This House Would Ban Human Cloning.

The cloning of ‘Dolly’ the sheep in 1997 by Ian Wilmut and his colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh generated a spontaneous worldwide reaction. Dr. Richard Seed, an American geneticist, claimed he would be able to clone human beings within a year. A Korean doctor was reported to have created, and killed, the first human clone,[1] but was subsequently found to have fabricated his results.[2] President Clinton ordered research into the ethics of human cloning, which subsequently became the Shapiro Report.[3] The United States has imposed a moratorium on human cloning and a ban on federal funding of cloning research[4] that will be reviewed every five years. One bill to make human cloning lawful and another demanding its prohibition were both rejected by Congress in 1999. In Britain human therapeutic cloning is legal but requires licenses,[5] reproductive cloning is however illegal. Germany, Switzerland and several American states have passed laws expressly forbidding human cloning, whereas Canada and Ireland have no relevant legislation at present. The opposition of international organisations towards human cloning seems clear. The European Parliament, the Council of Europe, UNESCO and the WHO have all passed resolutions asserting that human cloning is both morally and legally wrong. There is a clear distinction between ‘reproductive cloning’ and ‘therapeutic cloning’. Reproductive cloning relates to the use of the technology with the intention to produce a foetus identical to its parent. The technique used to produce Dolly is known as ‘nuclear transfer’, whereby the nucleus from a somatic cell was fused with an unfertilised egg from which the nucleus had been removed. This method of procreation is ‘asexual’, as it does not require one person of each sex in order to produce a child. A single mother or a lesbian couple, for example, could produce a child genetically related to them both, without the necessity for a male gamete.

[1] Hwang, Woo Suk et al., ‘Evidence of a Pluripotent Human Embryonic Stem Cell Line Derived from a Cloned Blastocyst’, Science, Vol. 303, No. 5664, pp.1669-1674, http://www.sciencemag.org/content/303/5664/1669

[2] ‘New blow to S Korea clone work’, BBC News, 29 December 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4566154.stm

[3] Shapiro, Harold T. et al., ‘Cloning Human Beings: Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission’, National Bioethics Advisory Commission, June 1997, http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/nbac/pubs/cloning1/cloning.pdf

[4] Ms Degette et al., ‘Stem Cell Research Advancement Act of 2009’, 111th CONGRESS, H.R. 4808, 10 March 2010, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.4808:

[5] Masons, Pinsent, ‘Human cloning licensed in UK’, Out-Law.com, 12 August 2004, http://www.out-law.com/page-4796

 

Title 
Cloning is unsafe
Point 

The technology is unsafe. The nuclear transfer technique that produced Dolly required 277 embryos, from which only one healthy and viable sheep was produced.[1] The other foetuses were hideously deformed and either died or were aborted. Even today, cloning animals through somatic cell nuclear transfer is simply inefficient. The success rate ranges from 0.1 percent to 3 percent, which means that for every 1000 tries, only one to 30 clones are made. Or you can look at it as 970 to 999 failures in 1000 tries.[2]

Moreover, Ian Wilmut and other commentators have noted that we cannot know whether clones will suffer from premature ageing as a result of their elderly genes. Dolly the sheep herself suffered from premature arthritis.[3] There are also fears that the reprogramming of the nucleus of a somatic cell in order to trigger the cell division that leads to the cloning of an individual may result in a significantly increased risk of cancer.

[1] Barnes, Deborah, ‘Research in the News: Creating a Cloned Sheep Named Dolly’, National Institutes of Health Office Science Education, http://science-education.nih.gov/home2.nsf/Educational+ResourcesTopicsGe...

[2]University of Utah, Learn Genetics: Cloning, http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/tech/cloning/cloningrisks/, accessed 08/20/2011

[3] Kilner J., Human Cloning: What's at Stake, published 08/10/2004,http://cbhd.org/content/human-cloning-what%E2%80%99s-stake, accessed 08/20/2011

Counterpoint 

Cloning is in this respect no different from any other new medical technology. Research is required on embryos in order to quantify and reduce the risk of the procedures. Embryo research is permitted in Britain until the fourteenth day of embryo development. Many other Western countries are also actively engaged in embryo research. The thousands of ‘spare’ embryos generated each year by IVF procedures and destroyed could be used to the good purpose of human cloning research. It should be noted that cloning has come a long way since dolly in 1997. In 2008 Japanese scientists managed to create clones from the bodies of mice which had been frozen for 16 years.[1]

[1]BBC News, Scientists clone from frozen mice, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7707498.stm, accessed 08/20/2011

Title 
Playing God
Point 

Cloning is playing God. It is not merely intervention in the body’s natural processes, but the creation of a new and wholly unnatural process of asexual reproduction. Clerics within the Catholic, Muslim and Jewish faiths have all expressed their opposition to human cloning. However, this objection to cloning is not specifically theological. David Hume, the eighteenth-century Scottish moral philosopher, warned us to heed our feelings as much as our logical reasoning. Leon R. Kass of the University of Chicago has stated in relation to human cloning, that mere failure to produce scientific reasons against the technology does not mean we should deny our strong and instinctive reactions to it. As he states, there is a "wisdom in repugnance".[1]

[1] Kass, Leon R., ‘The Wisdom of Repugnance’, New Republic, Vol. 216, Issue 22, 2 June 1997, http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/medical_ethics/me0006.html

Counterpoint 

This argument assumes that we know God’s intentions. Evidently, there is no biblical statement on the ethics of human cloning. Who is to say that it is not God’s will that we clone ourselves? Hindu thought potentially embraces IVF and other assisted reproduction technology (ART).[1] Moreover, every time that a doctor performs life-saving surgery or administers drugs he is changing the destiny of the patient and could be thus seen as usurping the role of God. Furthermore, we should be very wary of banning something without being able to say why it is wrong. That way lie all sorts irrational superstition, repression, fundamentalism and extremism.

[1] Tierney, John, ‘Are Scientists Playing God? It Depends on Your Religion’, The New York Times, 20 November 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/20/science/20tier.html?pagewanted=all

Title 
Cloning harms families
Point 

Reproductive cloning harms the integrity of the family. Single people will be able to produce offspring without even the physical presence of a partner. Once born, the child will be denied the love of one parent, most probably the father. Several theologians have recognised that a child is a symbolic expression of the mutual love of its parents, and their hope for the future. This sign of love is lost when a child’s life begins in a laboratory.

Counterpoint 

This argument is wholly unsuited to the modern age. Society freely allows single people to reproduce sexually, whether by accident or design. Existing lawful practices such as sperm donation allow deliberate procreation without knowledge of the identity of the father. Surely it is preferable for a mother to know the genetic heritage of her offspring, rather than accept sperm from an unknown and random donor? Moreover, reproductive cloning will allow lesbian couples to have children genetically related to them both. It might be better for the welfare of the child for it to be born into a happy relationship, but the high rates of single parenthood and divorce suggest that this is not always possible.

Title 
Cloning violates human dignity
Point 

Reproductive cloning is contrary to human dignity. ‘Donum Vitae’, the declaration of the Catholic church in relation to the new reproductive technologies, holds that procreation outside the conjugal union is morally wrong.[1] Many secular organisations, such as the WHO[2] and UNESCO[3] have issued statements that similarly find cloning violates human dignity. Assisted reproductive technologies might all be seen as challenges to human dignity, including IVF and sperm donation. However, human cloning is a completely artificial form of reproduction, which leaves no trace of the dignity of human procreation.

[1] Cardinal Ratzinger, Joseph, ‘Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Replies to Certain Questions of the Day’, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_...

[2] Brock, Dan W., ‘Cloning Human Beings’, e-3, http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/nbac/pubs/cloning2/cc5.pdf

[3] The Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights’, UNESCO 29th General Conference, 11 November 1997, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/bioethics/...

Counterpoint 

When people resort to talking in wholly empty abstract terms about ‘human dignity’ you can be sure that they have no evidence or arguments to back up their position. It is difficult to understand why the act of sexual intercourse that leads to sexual procreation is any more ‘dignified’ or respectable than a reasoned decision by an adult to have a child, that is assisted by modern science. The thousands of children given life through IVF therapy do not suffer a lack of dignity as a consequence of their method of procreation. The Catholic church regards every embryo from the moment of existence as a living person. This position is not shared by most Western governments, and it would deny not only cloning, but IVF and all the medical knowledge and benefits that have accrued from embryo research.

Title 
Cloning treats children as objects
Point 

Cloning treats children as objects. Children will be manufactured by an expensive technological process that is subject to quality control. The gulf between an artisan and an artefact is immense. Individuals will be able to have a child for the sake of having children, or as a symbol of status, rather than because they desire to conceive, love and raise another human being. Cloning will not only allow, but actually encourage, the commodification of people.

Counterpoint 

The decision making and the effort that will be required to clone a human suggests that the child will be highly valued by its parent or parents. Furthermore, we should not pretend that every child conceived by sexual procreation is born to wholly well-intentioned parents. The desire to have ‘a son and heir’ is common around the world but does not concern the welfare of the future child. Similarly, children are often conceived out of marital custom, in order to consolidate a relationship, or even in order to gain free accommodation from local housing authorities. Finally, many children are not intended at all, but are born as a result of unplanned pregnancies. There would be no fear of ‘accidental cloning’ that could bring a child to a parent who was unprepared, or unwilling, to love it.

Title 
Will allow the elimination of diseases
Point 

Cloning is unlikely to be widespread so any dangers from any reduction in the diversity of the human gene pool will be so limited as to be virtually non-existent. The expense and time necessary for successful human cloning should mean that it will only be used to the benefit of the small minority of people who require the technology. The pleasure of procreation through sexual intercourse does not suggest that whole populations will prefer to reproduce asexually through cloning. The only significant lack of diversity which can be expected will be in women who suffer from a severe mitochondrial disease. They will be able to use cloning by nuclear transfer in order to avoid passing on the disease which is carried in their egg cells to any offspring. This elimination of harmful genetic traits from the gene pool is no different from the eradication of infectious disease, such as small pox, and should be welcomed. So against these very marginal worries there is potentially great good to be done through cloning. Currently already we have IVF and genetic screening which can prevent that babies with certain diseases are born. In 2000 the baby Adam Nash was born, genetically manipulated through IVF, as a genetic fit to cure his sister Molly from Fanconi anemia.[1] While this was not cloning it gives an idea what cloning could possibly cure. It could be a way of curing siblings from chronic diseases and also ensuring that the transplants (for example) will not be rejected due to genetic differences.

[1] BBC News,  ‘Designer baby’ ethics fear, published 10/04/2000, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/955644.stm, accessed 08/20/2011

Counterpoint 

Cloning will lead to a lack of diversity amongst the human population as it is creating genetic copies rather than increasing diversity by mixing genes.[1] The natural process of evolution will be halted, and as such humankind will be denied development, and may be rendered more susceptible to disease.

[1] ThinkQuest, Disadvantages of human cloning, http://library.thinkquest.org/C0122429/ethics/disadvantages.htm, accessed 08/20/2011

Title 
Clones will still be individuals
Point 

There is much more danger of eugenics associated with developments in gene therapy and genetic testing and screening, rather than human cloning. The notion of clones of Hitler is frankly preposterous. Psychologists have shown that nurture is at least as important as genes in determining personality. It would be impossible to produce another Hitler, or Elvis, or whomever, by cloning or any other ART. Clones (people with identical genes) would by no means be identical in every respect. You only need to look at identical twins (who are genetic clones of each other) to see how wrong that assumption is, and how different the personalities, preferences, and skills of people with identical genes can be.[1] The idea of breeding huge fighting forces is also confined to the realm of science fiction. The necessity of thousands of willing mothers, the nine month gestation process, and the many years rearing this child towards adulthood, means that cloning would hardly be an efficient technique for any mad dictator to raise an army. And there is no reason, in any case, to suppose that a clone would be any more willing or effective a soldier than any other human being - clones (like twins) are just as conscious and free as everyone else.

[1] Harris, John, ‘”Goodbye Dolly” The ethics of human cloning’, Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 23, 1997, pp.353-360,  http://jme.bmj.com/content/23/6/353.full.pdf

Counterpoint 

Cloning will lead to eugenics, or the artificial manipulation and control of the characteristics of people. An American geneticist, Dr. Dan Brock, has already identified a trend towards ‘new and benign eugenics’ that is perpetrated by developments in biotechnology. This can particularly be seen on a small scale with ‘designer babies’.[1] When people are able to clone themselves they will be able to choose which type of person shall be born. This seems uncomfortably close to the Nazi concept of breeding a race of Aryan superhumans, whilst eliminating those individuals whose characteristics they considered unhealthy. The ‘Boys from Brazil’ scenario of clones of Hitler, the baby farms of ‘Brave New World’, or even the cloning or armies of identical and disposable soldiers, might soon be a very real prospect.

[1] BBC News, Designer baby row over US clinic, published 03/02/2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7918296.stm, accessed 08/22/2011

Title 
Cloning should be allowed for those who can’t otherwise have a child
Point 

The desire to have one’s own child and to nurture it is wholly natural. The longing for a child genetically related to oneself existed long before biotechnology, but it is only recently that medicine has been able to satisfy it. In vitro fertilisation remains an imperfect technology. Couples typically submit to four cycles of costly treatment before producing a child as the chances of having a child can be as low as 10%.[1] Evidently, the technique does not assist homosexual couples, couples where both partners lack gametes, or where the female partner suffers from a mitochondrial disease. Cloning would allow a child to be born to all these couples.

[1] Wildsen S., Human Cloning – role of the scientist, West Virginia University,  http://www.as.wvu.edu/~kgarbutt/EvolutionPage/Studentsites/cloningpage/PROS2.html, accessed 08/20/2011

Counterpoint 

Human reproductive cloning is unnecessary. The development of in vitro fertilisation and the practice of sperm donation allows heterosexual couples to reproduce where one partner is sterile. Moreover, merely 300 babies are adopted each year in the United Kingdom.[1] It might be better for potential parents to give their love to existing babies rather than attempt to bring their own offspring into an already crowded world.

[1] Thompson, Joanna, ‘Is Adoption A Better Way’, CARE Centres Network, http://www.ukadoption.com/great-britain/is-adoption-a-better-way.html

Bibliography 

Barnes, Deborah, ‘Research in the News: Creating a Cloned Sheep Named Dolly’, National Institutes of Health Office Science Education, http://science-education.nih.gov/home2.nsf/Educational+ResourcesTopicsGe...

BBC News, Scientists clone from frozen mice, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7707498.stm, accessed 08/20/2011

BBC News,  ‘Designer baby’ ethics fear, published 10/04/2000, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/955644.stm, accessed 08/20/2011

BBC News, Designer baby row over US clinic, published 03/02/2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7918296.stm, accessed 08/22/2011

BBC News, ‘New blow to S Korea clone work’, 29 December 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4566154.stm

Brock, Dan W., ‘Cloning Human Beings’, e-3, http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/nbac/pubs/cloning2/cc5.pdf

Cardinal Ratzinger, Joseph, ‘Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Replies to Certain Questions of the Day’, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_...

Harris, John, ‘”Goodbye Dolly” The ethics of human cloning’, Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 23, 1997, pp.353-360,  http://jme.bmj.com/content/23/6/353.full.pdf

Hwang, Woo Suk et al., ‘Evidence of a Pluripotent Human Embryonic Stem Cell Line Derived from a Cloned Blastocyst’, Science, Vol. 303, No. 5664, pp.1669-1674, http://www.sciencemag.org/content/303/5664/1669

Kass, Leon R., ‘The Wisdom of Repugnance’, New Republic, Vol. 216, Issue 22, 2 June 1997, http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/medical_ethics/me0006.html

Kilner J., Human Cloning: What's at Stake, published 08/10/2004,http://cbhd.org/content/human-cloning-what%E2%80%99s-stake, accessed 08/20/2011

Masons, Pinsent, ‘Human cloning licensed in UK’, Out-Law.com, 12 August 2004, http://www.out-law.com/page-4796

Ms Degette et al., ‘Stem Cell Research Advancement Act of 2009’, 111th CONGRESS, H.R. 4808, 10 March 2010, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.4808:

Shapiro, Harold T. et al., ‘Cloning Human Beings: Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission’, National Bioethics Advisory Commission, June 1997, http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/nbac/pubs/cloning1/cloning.pdf

Tierney, John, ‘Are Scientists Playing God? It Depends on Your Religion’, The New York Times, 20 November 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/20/science/20tier.html?pagewanted=all

The Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights’, UNESCO 29th General Conference, 11 November 1997, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/bioethics/...

ThinkQuest, Disadvantages of human cloning, http://library.thinkquest.org/C0122429/ethics/disadvantages.htm, accessed 08/20/2011

Thompson, Joanna, ‘Is Adoption A Better Way’, CARE Centres Network, http://www.ukadoption.com/great-britain/is-adoption-a-better-way.html

University of Utah, Learn Genetics: Cloning, http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/tech/cloning/cloningrisks/, accessed 08/20/2011 

Wildsen S., Human Cloning – role of the scientist, West Virginia University,  http://www.as.wvu.edu/~kgarbutt/EvolutionPage/Studentsites/cloningpage/PROS2.html

 

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