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Illegal Beings: Human Clones






Disease Prevention and Treatment

In Support of the Argument for Human Cloning

by John Greeney

The announcement of the birth of the cloned ewe, Dolly, in 1997 by scientists at the Roslin Institute, was a shock for the entire world. Up until that point, the issue of the morality and ethics of cloning had been relegated to discussions of purely theoretical nature. Because of the conceptual simplicity of the process used, in which an enucleated egg is implanted with the genetic material from a somatic cell, many people immediately saw that the actual instantiation of cloning a human being was a distinct possibility and a potential moral and ethical danger zone. We had not, as a species, ever truly considered the likelihood that human reproduction would fall so fully under the hand of technology. Though there are many detractors to the application of cloning technology to humans, I believe that human cloning technology can be used with responsibility to achieve a number of improvements to human experience. Consequently, I oppose the proposal to ban research into the cloning of human beings because the arguments used to support such a ban do not bear the weight of critical inspection, though the arguments themselves are also important to human advancement.

Opposition

The arguments in support of a ban on human cloning are numerous and varied; they are, in fact, too varied to cover them all in a single paper. Nonetheless, there are a number of arguments that appear with relative frequency and can be grouped under general headings that seem to express natural fears and misgivings about human cloning and humanity’s relationship to the process of cloning in a moral sense. [All these arguments are refuted below.]

The general summation of these arguments seems to present itself in a single statement as presented below:

“Cloning should be banned because it fosters the treatment of people as means, not ends, provides no clear benefits in exchange for risks, fosters the further ambiguation of kinship structures, and compromises the dignity and uniqueness of individuals."

Utilitarian argument

In what I call the utilitarian argument, the assumption seems to be that the entire process of cloning is, at its root, a process that reduces human beings to the status of instruments, denying them their God given state of dignity as ends in and of themselves. Even though there may be many ethical applications of cloning, the very nature of the act presents a slippery slope that leads to a reductionist view of people. According to David M. Byers in his article, “An Absence of Love,” “At this most fundamental level, clones would be human beings created, at least in part, to fulfill the will of another human being.”(70). He goes on to say, “Cloning, at base, is an assertion of power over another human being, exercised without consent.”(76). In the utilitarian argument, there is considerable concern that, especially for the gene donor and for the clone, the act of cloning will compromise their dignity and their freedom from instrumental treatment. With respect to the instrumental treatment of the clone, it has been said, “Cloning tries to force an outcome on the individual – to fulfill a predetermined destiny that the individual may not be able to fulfill.’(Evans, 30).

Risk/Benefit argument

The risk/benefit argument suggests that there are insufficient supporting arguments in favor of cloning to outweigh the risks associated with the process, as it would be applied to humans. “When we consider the suggested goals of human cloning (to create spare body parts, produce a child, or advance science), in each case there are other techniques available to achieve these goals.”(Evans, 27). It is undeniable that there are a number of risks associated with the process of Roslin Nuclear Transfer that, if applied to a human embryo, would constitute a significant moral transgression. “Because we will likely never be able to protect the human subject of cloning research from serious harm, the basic ethical rules of human experimentation prohibit us from ever using it on humans,”(Annas, 60). There are even those that support that the benefits that are touted as possible boons from cloning are unnecessary. In an article in The National Review, E.V. Kontorovich asserts. “As for infertility, it is not even a disabling sickness that, on humanitarian grounds, we should feel obligated to alleviate.” He goes on to say, “There is nothing heartless about saying that people should resort to alternatives besides cloning, like adoption.” (2 of 5).

Kinship and the Family argument

A significant proportion of the detractors of human cloning touches on an important point –that of kinship and the family. The topic of familial definition has been undergoing considerable transformation in the late twentieth century, and stands to be redefined even further. Nonetheless, the kinship argument is at the heart of most people’s distrust of the cloning process. Most people fear that the very definition of a person’s place in the world, as defined by their place in a kinship group, becomes threatened. “The relationship between the parties to asexual reproduction would be inherently ambiguous.”(Kontorovich, 4 of 5). Furthermore, that ambiguity is seen as threatening to the structure of the family. “Cloning undermines the structure of the family…. Reproduction and progeny are not connected. Furthermore, cloned individuals may have difficulty determining who their parents are.”(Evans, 30-31).

Uniqueness argument

Finally, the opposition to cloning claims that cloning would deprive people of their natural and God given state of uniqueness and that compromising that uniqueness may lead to unfortunate results. One of the more eloquently stated fears about loss of uniqueness was stated as a concern for genetic diversity. “The production of human clones goes against Nature in that the latter requires that the genetic structure of all human offspring be a composite of genes from two donors. In that way, Nature assures diversity and helps overcome some of the inherent weaknesses in either donor. Thus it follows that widespread cloning would lead to a gradual diminution of genetic quality.”(Paris, 47). Another argument that fits under the label of concern for uniqueness is a consideration for the rights of the clone to a unique and untried genotype. “Moreover, the cloned individual will be saddled with a genotype that has already lived. He will not be fully a surprise to the world, and people are likely always to compare his performances in life with that of his alter-ego.”(Kass, 58).

Refutation

Though the arguments presented by the opposition seem sound at first glance, there are a number of unconsidered issues that address those arguments directly. Within this refutation, I plan to show that each argument within the opposition section of this paper cannot bear the weight of critical inspection. Each argument ( Utilitarian, Risk/Benefit, Kinship and the Family, and Uniqueness) will be addressed in turn, followed by a conclusion that will sum up my views on both the issue of human cloning, and of the argument that surrounds it. Continue...