Cloning refers to the development of offspring that are genetically identical to their parents. While cloning is often referred to as an unnatural process, it occurs quite often in nature. Identical twins are clones, for example, and asexual creatures reproduce by cloning. Artificial human cloning, however, is both very new and very complex.
The first artificially cloned animal was Dolly the sheep. She was a successful attempt at cloning after 277 unsuccessful embryo plantations. As such, it is evident that even now the science of cloning isn’t very advanced. It is universally accepted that human life is worth more than that of any other animal. As such, the usage of cloning on humans raises a lot more ethical concerns than that on a sheep. There are two main reasons to clone humans (or human cells).
First, it can be used for stem cell research and, by extension, regenerative medicine. Now that’s a whole different debate but the gist is that a fertilized human embryo could be cloned to millions and those embryos can be used to regenerate cells in a diseased person’s body and cure them. A recent example was on September 12, 2014, when surgeons at the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation Hospital in Kobe, Japan, transplanted a 1.3 by 3.0 millimeter sheet of retinal pigment epithelium cells, which were differentiated from iPS cells through Directed differentiation, into an eye of an elderly woman, who suffers from age-related macular degeneration. But since we are using live human embryos to alleviate the suffering of a living human, is it morally right? Would it be right of me to kill you if it made me healthier?
Second, it can be used for reproductive cloning. Impotent couples can use cloning to have a child of their own. This especially a danger area of cloning. 95-97% of attempts at cloning an entire animal fail. Considering the complexity of the human body, the failure rate is sure to be higher. Since the technology is still very primitive, the cloned person is sure to have a lot of health problem, lower life expectancy and most importantly, they can have serious mental health issues such as retardation etc. which will ultimately result in a much lower quality of life. Another thing to consider is the constant social mocking the person will face, which anyone who is “different” faces in our society.
Another problem with this whole set up is that research cloning will undoubtedly lead to a new exploitation of women. In order to manufacture enough cloned embryos to create a sufficient number of viable stem cell lines, scientists will need to obtain massive quantities of women’s eggs. To do so, women must be injected with superovulatory drugs and undergo an invasive procedure. The Washington Post reported recently that the side effects of the injections are abdominal pain and nausea; in 3 to 5 percent of cases hyper-stimulation of the ovaries occurs, causing severe abdominal pain, and on rare occasions surgery is required which may leave the patient infertile. Contrary to women who assume the risks associated with egg donation in order to undergo in vitro fertilization, women who take such risks for the purpose of research cloning would not be motivated by the desire to have a child, but often by the desire for financial gain. Indeed, Advanced Cell Technology pays a lot to each woman who donates eggs for their failed cloning experiments. It is likely that women of lower economic means will be exploited in this way.
In conclusion, while human cloning offers some advantages in the medical field, it has a lot of social and ethical drawbacks. Add to that the fact that it is very inefficient. Right now, any funding towards this cause would be unnecessary and that money can be used to do better things, like feeding the already living poor.
What are your thoughts on human cloning? Would you like to have a clone of your own? Would you have him/her cloned to your age or would you have a baby? Would you treat him/her as your sibling or as your child? Let me know in the comments section below.