Friday 12 February 2010

Cloning: Is it a terrible thing to do?

Human cloning is the creation of a genetically identical copy of a human cell or human tissue. The ethics of cloning is an extremely controversial issue.

There are two types of human cloning: therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning involves cloning cells from an adult for use in medicine and is an active area of research, while reproductive cloning would involve making cloned humans. Such reproductive cloning has not been performed and is illegal in many countries. If reproductive cloning has ever been done in any country in the past; that information has never been made public. A third type of cloning called replacement cloning is a theoretical possibility, and would be a combination of therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Replacement cloning would entail the replacement of an extensively damaged, failed, or failing body through cloning followed by whole or partial brain transplant. It could be conceivable that sometime in this century, people can have their major organs cloned and then stored so that if any time in their future, they need a replacement; their own cloned organ will replace the injured or diseased one. That is no so weird when you consider that presidents of the United States have their blood stored in case of emergencies.

On December 12, 2001, the United Nations General Assembly began elaborating an international convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings. A broad coalition of States, including Spain, Italy, Costa Rica, Philippines, the United States and the Holy See sought to extend the debate to ban all forms of human cloning, noting that, in their view, therapeutic human cloning violates human dignity. Costa Rica proposed the adoption of an international convention to ban all forms of Human Cloning. Unable to reach a consensus on a binding convention, in March 2005 a non-binding United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning calling for the ban of all forms of Human Cloning contrary to human dignity; was finally adopted.

Human cloning technology is expected to result in several miraculous medical breakthroughs. We may be able to cure cancer if cloning leads to a better understanding of cell differentiation. Theories currently exist about how cloning may lead to a cure for heart attacks, a revolution in cosmetic surgery, organs for organ transplantation If these theories are valid, then the cloning technology will save and change thousands of lives.

Advocates of human therapeutic cloning believe the practice could provide genetically identical cells for regenerative medicine, and tissues and organs for transplantation. Such cells, tissues and organs would neither trigger an immune response nor require the use of immuno-suppressive drugs. Both basic research and therapeutic development for serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as improvements in burn treatment and reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, are areas that might benefit from such new technology.

Proponents of human cloning claim that human reproductive cloning would also be beneficial; such as permitting fertility clinics to create fertility treatment that allows parents who are both infertile to have children with their own DNA in their offspring. I wrote a paper in the 1970s that was published in a law journal in which I said that possibility could later become a reality.

Some scientists have suggested that human cloning might obviate the human aging process. As humans age, so do their organs. By cloning their organs when they are younger, it would mean that their lives would be extended. By doing this, it could mean that humans could live well past a hundred years. Of course, this would result in the population of Earth being substantialy increased unless there was some form of population control in place.

Human cloning essentially means taking a human being's DNA and reversing its age back to zero. One of cloning's leading proponents hopes that cloning will make it possible to reverse our DNA back to age 20 or whatever age we want to be. Cloning would be a step towards finally bringing into existence, that mythical fountain of youth. I am not in favour of that prospect however for the following reason.

Imagine if you will, a 60-year-old man being turned into a twenty-year-old man repeatedly. If he did this three times, he could have 120 years added to his life which would mean that he would be at least 180 years of age before he died. If everyone did that, the population of Earth would be unsustainable.

Of course, by the time that would happen, plant life and the lives of animals could be increased via DNA manipulation because they too could be cloned repeatedly thereby increasing the plants on Earth and increasing the birth potential of animals so I suppose that would make it possible for the increased human population to survive.

One of the considered options to repair the cell depletion related to cellular senescence is to grow replacement tissues from stem cells harvested from a cloned embryo. It is not my intention to get into the issue of stem cells in this essay at this time.

The Human Cloning Foundation has been surprised by the number of people that write them to say that they would like to have a clone so that their clone may lead the life that was meant to be theirs. Typically, these are people who have suffered some terrible physical or mental handicap and feel robbed of the opportunities they should have had in life. Some see their lives as a sacrifice so that the life of their clone may be enriched. Unfortunately, cloning them with their inflictions would be pointless because the clone would have the same identical inflictions.

There would be only two ways to get around that problem. The first would be that a clone would have to be made of the fatally diseased or horribly handicapped person prior to him being inflicted. This means that there would now be two persons instead of one person; the human being as he currently is with his infliction and the clone as the inflicted person originally was without his infliction. Even if the clone was placed in a state of animation and revived only when the total replacement takes place, the clone’s brain would have to be replaced with the brain of the inflicted person otherwise all the memories of the inflicted person from the time of the cloning would be gone. If this were feasible, and you were the one suffering from the infliction, you could become the clone and then your original body could be destroyed and you as the clone would live the life of an infliction-free human being with your original brain.

Obviously this wouldn’t be feasible if you were born with a handicap, such as spina bifada etc.

The second way to get around the problem would be to be totally cloned and then if you lose a leg, your leg would be replaced by removing the clone’s leg and giving it to you.

This would be highly immoral because the clone would still be a human being and to harvest organs or limbs from a human being, (even if it is a clone of yourself) would be considered as gross as is cannibalism.

What perhaps would not be immoraly wrong is for humans to have their own organs and limbs cloned and stored away for future use if needed. And then when they die, their cloned parts would be destroyed.

Don’t laugh. This is conceivable. What I don’t know is whether of not it will really happen. But then, when I wrote my paper in the legal journal about humans being cloned, the sheep that was eventually cloned, wasn’t even born yet. So as we all know, the impossible often becomes the probable and later, the inevitable.

As to permitting clones of human beings exsiting as other human beings, it will never come about. The reasons are obvious. First, the fear that many people have is that the clones would be considered different and would

probably be treated as unequals. It is also conceivable that they could end up being bred as slaves just as blacks were several centuries ago. But the other problem is that there would always be two humans with exactly the same brains. Imagine if you will, your clone competing with you for your job and worse yet, your clone competing with you for your wife’s and your family’s affections.

I am too old to see vast changes in cloning but I believe that my children will see them. I hope for their sakes, that they don’t see humans being totally cloned, for whatever reasons.

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