Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is Human Cloning Possible?

After the cloning experience of Dolly the sheep, human cloning is theoretically and technically possible. The procedure would consist of taking an egg, removing its chromosomes, and then fusing it with a somatic cell from the individual to be cloned. Some believe that it is inevitable that some scientist will try to clone humans, if it is not already occurring. There seems to be a consensus that within a few years the news of the birth of the first human clone will be the major headline in the media. Scientists in South Korea reported success in creating a cloned human embryo, but it was destroyed instead of being implanted in a surrogate mother. Even if the first human clone is decades from birth, the idea that scientists are secretly trying to do it is a real possibility.

Scientists with an economic interest in this science have been expressing their viewpoint that it would be ethically acceptable to clone human beings. They argue that an embryo up to 10 days after fertilization cannot be considered a life because development of the brain begins at about 14 days after fertilization. It would be interesting to know how those scientists define the ethical limits in relation to their objectives.

It has been assumed by some that human cloning serves only the interests of the narcissists or neo-Nazis, those who would like to create the perfect race. In fact, several scenarios have been created that justify cloning of the Homo sapiens "animal." Some of those scenarios can seem extremely appealing, but an ethical analysis of the dilemmas that clones, their relatives, and society would face during their life indicates that cloning of the most intelligent and rational of the animals is not politically, socially, or religiously acceptable.

Some of the following scenarios show the complexity of the subject:

1) Consider the situation of a homosexual man who feels frustrated with his incapacity to bear children and wants to be cloned.

2) Consider the couple that wants to have a baby, but the husband is sterile. Assuming that cloning is an alternative, the couple could decide to clone the husband, and the wife could contribute as a surrogate mother. Would the child's responses to education differ though he is genetically identical to his father? Would he have the same tastes and preferences as the husband? What if a divorce occurs? How would the mother see her son, who is a copy of the man from whom she is divorced? Would the father have the right to custody of the child because he is genetically related to his father?

3) In another scenario, where a woman gives birth to her own clone, would she be her child's mother or twin sister with a different age?

Obviously, society changes over time. In vitro fertilization was illegal in many countries until about 20 years ago, and the idea of heart transplants was considered immoral in the past. Public opinion on human cloning will probably change in the next few years, but cloning will likely be banned globally before the birth of the first human clone. It would be a terrible mistake to wait until the birth of a baby with genetic defects before that decision is reached. Current experience with animals shows that this technology has too many technical and ethical problems to justify experimentation in humans.

Ethicists are concerned that clones would be considered inferior to human beings, and they would be subject to the limitations and expectations of the knowledge of the copied person. These expectations could be false, as both genetic factors and the environment determine personality. For example, a clone of an extroverted person could be more introverted, depending on his or her upbringing. Clones of athletes, artists, scientists, and politicians could choose different professional careers based on opportunities and the environment in which they are raised.

Predicting the future of human cloning is not an easy task. History shows that society is dynamic, that ethical values change, and moral principles distort over time. In other words, only time will tell. The challenge for bioethicists is to keep science progressing while maintaining the sanctity of life. It is a mistake to think that genetically identical means identical individuals. In the 1978 movie The Boys of Brazil, based on Ira Levin's bestseller, a scientist conspires after World War II to clone Hitler, with the objective of raising a new generation of Nazi leaders. The film shows that without intense indoctrination, the clones can be influenced to pursue other activities than becoming dictators.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Cloning

Related Posts by Categories