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Illegal Beings: Human Clones






Disease Prevention and Treatment

Human Cloning: An Australian Perspective

by Melissa Macalyk

There is much heated debate circling the subject matter of whether or not to clone human beings. The arguments for and against are as multiple as they are varied, proponents to each side produce valid and forthright reasons as to how society should respond to human cloning. This paper will examine the arguments for and against, what the law is and what, in my opinion, should the law play.

What is human cloning?

According to the Wikipedia encyclopedia, human cloning is “the creation of a genetically identical copy of an existing human or growing cloned tissue from that individual.”[1] The Commonwealth Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 states "human embryo clone" means a human embryo that is a genetic copy of another living or dead human, but does not include a human embryo created by the fertilisation of a human egg by human sperm..”[2] There are three types of cloning; embryo cloning (produces twins and triplets of an embryo), Adult DNA or reproductive cloning (where a duplicate is created form an adult or fully-grown DNA) and Therapeutic Cloning (or biomedical cloning where a specific body part is created to be a transplant organ for a patient.)

The arguments against human cloning.

We have a limited scope of the consequences of human cloning as it has yet to be scientifically achieved. With the exception of ‘Dolly’ the sheep cloned in Scotland in 1997, there have been claims of human cloning, but no scientific proof. In “The Australian” (19/01/04), a US fertility specialist claimed to have cloned a human embryo into a woman’s womb, to this information “experts say the claims are highly unlikely given current cloning technology, and, if (these claims) were true, the attempts to produce a cloned baby is extremely unethical.”[3] This article is amongst many that commonly feature in the international news media. However, it is fact that whilst ‘Dolly’ was cloned there has been no successful cloning of other primates, for example monkeys, let alone humans. This evidence perhaps insights that while theoretically human cloning could potentially cure inborn or birth defects, it has yet to have been performed, meaning that we have no idea as to the outcome that is, defects in the cloned person, and until there is sufficient scientific research that ensures there be no negative complications! to the cloning of anther human being human cloning should remain prohibited.

Furthermore, it is important to examine the reasons for cloning another human being. Consider this scenario; a couple naturally gives birth to a child who develops cancer and is in need of bone marrow. Both parents marrow is incompatible with the child’s. The waiting list for the transplant is in excess of three years. If the child does not receive the transplant within one year, they will die. The parents would like to clone the DNA from the child to produce a sibling whose bone marrow will cure the child with the cancer. If this technology were available and legal, what would the societal implications be to the cloned child? Will society accept clones as individual human beings that will share the same rights as natural human beings? In the above scenario, it is viable! to consider that the cloned child would simply be another member of the family who perhaps has saved the life of another through the gift of their body. Considering therapeutic cloning where a body part is reproduced, in this case, ethically a replica human being would not be created, and therefore the consequences of creating a new baby would not be as ethically or morally questionable. However, the available techniques of human cloning show that an exact clone can not be created, it would be “99.7% identical to the DNA donor…which could spell problems…as compatibility is essential because of risk of rejection.”[4]

This could be a positive outcome of genetic engineering. However, the risks associated may ultimately outweigh the benefits If there is a law that regulates human cloning, what would be the criteria for a making a cloned baby?

Presently one can only speculate what the cultural and societal implications of having clones in society would be. Would they be treated as equals to natural human beings? Will the clone feel like it has been created out of science rather than out of love? Will we look to clones as sub-human or slaves? It is fair to consider that a lower class of human beings would exist. There is a fear that a black market would be created where human clones contain the genetic make up of sports stars of geniuses, thus being created for financially commercial means. The ethics surrounding the cloning of human beings begs us to ask these questions in light of the dangers involved, that is it is a form of genetic engineering, that it is taking reproduction out of the hands of the Gods. It could be perceived as “the most narcissistic reason fo! r having children-to perpetuate oneself through a genetic encore.”[5] The above scenario highlights the way in which human cloning has the potential to save lives, but the fact remains that as yet, we are unsure whether it can be performed with the risk of physical or psychological harm.

The implication of kinship of the family is another argument against human cloning. Consider human cloning for the purpose of a treatment for infertility. In the 1960’s and 1970’s In Vitro Fertilisation was viewed as unethical and unnatural, but now it is a common treatment for infertility. A Couple wishes to clone a baby so that they may have a biological child. This would mean the cloned baby would be a genetic match to the mother, meaning that biologically the cloned baby was the identical twin sister of the mother. For the sake of a treatment of infertility, cloning is an answer. However it is not the only one, and possible not the one that should be considered the primary option. Alternative treatments for infertility already exist. For example IVF treatment and a! surrogacy birth. These measures mean that an individual is created rather than a replica of another.

A humanitarian stance would argue that adoption should be considered (as an alternative treatment for infertility), rather than an artificial birth for the sake of the further of bloodline. If parents want to have a child for the sake of bringing up an individual in society, and to show love and care for another human being, then adoption could mean that the neglected members of society can be given a chance to feel and be loved like an important member of the society that initially rejected them.

The head of the Catholic Church from the Vatican called cloning “a crime against humanity.”[6] Hinduism questions whether a cloned person would have a soul. “Hindus believe that a pre-existing soul is reincarnated int! o a new embryo when a man and woman have intercourse.”[7] Religious ethics and recommendations believe in the uniqueness of the individual, that life should be naturally conceived as this is what has been intended by the deities of each religion. It is important to consider religious authority as a means for providing a societal conscience, it can be viewed as means to consider humanity without the aid of science to enhance or detract from it. The individual in society will t! ake on a new cultural meaning should the ban on human cloning be lifted. Resolutely that human cloning would be inhumane.

Conclusion

The arguments against human cloning can be summarised as follows:

There is uncertainty of the outcome of human cloning in terms of harm to the clone in a physical and/or psychological sense. The cultural and societal acceptance could mean that a clone is not viewed as an equal in society in terms of its rights and the reasons why it has been created.

Some of the major religions believe it is against the individuality and uniqueness of the way life is ‘meant’ to be.

The Arguments for Human Cloning:

Should human cloning be regulated the benefits could be a solution to many, if not all medical dilemmas. It could be a cure for infertility. Some would claim that as equals in society we should all share equal rights and liberties. One of these is the right to bear children. Currently it is not perceived to be an inequality should a couple be unable to have children due to infertility. An argument against human cloning reasons that the cloned person would be accepted or tolerated as an individual in society, with the possibility that they could belong to a lower class of human being. Consider the 1960’s and 70’s when the theory behind In Vitro Fertilisation began. There was strong opposition to it then because it was perceived to be against the laws of human nature and! that the children born out of IVF would be different from the rest of humanity. Once society witnessed that the product of IVF was another human being, without any notable negative consequences, IVF became an accepted treatment for infertility. The same might be said for cloning. A cloned person could be raised as a loved member of a family, an individual in its own right because it would not grow up to the identical environment as the person cloned.

Through the technology of cloning it, a couple could have the right to have a biologically healthy child. For example, consider a couple with a lethally recessive gene that would give their child a twenty five percent chance their child would inherit it. Given the opportunity to clone their healthy gene, it could mean they have a child born without health defects. This could mean that selective abortion be avoided.

Consider a victim of car accident who loses a limb, through therapeutic cloning a new body part could be grown and the person could be growing a new leg and be returned to the state he was in had not the accident incurred. This could mean where negligence is concerned the wrongdoer could pay for the exact damages and litigation in the courts could be cut down in such types of incidents.

Furthermore, therapeutic cloning could cure individuals suffering form cancer or spina bifida by correcting the faulty stem cells and inability new ones in their place. The increase in the status of health could mean that individuals have a greater quality of life and could live longer. The Australian Bureau of statistics shows that the greater cause of death amongst adults in cardiovascular disease, with cancer close behind. Some sufferers of cardiovascular diseases need new hearts, the waiting lists for heart transplants can be from ten to fifteen years meaning that the likelihood a person get a compatible heart are rare. Cloning would prevent lack of resources in health care being an increasing problem.

On a societal front, equality or a form of utilitarianism could be reached. Human cloning could open up the pathways for equal health for all, a society absent of incurable diseases. It could mean that homosexual couples can enjoy the right to bear children as heterosexual couples can. If there was such scientific availability of human cloning one could argue that it be inhumane if we do not allow further research and legislation for the cloning of human beings. Human cloning could potentially save millions of lives, to deny this would unequivocally unfair to those who could benefit from it. While theoretically it may seem unethical, most people would have someone in their family or know someone who could benefit from the technologies of human cloning. On a personal level we would not deny a loved one the chance for an improved quality of life, thus regulated cloning could be beneficial to all of humanity.

Current Legislation

The Commonwealth Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 provides legislation for the state of human cloning in Australia.

----An Act to prohibit human cloning and other unacceptable practices associated with reproductive technology, and for related purposes---

There are thousands of media releases that cover the evolving nature of the laws on human cloning. The United Nations has postponed its ban on human cloning until 2005.[8] It appears that the reasons behind postponed legislation and legislation imposing strict penalties if it is undertaken is because we need to make sure we have strict guidelines and laws in place before the technology becomes available.

What part I think the law should play.

It is quite clear that research and technology on human cloning will continue and evolve. As it does so it will mean that human cloning will become a reality. This is why in light of the research commenced on this topic it is vital that strict regulations are placed on the cloning of another human being. The current laws prohibit from occurring at the moment, and it appears that much of the world community and scientists are fighting for it to remain this way. Recently a report by the United Nations claimed more than 60 scientists “demand that the cloning of babies be banned worldwide.[9]" Human reproductive cloning is unsafe, and no responsible scientist would attempt it given the huge health risks that are involved."[10] Presently the risks associated with human cloning mean that the prohibition should continue. However, as the research develops the legislation will need to change. If not to protect the individual, but also to protect society from claims by religious groups whose primary tenens is based on cloning i.e. the Raelian group. If sufficient laws were in place it could mean that research progress is carefully monitored.

However, it is also important to note that the same authorities that banned cloning of human babies did not ban therapeutic cloning. Meaning that this research should continue. I believe that therapeuticv should be given more funding as its results can mean better world health and quality of life. However this also needs to be considered carefully. As some scientists are claiming that. But the ban should not extend to therapeutic cloning - the creation of cloned cells which could form tissue for transplant into diseased or injured patients - they added.

Issues of consent and capacity need to be regulated in order to protect the rights and privacy of the individual and society.

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Notes:
[1] “Human Cloning” www.wikipedia.com
[2] Prohibition of human Cloning Act 2002- www.austlii.edu.au
[3] Maegraith “Outrage at human Cloning Claims” (The Australian Newspaper 19/01/04) see appendix 1.
[4] “Human Cloning” www.wikipedi.org
[5] “Genetic Encores: The Ethics of Human Cloning” www.puaf.umd.edu
[6] www.cathnews.com/news/309.310.
[7]“Human Cloning” – www.wikipedia.org
[8] “UN Postpones Human Cloning Ban” (7/11/03) www.newsscientist.com
[9] www.newsscientist.com (22/11/03) “Ban Cloning Babies Demand World’s Top Scientists.”
[10] Yves Quéré of the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues

If you know a good reason why human cloning should be allowed please write it as an essay and submit it via e-mail through this link.