The ethical questions raised by the prospect of genetic cloning are substantial, with human cloning presenting a particular controversy. Article 11 of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights maintains that the reproductive cloning of human beings is not ethically sound but contrary to human dignity and thus the basic rights of the individual (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]). Yet, the range of possibilities for cloning and the potential even for reproductive cloning to have therapeutic purposes complicate the issue all the more. Although reproductive cloning of human beings may indeed be going too far, undermining the sanctity of human life, cloning should generally be allowed because it has substantial potential to aid scientific advancements that are more than likely to be life-saving.
The potential benefits of cloning practices are substantial. Human therapeutic cloning is likely to lead to the development of effective treatments for a number of conditions. Cloned cells, tissues, and even organs of the human body could be hugely beneficial to those facing issues such as substantial tissue damage or organ failure. Conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, which represent major causes of death in most countries around the world, might also be treated effectively through therapeutic cloning. Therapeutic cloning may also aid those with osteoporosis and forms of paralysis (Kfoury 113).
What medical researchers can learn from cloning human and animal cells is difficult to overestimate, too, with more than 2,000 human diseases and abnormalities recognized as having genetic causation (Ayala 8879). The potential to develop our knowledge of how genetic abnormalities occur through genetic cloning can hardly be ignored as a mechanism for preserving human life rather than destroying it.
Many oppose genetic cloning, however, on ethical grounds, maintaining doubts about the soundness of the practice in relation to the notion that life is sacred. William Sims Bainbridge goes so far as to argue that religion is “among the most powerful factors shaping attitudes towards human cloning.” However, religious opposition should not hinder our preparedness to engage with cloning as a strategic for exploring medical issues and improving quality of life for humans.
Although those who oppose genetic cloning because it threatens the sanctity of life have an important perspective to contribute to the debate, helping to frame ethical parameters for how genetic cloning might be practiced, the suggestion that all forms of genetic cloning represent such a threat is incorrect. Manipulation of genetic material to replicate cells, tissue, or even organs should not be regarded as a violation of the sanctity of life. Indeed, scientists can reasonably avoid reproductive cloning, mentioned by the UNESCO and still reap many benefits from the practice. Some cloning does not even involve human genetic information either. Some experiments have involved cloning of plant and occasionally animal material, with considerable benefits reaped from that sort of undertaking, too: Dungey et al undertook to study the genetic makeup of the Mexican white cypress Cupressus Iusitanica and found a means of orchestrating genetic improvement of the species as well as improving knowledge of how particular characteristics of the plant species were developed.
While we cannot overlook the ethical considerations associated with genetic cloning, the benefits of the practice significantly outweigh the drawbacks to the point that genetic cloning should be a substantial aspect of current scientific inquiry. Rather than allowing ethical concerns to slow down research that could be more life threatening, it is important that the public be educated about the benefits of cloning and made aware, too, that ethical ground rules can and should most certainly apply, but genetic cloning should still be a main focus of research in the hope of identifying increasingly beneficial treatments.
- Ayala, Francisco J. “Cloning Humans? Biological, Ethical, and Social Considerations.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States 112.29 (2015): 8879-8886. Web.
- Bainbridge, William Sims. “Religious Opposition to Cloning.” Journal of Evolution and Technology. 13 (2003). Web.
- Kfoury, Charlotte. “Therapeutic Cloning: Promises and Issues.” McGill Journal of Medicine: MJM 10.2 (2007): 112–120. Print.
- United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. [UNESCO]. Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights. UNECO.ORG. 1997. Web.