SOMETIME this month the Senate will vote on the Human Cloning Prohibition Act. The bill would make cloning human cells a federal crime, punishable by up to ten years in jail and fines of $1m. It would ban not just baby cloning (that is, transplanting a cloned embryo into a woman's womb), but therapeutic cloning as well (embryo cloning in the hope of curing genetic diseases such as diabetes).
Supporters of the bill, sponsored by Senators Sam Brownback and Mary Landrieu, say the debate will be the first opportunity for Congress to regulate the hard ethical dilemmas raised by biomedical advances. (Last year's narrower debate over the related subject of stem-cell research ended in George Bush deciding that it could get government money.) The House of Representatives passed a version of the Senate cloning bill last July. Mr Bush has said he will sign the ban if it passes.
Opponents view the bill as an attack on basic science. They back a rival measure, sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy and Arlen Specter, to ban baby cloning but permit the therapeutic kind. This will be debated at the same time.
Unsurprisingly, the debate has been dominated by the extremes. Francis Fukuyama, a writer and critic of human cloning, complains that opposition to the Senate ban comes from an unholy alliance of anything-goes libertarians and left-wingers who want to perfect human nature. But a similar charge could be levied against the banners, who include both the religious right and left-wing Luddites. There are five basic arguments to ban it.
The most basic of all is that it involves killing a potential human being. In cloning, the nucleus of an ordinary cell, such as skin or muscle, is placed in an egg from which the nucleus has been removed. It is stimulated in the hope that the cell can then be reprogrammed and develop into an embryo, from which stem cells (which can turn themselves into any sort of cell) can be removed. Because the egg has had its nucleus removed, critics say that all cloning involves the destruction of potential human beings. Mr Bush has argued that it “would contradict the most fundamental principle of medical ethics, that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another.”
This view has decisive moral force for those who believe it (often those who also oppose abortion). The trouble is that not everyone believes it.
The other arguments begin with the slippery slope. Legal therapeutic cloning, argue some critics, would produce stockpiles of cloned embryos for research. Once that happens, it will be virtually impossible to control how the embryos are used. That would make it impossible to enforce a ban on baby cloning.
Other critics cite the precautionary principle. In the realm of genetics, it is far better to be safe than sorry. Senator Landrieu, a supporter of abortion choice, argues that cloning is too unreliable. In animal experiments, fewer than 5% of cloned, implanted embryos produce a healthy birth. Until it improves, that success rate necessitates a ban. Ms Landrieu does not want to ban cloning research in order to limit medical knowledge. Rather, she says, “there are safer, less worrisome means to the same end”—notably stem-cell research. She denies her bill is anti-research.
By contrast, people like Leon Kass, the chairman of the president's advisory council on bioethics, object to cloning precisely because of the medical advances it implies. They see cloning as a route towards a Brave New World of human genetic engineering. They object, in Dr Kass's words, to “the alteration...enhancement [and] wholesale redesign” of human nature itself. They paint scary pictures of society growing humans for spare body parts or as custom-designed children.
This “wisdom of repugnance”, as Dr Kass likes to see it, has been embraced by both conservatives and liberals. From the right, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, worries that government oversight of the health-care system is likely to grow, so human cloning must be banned now to prevent state-mandated eugenics in the future. From a more liberal standpoint, Mr Fukuyama worries about equality if inequality is designed into people's genes. If an ordinary child and a genetically enhanced one are competing for the same liver transplant, who gets it?
Many of these objections could also be raised against stem-cell research. The last argument, specific to cloning, is the spectre of a vast embryo industry. Therapeutic cloning requires large numbers of eggs. On one estimate, you might need eggs from 80m women just to treat American diabetics alone. So cloning, argues Charles Krauthammer, a columnist and psychiatrist, “means the routinisation, the commercialisation, the commodification of the human embyro.” This fear resonates not just with the Christian right but also with the feminist left, which worries that women will be sucked into the embyro business unwillingly.
The cloners' charter
The debate on cloning has mostly been defined by those who oppose it. But supporters have at least six basic arguments.
First, they insist that an unimplanted ball of cells is not a person. Some argue it is even less of a potential person than a stem cell derived from in-vitro fertilisation, since cloning uses unfertilised eggs. Michael Gazzaniga, a member of Mr Bush's advisory panel on bioethics, says the cloned clump of cells “has no nervous system and is not sentient in any way. It has no trajectory to becoming a human being; it will never be implanted in a woman's uterus. What it probably does have is the potential for the cure of diseases affecting millions of people.”
Those potential benefits are huge. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 100m Americans could benefit from stem-cell therapies. Cloning, they claim, is a better technology for harvesting stem cells because it could mitigate problems of tissue rejection, since stem cells are cloned from the patient's own body.
Next, the slippery slope is a myth. Charles Murtaugh, a researcher at Harvard University, points out that there is already a huge supply of human eggs that could easily move on to a black market. Allowing therapeutic cloning would make little difference to that. And he argues that a ban on baby cloning would be enforceable, if only because the procedure is so unreliable. “For every five successfully cloned babies, produced by an underground lab, some 95 women will suffer spontaneous abortions and miscarriages. In a free country like ours, it is impossible to imagine that none of those women would go to the press.”
By contrast, a ban on therapeutic cloning would be impractical. The practice is legal in other countries. The Brownback-Landrieu bill makes it illegal for Americans to import or benefit from drugs produced by cloning abroad. But would the FBI really arrest a patient with Parkinson's who goes abroad and is cured?
The only immediate effect of a ban, many scientists say, will be a talent drain. The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, an umbrella group for medical firms, universities and others, claims the bill will stop the best and brightest from entering the field in the United States. CAMR notes that one renowned diabetes researcher has already left for Britain, ostensibly because of the mere threat of a ban.
At heart, therapeutic cloning, argue its supporters, should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Bad institutions and bad laws, not technologies, produce Brave New Worlds. Test-tube babies, they point out, raised comparable concerns when they were first conceived. Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, puts it this way: “Scientists should generally have the freedom to experiment, people should generally have the freedom to have important life-saving technologies, and parents should generally have the freedom to make their children's lives better, unless [cloning is shown to] cause serious, tangible harm.” Even then, lawmakers should seek the least restrictive ways of avoiding that harm. An outright ban, he says, does not meet that standard.
Faced with this balance of argument, the 100 senators are divided. To pass a bill requires not 51 votes, but 60, to override a filibuster. At the moment, supporters of neither the Kennedy-Specter nor the Brownback-Landrieu bill can muster 60 votes. The result may be a possible compromise putting a two-year moratorium on every sort of cloning. But the arguments will go on.
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition
2000 First Web Report
Cloning: Right or Wrong
With the advancement and expansion of technology science has been able to achieve new wonders. These improvements and discoveries in science have allowed the human race to explore and learn more about the world. One such phenomenon is cloning. Cloning has opened the doors to explore human beings in a way that was once never possible. With cloning the human body, as well as other organisms, will be studied. Cloning and genetic engineering will both come into play to improve scientific knowledge, but is cloning beneficial?
Cloning attempts has occurred as early as 1952, and the first successful transfer of embryonic cells occurred in 1970 (1), (5). Ian Wilmut, the scientist famous for the "Dolly" cloning experiment has paved the way for a completely different thought. There were other organisms that were cloned but what made "Dolly" unique was that instead of cells being taken from an embryo "Dolly" was created by using DNA from an adult ewe(3). The process of cloning was discovered to be simpler than what was thought. The first step is to take the cells from the udder of a Finn Dorset ewe and place them in a culture with low concentrations of nutrients causing it to starve and ultimately stop cell division and active genes (3). While this is occurring an unfertilized egg cell is taken from a Blackface ewe with its DNA filled nucleus taken out leaving a nucleus free egg cell that will later produce an embryo (3). Next with the aid of an electric pulse the cells from the udder of a Finn Dorset ewe and the unfertilized egg cell with no nucleus is fused together to begin cell division which will later turn into an embryo which will be placed in the uterus of another Blackface ewe(3). Eventually the Blackface ewe will give birth to a new genetically identical Finn Dorset ewe(3). With the creation of "Dolly" the doors of human cloning has opened the controversy and complications of cloning.
The cloning process is not yet perfected nor one hundred percent accurate, in fact, it took Ian Wilmut more than 277 attempts before the successful creation of a "healthy viable lamb" (1). Furthermore, Ian Wilmut explains that mistakes where made in his procedure and there is uncertainty whether a fetus or adult cell was used in his steps of creating "Dolly" (1). Cloning of humans will be a much more difficult task and a huge risk where a number of things can go wrong causing malformation and diseases in the human body (1). It involved a slightly different process where a somatic cell must be taken from the female. These somatic cells will be harder to work with because they are specialized cells where genes are "turned off" and unable to turn back "on" (1). In addition, the "human clone" will be a "time-delayed identical twin" (1). Because of these complications and imperfections the government has taken action with the proposal of the Cloning Prohibition Act of 1997 by President Bill Clinton (1), (4). With this bill there would be no "implantation of cloned cells into the human (1). President Clinton believes that "any discovery that teaches upon human creation is not simply a matter of scientific inquiry but also a matter of morality and spirituality" (1). In addition to the actions of the President the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) agrees that no human cloning shall take place because at the present time it is not justified to produce a human child by the cloning procedure used to create "Dolly" (1), (4). The NBAC stresses that there is potentially a greater risk with human error as well as having numerous failed attempts before creating a perfect clone (1), (4). They are concerned about the psychological damage and the disappearance of individuality if human cloning became a common practice (1). Both the President and the NBAC find it morally wrong and currently inappropriate to put human cloning into practice.
There are numerous ways where cloning will further aid in scientific development and help the advancement of scientific knowledge of humans. Human cloning can allow rebirth of deceased humans, cure diseases especially those related to genetics, and discover new data and ideas (2). It can prevent endangered species from disappearing as well as allow healthier human beings(2), (5). It will allow doctors to research and determine the cause of spontaneous abortions as well as research rapid cell growth of cancer cells (1). (2). New organs that genetically match the recipient may be produced as well as allow regeneration of nerve tissues and other damaged tissues, and further study in genetics, human body development, and medicine (1). (2). (5). Agricultural and livestock can also be improved where scientist can alter clone organisms with preferable better traits or ideal characteristics (2). All this will allow the people of science to have an in depth research of the human body.
What is the downfall of human cloning? One would be the world lack of genetic diversity (2). The world will become an ideal living environment with "perfect people" that are all genetically alike (2). It may also instigate fraud and bad practice as the Black Market gets involved in selling stolen or defected clones (1). Because cloning is generally a new process and still in it's early stages there would be many uncertainty and risks (1). The procedure may actually cause more deaths in human beings where physical harm can be done to an embryo as well as a child. Because a perfect human being can be created, humans that do not have the desired character traits will not be socially accepted(1), (4).
"Opponents and supporters of human cloning agree that at the current time the technology is not safe enough to use on humans" (1). With the facts given it is evident that human cloning should not be practiced in the near future. Looking at both the advantages and disadvantages you observe that the advantages will further aid development and advancement of science and the disadvantages show that it will greatly affect moral and social issues. Though human cloning will improve the science society and the human race there is a far greater risk involved in cloning humans. Furthermore, with the active involvement of government prohibiting human cloning and the controversy surrounding this issue it is an unjustified procedure to practice. Therefore, unless technology has improved to perfect the cloning procedure as well as an understanding of the moral issues behind human cloning is observed there should be no human clone present in our society.
WWW Sources1)Human Cloning
3)Cloning 1 2 3
4)National Bioethics Advisory Commission
5)Cloning Special Report
Comments made prior to 2007
your document 'right or wrong' on human cloning really helped, It was straight to the point and easy to understand ... Kiara, 24 February 2006