Bioethics Cloning Essay, Research Paper
The biological definition of a clone is an organism that has the same genetic information as another organism or organisms (Nash, 62-65). From this definition and from information about the science behind cloning, my current view on cloning is that it is ethical, but should not be used until perfected. This statement ignores information about how we can misuse cloning and what consequences occur when the procedure is unsuccessful. I doubt however that we will allow cloning to be misused, and think most people would probably have this opinion on cloning, but their lack of knowledge on cloning, or their belief that cloning would be misused, is the reason for differences of opinion. Thus, an elaboration on the history, techniques, ethics, and reasons for researching the technology of cloning is necessary.
WHAT IS CLONING?
The first things that must be cleared up are the questions, what is cloning, and what is a clone? A clone is an organism derived asexually from a single individual by cuttings, bulbs, tubers, fission, or parthenogenesis reproduction (Griffin, Roslin Institute Online). Parthenogenesis reproduction is the development of an organism from an unfertilized ovum, seed or spore (Griffin, Roslin Institute Online). So in other words, cloning is any process in which production of a clone is successful. Thus, the biological term cloning is the production of a genetically identical duplicate of an organism.
Successful cloning has occurred with livestock. The drive toward success is not because livestock like cows and sheep are model organisms. Instead, the farming industry has made and continues to make a big effort toward finding a way to implement the technique of nuclear transfer for livestock. Research in cloning is also occurring in primates. The reason for studying primates is for their similarities with humans- large brain, opposable thumbs, etc. This leads to the most talked about aspects of cloning, the use of the techniques with human cells and eggs.
Throughout the recent years, conversation, novels, magazine articles, newspaper reports, and movies have focused on what would happen if humans were cloned. Part of this media creates thoughts of a utopian society, while some think of a horrific world; the majority of them being the latter of the two.
For those who have had these frightening thoughts, Dr. Richard Seed states he can accomplish the task of cloning a human using nuclear transfer. Dr. Seed is a physicist who researched fertility sciences in the 1980’s and is now specializing in embryology. He states that he has set up a fertility clinic that can conduct nuclear transfer. Dr. Richard Seed is creating uproar regarding the ethics of cloning. This is ironic because cloning has occurred (Flock, 1998).
The cloning of humans in a biological sense already is occurring. Scientists are researching by splitting embryos to execute experiments to find data relating to cell differentiation, the use of stem cells, and genetic screening (Benoit, Human Eng.). Amazingly, genetic screening is occurring in Britain quite often! Fertility clinics aim this service toward couples where the mother or father has a genetic disorder. A fertility clinic will clone an embryo, then test it for genetic disorders, and if the embryo is tested negative for genetic disorders, then the fertility clinic implants a clone of that embryo. This should guarantee that the child will not have any genetic disorders (Benoit, Human Eng.).
That is the current work with cloning. It is becoming a part of our society already. Cloning is currently a technology that many people could use. I believe it will become more popular as prices for the technique decreases, and as the use of cloning become increasingly acceptable. That is if we humans consider cloning an acceptable technology, and that we would like to use for the twenty-first century. Cloning has progressed so quickly, few of us know if we should be even fooling with this technology. Some scientists say that we put technologies to use once the pros outweigh the cons.
During the late seventies and early eighties, there were few scientists still studying cloning. Many had predicted that it was impossible to clone embryonic mammal cells. Few continued with research, and many gave up and went into other fields. However, some persisted and were rewarded for their efforts.
In 1984, Dr. Steene Willadsen announced that he had successfully transferred nuclei from embryos of sheep to produce clones (Kolata, NY Times). He also was successful with cows and even monkeys. He advanced his methods, and began cloning embryos that were in the 64-128 cell-stage. This suggested that perhaps nuclear transfer was possible with differentiated cells. Two years later, Dr. Ian Wilmut and Dr. Keith Campbell, of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, produced for the world Megan and Morag, the first cloned sheep from embryo cells (Griffin, Roslin Online Institute).
DOLLY- THE FIRST
On July 5 at 4:00 P.M. lamb number 6LL3, or Dolly, was born in a shed down the road from the Institute (Travis, Science News). She weighed in at 14 pounds and was healthy. Scientists accomplished this by using frozen mammary cells taken from a six-year-old pregnant ewe and fusing them with an enucleated egg. This procedure occurred late in January of 1996. This was the day of fusion for Dolly, which is the natural equivalent to a conception date. An interesting note is that three different sheep were involved in producing Dolly, versus the usual two or one (in-vitro fertilization). Furthermore, the Roslin scientists used three different breeds for each sheep to prove that the experiment was a success (Griffin, Roslin Institute).
REASONS FOR MORE RESEARCH
The goals and purposes for researching cloning range from making copies of those that have deceased to better engineering the offspring in humans and animals. Cloning could also directly offer a means of curing diseases or a technique that could extend means to acquiring new data for embryology and development of organisms as a whole. Cloning could massively improve the agricultural industry as the technique of nuclear transfer improves. There are also transgenic organisms, which have had their genetic information artificially altered. The goal of transgenic livestock is to produce livestock with ideal characteristics for the agricultural industry and to be able to manufacture biological products such as proteins for humans. Farmers are attempting to produce transgenic livestock already, but not efficiently, due to the absurd amount of money it costs and the poor reliability of it all.
Scientists also ponder the idea of cloning endangered species to increase their population. These possibilities are endless. However, there is much research being done for the improvement of human life. Embryologist Dr. Steene Willadsen, when talking of past research, stated, “I was checking fences, looking for holes in the scientific fabric, ways to break through what others considered dogma.” (Kolata, NY Times).
Scientists foresee the cloning of pigs to produce organs that humans will not reject. As mentioned earlier, livestock can produce biological proteins for helping people who have diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Cystic Fibrosis. Cloning also provides better research capabilities for finding cures to many diseases. It may also be useful for some couples who can t have kids for one reason or another. For instance, couples who are infertile could use cloning to produce a child. Equally important, women who are single could have a child using cloning instead of in-vitro fertilization. Nuclear transfer could also provide children who need organ transplants to have a clone born to donate organs. Cloning could also provide a copy of a child for a couple whose child had died, but there is a line to be drawn here.
ON THE DOWNSIDE
Cloning has many negative affects it could have to life. The technique of nuclear transfer is also early in its developmental stages. Therefore, errors are occurring all the time when scientists carry out the procedure. For instance, it took 277 tries to produce Dolly, and Roslin scientists produced many lambs with abnormalities (Travis, Science News)! This is the main reason science is holding out on cloning humans. If the scientists who do this for a living take such a long time in accomplishing this feat, with so many errors, obviously further advancement would be needed before serious consideration was taken for cloning humans. I believe we should not attempt nuclear transfer to produce an adult human until the technique is perfected, and also because there are many ethical issues that are still unresolved.
ETHICAL ISSUES UNANSWERED
If we clone humans, is that considered taking nature into our own hands? Would the government place regulations on human cloning or animal cloning? In fact, Great Britain and many other European nations have already passed congressional legislation to regulate the use of cloning, both for humans and animals. Many religious organizations consider nuclear transfer to cause men to be reproductively obsolete, because they are not used in the process. Religious groups also claim that cloning defies the rule or their belief that humans have souls. They also consider cloning unnatural, and say we are taking the work of God into our own hands. People question when we will draw the line for getting involved in natural events. There is also a debate as to the moral rights of clones. One could see how we would not receive clones with such excitement as a child of a couple that conceived naturally, even though if natural reproduction were to occur, genetic variation would occur. They say cloning would deprive someone to have any perception of uniqueness. I believe this to be true, because although a clone would be identical in every way, his/her personality would be different in every case, depending on how the person was raised, and the surrounding environment.
Sidney Callahan, a psychologist, argues that “the random fusion of a couple’s genetic heritage gives enough distance to allow the child also to be seen as a separate other” (Bruce, WebZone, 1998). But still I cannot stand the fact that I look like my father when he was my age, and currently I am under the impression that I was conceived naturally J. Thus I believe the old-fashioned way of having kids is not giving me enough distance, so what is the difference for a clone?!
IN MY OPINION
At this point, I believe we should not use cloning. However, if we venture more into cloning we must make many precautions, and I think the best way to be aware of these precautions is through more research. Research that involves human cloning is the hardest of the ethical and moral dilemmas to resolve. Currently, even in the case of animal cloning, the extreme inefficiency and cost of the procedures inhibit the true benefits that make it worthwhile. If the ethical issues of cloning included resolving the lack of respect for the lives of animals and humans, it would be more acceptable to allow technology to advance in this promising area.