Analytical Essay on Cloning: Scientific Considerations and Ethical Issues

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Table of contents

  1. 'To what extent does animal cloning breach morality and under what conditions can it be justified?'
  2. Types of Cloning
  3. Scientific consideration
  4. Ethical and societal viewpoint
  5. Religious Views

'To what extent does animal cloning breach morality and under what conditions can it be justified?'

Does potential warrant use of unsatisfactory methods? The future of animal cloning, a process of generating a genetically identical copy of a cell or an organism, depends on the answer to this poignant question. Since its inception in 1996 with the cloning of Dolly the sheep from an adult somatic cell, clone production has been a very controversial topic and the allowance of this practice has been a heavily debated matter with many still questioning whether its advantages outweigh the disadvantages. This is displayed as after the Dolly news broke in 1997, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) immediately banned cloning; during the next year Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa and the United Kingdom had introduced similar bans; and in a few years’ time at least 30 countries had followed suit. (Häyry, M., 2021.)

Types of Cloning

Animal cloning varies immensely in both its methods as well as its uses, for example the differences between therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning, which differ on the basis that they attempt to achieve different goals. Therapeutic cloning, which employs a technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), involves the removal of the nucleus of an egg cell and then replacing it with the genetic material from the nucleus of a body cell and then electrically stimulating it to begin dividing. Whilst the embryo is in early stages of development, the inner cell mass of the embryo is grown in a culture dish to yield stem cells, which are then used for medicinal purposes (Burgess, D., 2021). Similarly reproductive cloning also utilises SCNT however instead of destroying the embryo to produce stem cells, the embryo is instead transferred into the uterus of a surrogate mother which then undergoes a normal birth to produce a clone of the animal providing the somatic cell.

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Embryonic stem cells produced by therapeutic cloning has large potential in regenerative medicine particularly its existence allowing for increased testing which will benefit in development of animal models of human disease, leading to development of cures such as for Parkinson's disease and diabetes (Kfoury, C., 2007; Burgess, D., 2021). On the other hand reproductive cloning is solely intending to provide an identical version of a previously existing organism, consequently a different approach must be taken in order to assess the morality of each type of cloning. Additionally, cloning is both utilised for animals and humans and considerations must also be made as to whether a human or an animal is being cloned, due to the fact that animals are cloned to preserve advantageous characteristics whereas the arguments for human reproductive cloning look into personal interests, e.g. allowing a parent of a child who has died to seek redress for their loss.

Scientific consideration

Cloning, whilst not being fully explored, is not a new science and has been going on for centuries with plants and scientists starting cloning experiments with small animals from the 1960s. Most real controversy began when Dolly the Sheep was born in 1996, by Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell, which was the first example of successful animal cloning. (Dexter, H., 2021.) This sparked controversy regarding whether the procedure is sustainable, especially regarding the restriction of diversity hence increasing the spread of diseases. Nevertheless both major variations of cloning, therapeutic and reproductive, hold great potential for medicinal and societal advancements. Therapeutic cloning offers a tremendous potential in regenerative medicine and in the treatment of genetic defects and aiding treatment of diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and even cancer diagnosis, however there are many impediments that come with its practice.

One source of stem cells are adult stem cells, however they are multipotent, in other words can only differentiate into a small range of cells, thus the applications for them are limited. Consequently, many researchers are unable to use these stem cells for developing cures for certain diseases. Additionally, therapeutic cloning is a novel field hence it has some deficiency regarding the use of the stem cells, as there are possibilities that when the stem cells are inserted into the patient's body the immune system rejects them and instead mounts an attack on the stem cells, thus destroying them. There is also scope for stem cells to randomly mutate resulting in tumour development in the body. As a whole, therapeutic cloning has simply not been explored enough to be in use for humans as a definite cure for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. (Ayala, F., 2021.) The issue of rejection can be solved thorough use of embryonic stem cells where the SCNT is carried out with the invalid's genetic information so that the body recognises the stem cells' self-antigens and avoids attacking them. However they also possible issues in that they can be contaminated with viruses which will then be directly transmitted to the patient and the process itself of SCNT is very expensive due to its high failure rate. As an example, it took 277 unsuccessful embryo implantations just to produce Dolly the sheep. (Head, T., 2021.) Nevertheless if the field is ventured fully, just based off the scientific perspective it should be used in the foreseeable future, since the small drawbacks of costs of the procedure will be covered by the lives saved by the cures that the stem cells helped create.

Reproductive cloning within science can be used and has been used on animals where it can create clones of animals that have specific genetic mutations and then be used to study diseases. This allows scientists and doctors to find cures for life threatening genetic diseases through a clearer understanding of genetics and what the genetic diseases are with clones. In addition to this, reproductive cloning could also lessen the number of patients waiting for an organ replacement and can also be beneficial for improving the pregnancy success rate. (Lanza, R., 2021.) It is a useful tool that can help those who have difficulties to have a baby by cloning the eggs used during IVF. On the contrary, no one can guarantee that the child born due to cloning would be a healthy one due to the high failure rate in cloning mammals and other species is completely unacceptable when it comes to cloning humans. Furthermore, in order to use reproductive cloning for medicinal purposes a life must be taken, e.g. if a pig's vital organ needs to be used for a transplant hence it brings the question as to whether the procedure is righteous. If reproductive cloning becomes used for more personal reasons such as for preserving impactful individuals or to help a family that cannot produce children, over time as It becomes widespread, the genetic diversity of humans will go down ' leading to a decrease in immunity of humans against diseases, thus making humans susceptible to epidemics and unknown diseases.

Just from the scientific viewpoint both types of cloning seem to have much potential in the medicinal department and if used have so many benefits to humanity. But a common concern for both types, is that they are both quite unexplored and need to be ventured fully and guarantee success rates for both to be effective and used. Overall, cloning seems quite justified as the advantages are too great compared to the proposed disadvantages where methods have been created to work around it, for example: the issue of rejection can be alleviated through use of immunosuppressants. Scientific consideration only benefits therapeutic cloning rather than Reproductive cloning due to the currently unattainable state of human reproductive cloning as well as unintended impacts of cloning such as high chances of inheriting disorders.

Ethical and societal viewpoint

There are many ethical issues, controversies and debates concerning both these different types of cloning. The complexity of this issue itself and the prejudice of the people against reproductive cloning are the reasons of the differing opinions among the people and the possible ban of this technology. Everything which is beneficial for humans have disadvantages too.

As a result of adult stem cells having limited potential within medicine, researchers have sought the more flexible option of embryonic stem cells. This causes the most prominent disadvantage of therapeutic cloning – the usage of embryos. Most critics claim that it is the death of a human being if an embryo is used to extract stem cells thus therapeutic cloning is seen as murder of humans causing many ethical issues. The ethics hinges on the question of when does life begin and whether or not an embryo should have the same rights as a human being. On one side those that believe that life begins at conception would be strongly against the idea of using embryonic stem cells, since taking a human life would be immoral. On the other hand, some may argue that life begins when the brain first develops hence suggesting that on ethical grounds destroying an embryo cannot be made comparable to murder. Even with this point brought up it is difficult to fully justify the use of embryonic stem cells since it can be regarded as use of a potential human life without any form of consent which could be seen as opposition to medical principles. Being a major drawback this impedes therapeutic cloning's potential as it cannot be nurtured and therefore not used. However the research of stem cells and therapeutic cloning have not been banned in most countries.

Whilst countries around the world may have mixed opinions on the allowance of therapeutic cloning and its research. Unanimously, most countries have deemed the practice of reproductive cloning to be against the law due to the countless moral and ethical dilemmas it contains. A person, along with their clone can never be dignified as a single identity. In addition to this, the process of creating clones is done by objectifying these potential humans by buying and selling desirable nuclei for transfer therefore making the children to seem as a product. Furthermore, cloning fundamentally challenges the ideas of individuality and personal identity, due to the fact you are brought into the world as a mere copy of someone. Hence human cloning as an asexual method of creating progeny would distort the sense of family and natural relationships within it. Cloning would irrevocably confuse the essential concepts of being a mother, a father, a child, an aunt, an uncle, and so on, and humanity as we know it would come to its end. (Kass, L., Wilson, J.Q. and Wilson, J.K.) Researchers may argue against this and suggest that no two humans are the same due to time lag and different experiences, e.g. identical twins have the same DNA but are still 2 distinct human beings, and instead suggest that artificial cloning is the only method of creating a perfect clone. There are also some plausible scenarios where reproductive cloning can be argued to be acceptable. One might think of a couple unable to have children, or a man or woman who does not want to marry, or of two lesbian lovers who want to have a child with the genotype of one in an ovum of the other, or of other special cases that might come to mind. Cloning can result in a stronger relationship in these scenarios however the fact that reproductive cloning has not been developed to this stage serves as a statement of whether it is truly possible to carry this out sustainably.

Both these forms of the same practice have an abundance of roadblocks for its usage to be deemed righteous yet considering the arguments for each type reproductive cloning can be considered to be less moral than therapeutic cloning, since therapeutic cloning helps to fight degenerative diseases whilst reproductive cloning is a more personal process of creating a cloned child which lacks originality. Personally, I believe that ethically speaking reproductive cloning is morally wrong particularly as it takes away from ones identity and also creates avenues for criminal behaviour such as illegalforced organ donations as well as abuse of human rights. However, Therapeutic is cloning is more morally ambiguous due to heavy controversy surrounding when life really begins. Thus, for therapeutic cloning, other factors need to be considered in order to make holistic judgement.

Religious Views

Religious views regarding the credibility of cloning is very complex and takes many perspectives. First of all some believe that cloning goes against the basic belief of certain religions that only God has the ability to create life and that the process of cloning is copying life through artificial methods. This rejection of cloning by most theistic religions is a result of them considering life to be a ‘gift’ from God and bringing life from cloning as opposed to normal sexual reproduction is considered to be an act against God's creation.

However some researchers have stated that creating a copy of a person is impossible as it involves creating a genetically identical copy of a living thing but it has to start out as a fertilized egg and so it would not be an identical clone due to it being a baby while we may be different ages, so there is a time gap. Yet this does not debunk the argument that humans cannot act as “God” since even if non-identical by some standards life is created by artificial means. Most religions find it hard to define a clear position on cloning as religious texts make no mention of such a modern advancement.

Some religious arguments look towards the intentions behind such procedures as it is argued in Islam that, ‘research on stem cells is regarded as an act of faith in the ultimate will of God, as long as such an intervention is undertaken with the purpose of improving human health’. (Frazzetto, G., 2004.) These arguments thus support the use of therapeutic cloning but seem to work against the justification of reproductive cloning. There is no agreed consensus on the moral status of the embryo among the various schools of Islamic thought. Islamic scholars emphasise the belief that all knowledge emanates from God and therefore human beings have an obligation to use that knowledge to server society. Similarly in Judaism, the Torah states that Jews have an obligation to seek knowledge and scientific knowledge is granted high value. As a whole, religious viewpoints seem to very split on the matter of cloning but since some show support the use of science for the betterment of society, it seems to suggest that they lean towards the use of therapeutic cloning at least comparatively to the use of reproductive cloning. (Dexter, H., 2021.)

Personally, due to the complexity of cloning many religious sources do not mention any specific teaching regarding the prohibition of cloning. Therefore almost all of the arguments for and against cloning are human interpretations of scriptures and religious books that mention aspects of God. Thus, religious views are highly subjective and so provide little ground to make a definitive choice to make cloning or not.

Finally, I had conducted some Primary Research on popular social media platform - Instagram. The purpose of this really was for me to see what other teenagers' opinions were on this topic.

Both questions received 57 completions each.

  • Question 1: How ethical do you believe cloning to be on a scale from 1 to 10?
  • Question 2: To what extent do they believe that cloning research should be encouraged?

For the 1st question the average was calculated to be 6.5, therefore showing that people generally thought that cloning was decently ethical and not something completely unethical.

For the 2nd question, I gave 4 options: Strongly agree, Agree, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree. These were the results.

  • Strongly agree: 7
  • Agree: 38
  • Disagree: 6
  • Strongly Disagree: 6
  • Total: 57

It can be seen that the mode option was “Agree” therefore insinuating that most of the respondents were fine with encouraging cloning research but also understanding to not fully comply with cloning research as it does have some drawbacks.

35718750I conducted it based on the results from an online survey ‘SURVEY2001- and as you can see from both sets of results even if the 2nd was marginal, the mode votes for cloning research were ’Agree'

This shows that the community understand not only the power of this practice but also know that it is still not good enough for a majority strongly agree voting. (Bainbridge, W.S., 2003)

Cloning is extremely not only in its applications but also its issues for example the questions that arise such as when does life begin and whether the embryo has the same rights as a fully developed human being regarding Therapeutic cloning since it involves the destruction of embryos. In this case, I believe that in medical scenarios where the situation is life threatening or is affecting the lifestyle of a person greatly, it is acceptable to use Therapeutic cloning as a form of regenerative medicine. This is because it is said that it can act as a cure for genetic defects and can aid treatment of diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and even cancer diagnosis. I agree with the general opinion of Islamic scholars (Dexter, H., 2021.) that therapeutic cloning should be implemented since, the widely agreed benefits outweigh the relatively minimal disadvantages such as the heavily disputed claim that life starts at conception. Hence, I will only oppose the practice of therapeutic cloning if there were to be stronger evidence that proved an embryo is equivalent to a human being. On the other hand, I firmly oppose the notion of encouraging use of reproductive cloning in any circumstance. Although, it may create potential happiness for couples unable to have a baby as the procedure allows them to have a cloned baby from an egg (donor) and a somatic cell. (Kass, L., Wilson, J.Q. and Wilson, J.K.) However, it must be, first, pointed out that the cloning technology has not yet been developed to an extent that would make possible to produce a healthy human individual by cloning and that happiness that could have been created for example a gay couple could possibly be ruined from their cloned child having new, undiscovered defects and diseases and so a low life expectancy. To get to that point itself, can be seen as extremely rare due to reproductive cloning on humans having not even been proven successful. Moreover, within Reproductive cloning there is the main drawback which is that it challenges personal identity and practically objectifies the clone as something not worthy of being an original human being. This could feed into current problems that are already at large such as: exploitation and slave labour as well as general human rights dilemmas such as voting. Consequently, I believe that reproductive cloning would only push forward a corrupt narrative in today's world therefore I am heavily against its use.

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