Ethical Considerations of Human Cloning Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1852 Words
Date:  2022-12-05

One of the primary causes for concerns on human cloning is its potential to cause physical harms. According to the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) of the American Medical Association (1998), somatic cell nuclear transfer is yet to be refined hence its viability and safety in the long-term unproven. Past cloning test experiments that used somatic cell nuclear transfer have shown that the efficiency of reconstituted eggs to create one live birth is significantly low. For instance, the cloning of the Dolly sheep used 277 eggs whereby 29 divided, nine yielded pregnancy, but only one survived (Cibelli et al., 1998). In another experiment, 276 nuclear transfers were produced, 28 embryos implanted in 11 cows but only three calves were produced (Cibelli et al., 1998). Other several experiments have reported similar cases (Polejaeva et al., 2000). Polejaeva et al. (2000) suggest that among the reasons for the low efficiency include differences from one laboratory to another, quality and source of the oocyte, methods of embryo culture, and failure to reprogramme the transplanted nucleus sufficiently. Researchers have proposed methods to increase the efficiency and success rate but as of now, the low rate of efficiency remains a huge challenge and a large number of eggs would be needed to produce only one child.

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Another ethical concern is the likelihood of developmental anomalies that have been noted in several animals cloned through somatic nuclear transfer. Many have concerns that the same abnormalities would occur after human cloning. However, Killian et al. (2001) dismiss this claim and argues that the large offspring syndrome is caused by incorrect imprint of the IGF2R (insulin-like growth factor II receptor) gene which is unavailable in humans hence oversized offsprings would not occur in humans if human cloning was to happen. Notably, the Rhesus monkeys cloned through the nuclear transfer of embryonic nuclei do not show signs of developmental anomalies. Even though this might be true, more scientific studies are needed to ascertain that human clones would not have developmental abnormalities. Currently, the existing evidence from animal cloning indicates that there would be developmental abnormalities in human cloning.

Data shows that the likelihood of producing human/animal hybrids through cloning has the potential for inflicting physical harms. In 1999, researchers in Australia implanted an embryo with human DNA into a pig but terminated it after 32 days (Abbott & Cyranoski, 2001). Even though no concrete reasons were given for that decision, it is thought that political and ethical concerns about the experiment led to them to terminate the embryo. Years later, Chinese researchers replaced the chromosomes of rabbit eggs with the nuclei of the skin cells of a young boy. The researchers hoped to use the resulting embryos to produce embryonic stem cells for use in regenerative medicine (Abbott & Cyranoski, 2001). The primary objective of that research was solely therapeutic for human health. However, integrating human genes with those of other species could yield to a new life. If the resulting creation lives, it would have more human traits than animal features due to the nuclear genome. From an ethics perspective, the creation of hybrid humans is disregard and disrespect for human life. Also, it could be detrimental to human health due to the potential risk of transmission of infectious organisms from animals or due to unforeseen and unknown physical harms.

The likelihood of human cloning to cause harms goes against the basic principle of nonmaleficence. Nonmaleficence is drawn from one of the earliest medical guidelines since the Hippocrates, primum non nocere (first of all, do no harm). This principle stipulates that medical practitioners have the responsibility of ensuring no harm comes to the patients. In most cases, the principle of nonmaleficence is joined together with the principle of beneficence (to do good or the duty to care). Even though these principles are expected to reinforce and complement each other, there are instances when they are at opposing sides (Savulescu, 2002). For example, chemotherapy is a form of treatment to alleviate suffering but has many negative effects. In such cases, the principle of nonmaleficence is not broken provided there is a balance of benefits. In other words, the harm is not intentional but rather due to side effects of efforts to improve the health of the patient. Accordingly, Savulescu (2002) uses this premise to argue for human cloning. The scholar argues that the huge potential of embryonic stem cell research to improve people's health and lives outweighs the cons of the destruction of a proportion of embryos used in the research. While Savulescu's (2002) logic may apply in reproductive human cloning, the advantages of producing an identical child must be carefully weighed and evaluated against the costs of potential developmental anomalies and physical harms.

In addition, human cloning has elicited debates on dignity and respect for human life. The practice raises several questions regarding the moral status of the human embryo, when life becomes human, and if the early embryo can be categorized as a human being worthy of all respect and dignity of a living human being. The existing literature about the moral status of embryos depicts different perspectives. However, there is a general consensus that an embryo is different from an egg, sperm, or any other cell, and that it contains the DNA. In other words, it has the potential to develop to a human being. As such, Shannon (1997); Meyer (2000) agree that a human embryo is a representation of human life that deserves respect.

To some people, personhood (individuality) is perceived as the baseline for determining the moral status of a human embryo. Based on this premise, pre-implantation human embryos lack personhood at least until the restriction is completed. Until restriction when the cells are committed to become a given organ of the body, the pre-implantation embryo can be divided into parts that can equally become whole. After 21days, the restriction process is completed which makes the embryo indivisible and an individual. Between 14days and 21days, the primitive streak consisting of the central nervous system and the brain develops. Before this stage occurs, it is likely for the embryo to undergo twinning (Shannon, 1997). Literature by McMahan (1999) shows that it is only until the seventh month of gestation that entities start to exist. In this view, killing a human clone before the seventh month would bar only one of us from existing. This demonstrates that there are varied perspectives about the moral status of a human embryo and it is hard to get a consensus. Nonetheless, it is evident that the pre-implantation embryo has life, value, and posses the human genome.

The significance or value attached to a human embryo is the primary determinant of whether it should be accorded respect as an individual or not. In this case, respect for an individual means treating individuals as persons with rights. Therefore, if a human embryo is viewed as a potential human being that deserves respect, then its right to life must be recognized. Similarly, a fetus has the right to life and not to be harmed. Based on this premise, it is true to say that it is wrong and unethical to destroy human embryos or to subject them to potential abnormalities (Meyer, 2000). On the other hand, respect for individuals requires respecting their autonomy and honoring their rationality. For a person to be considered autonomous, they must demonstrate decision making and reason. However, a fetus and pre-implantation embryo do not have the capacity for decision making and do not manifest reason hence they are not autonomous beings.

The issue of human dignity is perhaps the most used argument against human cloning. An adult human being has a well-developed consciousness and intelligence that makes him unfit to be considered as an item of scientific research. In most societies, consumers buy a wide array of products and many of them can be returned if they fall below the set quality standard. As such, creating a person that meets a certain set standard by the buyer opens up the possibility of failure hence returning or destroying that product which is deemed faulty. At this point, concerns about the violation of human dignity arise. That is because an individual is considered as a commodity for purchase to meet the buyer's needs including organ transplant. In addition, Terec-Vlad and Terec-Vlad (2013) point out that therapeutic cloning violates the dignity of the unborn human being and thus that of the entire human race because human life is no longer held to high regard it deserves.

Human cloning has significant potential psychological and psychosocial harms. A report by the International Council of Nurses says that human cloning violates an individual's right to their unique genetic dignity and identity (ICN, 1998). That is because human reproductive cloning would pull the genetic makeup of future offsprings to the present human control. Depending on the type of cloning, the genetic makeup and traits of a cloned human would be known hence the possibility of misuse of such information. In addition, information about the genetic makeup of a cloned person can be accessed by medical practitioners or researchers from the healthcare institution that the procedure was conducted. Unintentional or intentional disclosure of genetic information by unauthorized persons would mean a violation of confidentiality and privacy of the clone. Also, it could lead to issues of discrimination in relation to employment opportunities and healthcare insurance programs.

Knowledge about personal potential may pile pressures on and expectations from the cloned child. The piling up of these pressures and expectations might act to curtail the autonomy of that child. Some of the arguments for cloning is that it has positive effects on a person's self-identity, their intrinsic potential as an individual or their sense of autonomy in shaping their life (McMahan, 1999). However, a child learning that he is cloned could lead to personal confusion. Also, the realization that they are cloned or created in an "unnatural" way could lead to stigma by evoking strong emotions like denial, resentment or anger towards the parents, and sense of not being himself. These mixed emotions could trigger an identity crisis and a decline in self-esteem. On the other hand, knowledge of being cloned with admired genetic makeup could be interpreted as superiority over other children and result in over-confidence.

As noted earlier, the value attached to a human embryo determines the human actions towards it and how they treat it. Suppose people perceive human embryos just as means to an end and meet their needs, there would be unforeseen and unpredictable consequences in society. In particular, there would be the commercialization of embryos that would be produced purposely for donor organs. The mass production of human embryos would be hidden from the public view hence creating a good environment for eugenic practices. It would be common to have embryos selected based on various characteristics like sex, physical appearance, intelligence among others. In addition, the embryos would be used for research and experiments without the consent of the donor. On that account, it would not be surprising to find that some people are making plans for creating banks to store cloned human embryos, cells, and tissues generated from them as a market product for those willing to pay for bodily enhancement.


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