Cloning is not a new technique. In fact, clones, “precise genetic copies of a molecule, cell, plant, animal, or human being,” (NBAC, 13) have been around for years. Genetically identical copies of whole organisms in plant breeding, known as varieties, are commonplace. (NBAC, 14) Additionally, some forms of invertebrates, such as certain kinds of worms, can regenerate another entire organism from a small piece of themselves.
(NBAC, 14) While vertebrates do not have this ability, the cloning of vertebrates does occur naturally through the formation and birth of identical twins. (NBAC, 14) Cloning for Reproductive Purposes The reproductive right relevant to human cloning is a negative right that is the right to use assisted reproductive technologies without fear of government interference. This right can be included in the concept of reproductive freedom even when it is not the only means of having a child via assisted reproductive technologies.
(Krauthammer, 60) Whereas the right to reproductive freedom has traditionally been thought of as the right to choose between various methods of preventing pregnancy, the right to reproductive freedom arguably includes the right to take affirmative steps, through the use of assisted reproductive technologies, to become pregnant. Arguably, when infertile individuals have a choice between different methods of medically assisted reproduction, human cloning would be favored because it replicates a particular individual’s genome.
(Krauthammer, 61) Thus, for individuals looking to have a child genetically related to them, cloning, if successful, would be a viable alternative even when it is not the only means for those individuals to have a child through medical assistance. Additionally, the right to reproductive freedom is generally understood to cover some element of choice about the kind, and number, of children a person will have.
In the case of choosing cloning for reproductive purposes over other assisted reproductive technologies, the interest in question is not simply reproduction itself, but a more specific interest in choosing what kind of child to have. (Robertson, 6) Unfortunately, not all individuals have the choice to decide between different methods of assisted reproduction. The case for permitting cloning as a means of reproduction is strongest, therefore, when it would be the only way for an individual to procreate while retaining a biological tie to the child.
(Robertson, 11) The advent of cloning, however, would not necessitate an expansion of the power states currently assert over assisted reproductive technologies. Human cloning, consistent with other reproductive technologies, would arguably be regulated under a state’s statutory provisions aimed at protecting the health and safety of its citizens with respect to obtaining medical treatment (in addition to State Medical Board standards that are applicable).
While there may be debate as to the moral and ethical differences between current technology and cloning, the science of cloning is actually taken from various techniques used in currently practiced forms of assisted reproduction and medical science. Therefore, the nature of the science involved in cloning is not so diverse from other reproductive technologies to require an expansion of a state’s power to protect the parties involved. Cloning for Non-Reproductive Purposes There are a number of individuals who argue in favor of cloning humans for non-reproductive purposes.
(Kluger, 67) Among the purposes discussed for which human cloning could have a pronounced effect are disease research and prevention as well as organ and tissue supply. Currently, molecular and cellular biologists use cloning technology to create cell lines for research that have had an enormous effect on medicine in recent history. (Kluger, 67) One of the most attractive potential applications of non-reproductive cloning, however, is to increase the supply of organs and tissues for transplantation. Cloning Entire Human Beings
Human cloning could solve the problem of finding a transplant donor who is an acceptable organ or tissue match, and as a result could drastically reduce the risk of transplant rejection by the host. In fact, prior to the discovery of immunosuppressive drugs to help combat the rejection of a transplanted organ by a host, donation from one identical twin to another had, by far, the highest probability and rate of success. By cloning humans for organ or tissue donation, we would be creating a “‘delayed’ genetic twin,” (Morrow, 54) dramatically increasing the probability of a successful transplant.
As with cloning for reproductive purposes, cloning humans for organ and tissue donors raises serious legal and ethical issues. The concept has been criticized on the ground that it treats the delayed genetic twin as simply a means for benefiting another, not as a loved and valued child for its own sake. Cloning Less Than a Whole Person Some have argued for the proposition of cloning less than a whole person to solve situations where the needed organ may be vital to the donor’s life, such as a heart.
For instance, Carol Kahn argues that after cell differentiation, “some of the brain cells of the embryo or fetus would be removed so that it could then be grown as a brain-dead body for spare parts for its earlier twin. ” (Kahn, 14) Thus, a “body clone” would be analogous to an anencephalic newborn (Kahn, 15) or presentient fetus, (Kahn, 15) neither of whom can arguably be harmed because of their lack of capacity for consciousness. Currently, in order for organs to be preserved for transplant, the donor’s cardiopulmonary system must be kept functioning until the organs can be removed.
This can involve hours, or possibly days, of artificial respiratory assistance before the organs are matched and an accepting recipient is located. In such a case, is there a difference between keeping a person’s body going, without brain activity, for the purpose of harvesting organs, and creating a body in theoretically the same state for the same purpose? While most people would likely find this practice appalling, there are many practical arguments for allowing the technique. Currently, over 64,000 of them are awaiting transplants in the United States.
(LifeBanc Fact Sheet, 1999) Additionally, if the science of cloning is allowed to proceed, the technology could one day be perfected to the point where scientists are able to clone specific needed parts. In such a scenario, the science of cloning would then have moved into a more morally and ethically permissible state where children or body clones are not the most effective way of procuring a needed organ. Unfortunately, if the technology is prohibited at its current early stage of development, society will never know the full potential, or be able to reap the full benefits, of cloning human beings.