be replicated. Think of the benefits of continually replicating an Einstein or a Beethoven. Likewise, a country might produce a superior military by cloning its best soldiers. Third, cloning allows preservation of a given genotype that might be seen as a way to attain biological immortality. The chance of a recurring genotype (except with multiple births) is slim, but cloning guarantees it. Fourth, cloning lets a couple pick the sex and physical characteristics of their child. One would not have to clone oneself. One could produce an embryo with a transplanted nucleus from someone with desirable qualities. Fifth, cloning might be used to overcome genetic defects and diseases. Genetic defects could be avoided by cloning only healthy persons. Moreover, if both husband and wife carry a recessive gene for a disease, one of them could be cloned so the child would only carry the gene but not get the disease. Natural reproduction might pass the disease on. Finally, clones could provide a major source for organ donors and transplants. If the recipient were cloned for this purpose, given the genetic identity of the donor, fear of organ rejection would be greatly reduced.
Cloning and Practical Concerns
Cloning presents some practical concerns, though some are not significant unless cloning becomes widespread. For example, some worry that wide use of cloning would cause deterioration of the gene pool, because it would limit variety and likely increase the frequency of genes that are defective. However, it is doubtful that those with known genetic defects would be cloned. As to gene pool depletion, this would probably not be a significant problem unless cloning became widespread and replaced other means of reproduction, neither of which is very likely.
On the other hand, some concerns with cloning seem more serious. From a scientific standpoint, cloning could increase the incidence of some genetic diseases in a given population. As Anderson explains, clones of one person would be half-brothers and half-sisters of one another. Without careful record keeping and regulation of marriages, cloning could lead to an incestuous relationship. Genetically, this could result in marriages where genetic disorders depending on recessive genes would be expressed in offspring and then enter the human gene pool. It is also noted that often cloning experiments have resulted in abnormalities in the developing organism. Just as such problems with IVF create both scientific and moral difficulties, so they create concerns about cloning.
There are also legal concerns. Errors which produce defective clones are possible, but then, are doctors open to malpractice suits? Moreover, are such creatures human, and do they have rights and protection as persons, or are they subhuman without any rights? What about inheritance questions? Can a clone of a wife inherit from the wife’s husband? Would the clone’s right to inherit supersede that of children born to the couple through natural reproduction? In case of divorce, is the husband in this imagined situation legally liable to pay child support to the clone of his wife? Would he have visitation rights? And then, would a clone have to pay royalties to its genetic donor? Writers receive royalties for copies of their works; do persons who are copied deserve royalties?
As to social difficulties, many that attach to AID and IVF with either donor egg or donor sperm also apply here. For example, the abuse of children not genetically related to oneself is possible. Single-parent families and homosexuals and lesbians having children are also possibilities. Cloning also necessitates a host womb, and hence would contribute to surrogate motherhood.
Cloning and Ethical Concerns
Many objections against AID and IVF pertain here as well. Concerns that the process unduly tampers with the natural order, that it involves playing God, that it bypasses the traditional notion of parenthood, and that it wrongly disjoins the procreative and unitive aspects of sexual intercourse are frequently voiced.
There are also moral concerns about the uses of cloning. It could encourage surrogate motherhood, single-parent families, and gays and lesbians having children, all thought to be immoral uses. Likewise, clones produced solely for organ transplants raise the question of whether it is moral to use people in this way. The goal envisioned is admirable, but would the means be moral? Though many might not see the clone as a person, for those who do, it surely seems immoral to use persons as means to meet others’needs with little or no concern for the well-being of the clone. And would clones be forced to donate, or would their informed consent be required? Discussions of this topic give the impression that clones would have little say in this matter.
For those who believe life and personhood begin at conception, cloning seems wrong as well on grounds that make IVF objectionable. “Conception” for a clone, of course, occurs with insertion of the donor nucleus into the enucleated cell. At that point, all forty-six chromosomes are present, and the cell can divide and develop into a baby. But, as with IVF, here there will surely be concern over loss of embryonic life. Embryos produced by nuclear transfer solely for experimentation amount to murdered people. Likewise, even when the intent is to produce a baby, success rates are so low (currently zero) in humans, that the embryo is most likely to die. For those who believe that the embryo is a person made in God’s image, this loss of life is unacceptable. And, as with IVF, cloning must be considered an experiment on a human being, an experiment without the consent of the person involved. Granted, the experiment is not identical to that in the case of IVF, but it is an experiment. Once the nucleus is transferred, one must wait and see how the embryo develops; and then, as with IVF, there is the further experiment as to whether the embryo (if apparently normal) can successfully implant into a womb. Those who believe the developing embryo is a person will find this morally unacceptable.
Assessment of Cloning
Here assessment can be made from several standpoints. Practically, the legal, social, and scientific concerns raised with cloning make it appear unwise to pursue it. Moreover, at current levels of knowledge and experiment, chances of successfully cloning a human being are indeed remote. Hence, if an infertile couple wants to have a baby and is financially able to pursue some artificial means of reproduction, this method is an impractical one to try. Other options are much more likely to succeed than this.
From a purely conceptual standpoint, we suspect that some intrigued by cloning hold some faulty assumptions. For example, some may think cloning is a way to replicate someone with special abilities and personality. Think, for example, of a basketball team with clones of Michael Jordan. However, this kind of thinking rests on the faulty assumption that genetics and biology are all there is to personal development. Environment seems insignificant. But surely this oversimplifies things. A clone of Michael Jordan might be raised in an environment where his interests are purely intellectual, not physical at all. A clone of Beethoven could be bored with music. Just because a clone is genetically identical to the original doesn’t mean all else about it will be identical, too.
A related faulty assumption that may underlay cloning is the belief that all characteristics are genetically controlled. However, as we shall see in discussing recombinant DNA, characteristics such as personality traits and intelligence may depend on a number of different factors.
From an ethical standpoint, several comments are in order. As with the other procedures discussed in this chapter, we note the importance of distinguishing the technique from its uses. We agree, for example, that cloning to produce single-parent families and give children to gays and lesbians is immoral. Likewise, producing clones for organ transplants is immoral, for it treats persons as objects and quite possibly would bypass getting their consent to the transplant. However, none of this means the procedure per se is immoral. From our perspective, though, if cloning is at all moral, the only moral use of it would be to give infertile heterosexual married couples children.
As for cloning itself, we cannot endorse it morally. Believing that at conception a person is present, we believe that once the nucleus is transferred to the egg cell there is a person. Because of the likelihood of embryonic death either because of abnormality in the developing embryo or because embryo transfer is unlikely to succeed, we cannot see this practice as moral. Moreover, we believe cloning also involves an immoral experiment on a person and does so without his/her consent. Hence, we think cloning is both impractical and immoral. As LaBar says, “There is no need to put any nucleus in a human egg, except that of a sperm.”
If it is possible, cloning might give some persons control over the genotype of their offspring, and they might consider it beneficent on those grounds. On the other hand, there are potential risks to the unborn, to children derived from such a procedure, and to society in general. The only clear benefit to be gained from cloning per se is allowing a couple to select the genotype of their offspring. This benefit is slight, and would be gained at the risk of injustice and maleficence to the clones, and of not treating them, or perhaps the source of the nucleus from which they are derived, with the respect due to them as persons. We do not need this procedure. There is no need to put any nucleus in a human egg, except that of a sperm.
What about human cloning?
Cloning is not a reproductive option presently available to couples; but, someday it may be. Thus, it warrants some attention here.
Publicity surrounding the reported production of the sheep clone, Dolly, has spurred a heated public debate. In January, 1998, President Clinton publicly reaffirmed his rejection of human cloning—a practice referred to as “playing God.” In the same month, a Chicago physician pledged to begin offering human cloning to the public relatively soon, and nineteen European nations meeting in Paris, France, signed an agreement banning human cloning.
Animal husbandry experimentation has yielded considerable insight into twinning and genetic research. But Dolly’s case goes beyond mere twinning. Reports maintain that researchers for the first time successfully cloned an animal using a nonreproductive cell (i.e., not a sperm or egg) from an adult. To do this, they extracted the genetic material from the cell by removing the cell’s nucleus. This nucleus was then inserted into an egg whose own nucleus had been removed. Stimulated to divide by the application of electrical energy, this egg had the same complete genetic code as the adult sheep. The new cell began to divide and ultimately developed into a mature sheep, identical to the donor sheep. Thus, Dolly was a clone, an exact genetic replica of the sheep from which the original cell was taken.
The public outcry against the cloning process generally relates to the fear of the procedure being applied to humans. If this were accomplished, the clone and the person from whom the clone originated, like identical twins, would have the same chromosome portrait but would be separated in age by many years. The potential for organ donation, replacement of individuals lost in death, and selection and creation of a “super race” of identical individuals become real possibilities. Governments now debate the ethics of cloning but do not want to stifle scientific research.
Religious authorities have tended to denounce the procedure, declaring that cloning violates God’s domain and authority. God entrusted His creation into the hands of humanity. God made people in His image and did not entrust them with absolute authority over human life, only over plant and animal life. Thus, cloning sheep or plants falls within our authority, while cloning humans does not. Plants and animals can be used to achieve human purposes, but other people should not be used in this way. People have a dignity by virtue of their being created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27; 9:6). Another theological question is: Would the human clone have a soul? There is little reason to think not, since identical twins do. Few suspect that identical twins or triplets must share a soul and are thereby diminished.
While cloning does not require tampering with the genetic material, its attraction is found in the ability to produce a person with a particular genetic code. It represents a first step in a much larger enterprise of genetic design that itself is morally dubious. It is one thing to intervene medically or otherwise to help people, it is quite another thing to alter them without their consent to benefit someone else (see previous question). Producing a clone of a child, either to replace a child who has died or to donate bodily materials to help an ailing child, may seem noble at first glance. However, either action opens the door to a way of viewing and treating people (i.e., using them) as instruments rather than as unique individuals.
If we are going to justify cloning on the basis of how the clones produced can benefit other people—i.e., on the basis of its consequences—then a broad range of consequences must be taken into account. Might not current research that has made it possible to produce headless mice make it tempting to produce headless human clones as a source of organs for transplantation? If human cloning could create a generation of individuals with desirable traits, might not others who are less desirable eventually be prevented—or at least hindered—from reproducing? Wouldn’t we be inclined to change the world gene pool to suit our tastes and preferences? Why wouldn’t the world powers be justified in repopulating the world with the race and traits they deem superior, dooming others to extinction? If attractive results justify using people, then there is no end to the possibilities.
Beyond all this, however, is the issue of developing the capability to clone humans safely. To produce the sheep clone, Dolly, there were 276 failed attempts, including the death of several defective clones. No one should subject a child to almost certain death through such experimentation no matter how much they want a child via cloning or otherwise.
 John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 248–252.
 Gary Stewart, Basic Questions on Sexuality and Reproductive Technology: When Is It Right to Intervene?, BioBasics Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1998), 54–57.