Human Cloning

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The United Kingdom was the first country to pass a law authorizing the cloning of human embryos in 1996, while prohibiting cloning for reproductive purposes (Cohen). The permission to clone embryos, according to proponents of the new modality of genetic manipulation, would target the cure of serious degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and the regeneration and replacement of diseased cells. Since the first successful clone of an adult mammal, the Dolly sheep in 1997 (Cohen), until the creation of the first edited baby, feelings of euphoria mixed with worry and even fury have aroused.

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Indeed, the advancement of recent human reproduction techniques as well as discoveries of the new frontiers of genetics require much more than a purely scientific approach. The employment of these new mechanisms leads to questions of diverse values and cultural, ethical, religious and scientific dogmas.

The advancement of science in the field of DNA has greatly evolved and new discoveries have brought amazement and more concerns. The implement of the genetic-editing technique known as CRISPR, which was introduced to the world in 2012 (Shwartz) – a simple, yet powerful tool for editing genomes. CRISPR allows scientists to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function, delete and repair any mutated sequence of DNA in any gene. It has many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops (Vidyasagar). The implementation of CRISPR has brought hopes of a future free of many devastating diseases. Last month, however, a profound leap of science happened when a Chinese scientist shocked the world reporting that he’d created the world’s first babies genetically edited with CRISPR: a set of twin girls, with a third potential CRISPR baby on the way (Regalado). Alongside the euphoria, religious and more conservative people were concerned that science is creating persons without a soul and they are playing God and disrespecting human dignity. Even many scientists were astounded to hear of the claim and strongly condemned it. The concern about the rapid use of gene editing without further investigation led many scientists to denounce the Chinese report as an unethical human experimentation.

The scientific community has ethical concerns regarding the new technology mostly because changing the genes in an embryo means changing genes in every cell. If the method succeeds, the baby will have alterations that will be inherited by all of the child’s progeny and that could eventually affect the entire gene pool. Moreover, scientists agree that it is a serious undertaking that must be done with great deliberation and only to treat a serious disease for which there are no other options ” if it is to be done at all. Furthermore, gene editing itself, scientists say, is experimental and is still associated with off-target mutations, capable of causing genetic problems early and later in life, including the development of cancer (Treur). Scientists have long maintained an informal system of ethics and guidelines for conducting research, but documented ethical guidelines did not develop until the mid-twentieth century, it only happened after a series of well-publicized ethical breaches and war crimes (Resnik).

Religious thinkers and philosophers invoke bioethics to discuss the ethical effects of human cloning and they question:

  • Is the clone a being with its own identity or soul?
  • Will CRISPR be used for eugenics?
  • Do clones or edited babies have rights and a personality capable of being unique as a human being in society?
  • Will science create individuals with the sole purpose of creating an organ donor?
  • Should we make DNA changes that could fundamentally affect future generations without having their consent?

The principle of the dignity of the human person means that each human life is considered sacred. Human beings, including scientists, are responsible for their acts and must be treated according to their actions, intentions or manifestations of consent. A science that does not assume the consequences of its results is unacceptable. One cannot fabricate human beings or create edited babies by claiming, as a legitimating discourse, that it is inevitable or is a result of scientific advancement. A scientific determinism, which assumes the defense of a human reproduction at any cost, forms an irresponsible and amoral model of science

The human clone, understood, as the extension of another being results in the belief that one individual can be dependent on another individuality raise serious philosophical questions. For instance, the German philosopher Habermas makes a powerful analogy between the cloner and the clone and the master-slave relationship. He poses that:

If cloning, like slavery is a legal relationship signifying that one person disposes over another as property, then, it therefore cannot be harmonized with the currently valid concepts of constitutional law: human rights and human dignity… Therefore, cloning would result in the creation of an ethically inferior and irresponsible individual for his or her actions (Decker).

Scientific advances should take into account that humans are ethically responsible for their experiments. Unfortunately, not every scientist is ethically conscious and ethical lapses in research can happen. When they happen, they can significantly harm human and animal subjects, students, and the public. For example, a researcher who fabricates data in a clinical experiment may harm or even kill patients. To prevent abuses many national and international declarations and regulations to ensure the genome dignity and privacy are already in place like the following:

  • Council of Europe’s 1997 Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (Darnovsky).
  • UNESCO’s 1993 International Bioethics Committee (IBC).
  • 1997 UNESCO’s 1997 International Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights ( Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights).

Government ethical norms is necessary and welcome. They help ensure that many of the norms of research can promote a variety of other important moral and social values, such as social responsibility, human rights, and animal welfare, compliance with the law, and public health and safety. Furthermore, government policies on research misconduct, conflicts of interest, the human protection, and animal care are necessary in order to make sure that researchers can be held accountable to the public. Ethical norms and policies regulating research help to build public support for new researches as well. People are more likely to fund a research project if they can trust the quality and integrity of research.

Science definitely must continue its research and experiments with DNA, however, science cannot continue its path untouched by ethical challenges. Biotechnology should be used to dignify human health and at the same time preserve its dignity as a person. The human being cannot be used as an experiment or a simple clone to provide body tissues to the other, nor should they be altered to please eugenicists. The cost of physical and spiritual integrity does not justify the use of any methods of genetic manipulation. In this perspective, biology takes on a fundamental role. The legal norms, which protect fundamental rights, are not an obstacle to the development of science. On the contrary, they constitute an instrument for the protection of the human being against possible attacks on their dignity. The ethical questions raised about human cloning, baby editing are necessary, and the ethical debate should not be ignored; and the fundamental principle of respect for human dignity and the prohibition of all forms of discrimination based on genetic characteristics needs to be protected.

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