Unit 9: Cloning

By Audrey Lu on Cloning

Our readings for Unit 9 focused on the morals and ethics of cloning and embryonic stem cell research. The first of these is a report written by President George W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics, which consists of 18 members, from various disciplines including biological sciences, political science, ethics and philosophy, and law and business. The report ultimately concludes that cloning should be banned; however, the council split on the recommendation for specific policies, with 7 members recommending cloning be permitted only under strict federal recommendation and 10 members recommending a four-year ban while conducting a federal review of current and future practices of human embryo research.

The argument laid out by the council for the banning of clones is that given the “high rates of morbidity and mortality in the cloning of other mammals,” the cloning process is reasonably assumed to be unsafe for humans (Kass xxviii). Additionally, even if cloning of other species is perfected, it would be difficult and unethical to determine whether cloning to produce children is or could become safe. While reading this connection between other mammals’ cloning and human cloning, I wonder, given that humans and mammals share a significant portion of the genome, if embryonic stem cell experimentation becomes safe in other mammals, then why is it unethical to perform this research on humans? More specifically, at what point do we draw the line of ethics, given the closeness of humans and mammals?

While I understand and acknowledge the difficulty, dangers, and the ethical argument against cloning, I also believe, as Breitowitz brings up in the second reading (and that I will discuss later), that many other reproductive technologies were not considered safe when first developed. To me, I believe that the public’s issue with cloning lies not in whether determining if the safety of cloning is safe, but rather in the social effects of cloning, as Kass brings up. Specifically, as is the plot in many sci-fi movies, if clones “inherit” beneficial genetic modifications, this could encourage discrimination against those born normally, or, on the other hand, lead to greater discrimination against clones as they are exploited as test subjects.

On the discussion between the minority and majority on the policy implementation, the majority argued that to develop a national regulatory system, the government needed time. On the other hand, the minority recommendation allows for cloning research in regards to biomedical purposes without significant delay in order to help patients quicker.

The second reading “What’s So Bad About Human Cloning?” is written by Yitzchok Breitowitz, a Rabbi arguing for human cloning on two bases: the first being “a response to infertility, and the other is a way to generate genetically compatible tissues for transplantation” (Breitowitz 333). I found Breitowitz’s perspective incredibly interesting, as I initially believed the reading would be much denser and more complex than in actuality. His article begins with an analogy comparing rejecting medical intervention because God will heal me to rejecting food because God will feed me (328-329). Additionally, he contends that as humans are created in the image of God, we are endowed with “wisdom and skill and knowledge” to develop solutions for our problems and ultimately fulfill our Commandments (328, 330). While I am not religious, I agree with Breitowitz’s interpretation and application of Judaism in regards to cloning and reproductive technologies as a whole. In Dr. Seeman’s Blessing Unplanned Pregnancy: Religion and the Discourse of Women’s Agency in Public Health I made a similar comment in that, while I had never regarded pregnancy in terms of a blessing, to me, the blessing arose more in the opportunity to become pregnant and have a child and choose whether this pregnancy is “good” (in whatever terms the mother deems) for the mother’s situation, whether that is physical, financial, emotional, religious, etc. reasons. I see the blessing as the ability to make our own decisions, rather than the gift of pregnancy or cloning that we must or should accept.

As he discusses reproductive cloning, Breitowitz discusses different scenarios in which cloning may be permissible. In one scenario, cloning could provide a child for a man incapable of producing sperm. Cloning could give a family a child that is closer to a normal genetic product of the mother and father (Breitowitz 331). Beyond providing a family with a child, he touches on the use of cloning for medical purposes, such as using a stem cell to regenerate tissues for a transplant, in addition to contending that cloning a child with a purpose to save another child’s life is permissible. While I admire most of the points that Breitowitz brings up, as a secular viewpoint, I disagreed with allowing a child to be cloned to save another’s life. This scenario is actually the plot of a book, My Sister’s Keeper, in which a thirteen-year-old girl sues her parents when she discovers that she was born to donate a kidney to her older sister, who is dying from acute leukemia. The book does not deny that most family members would want to help their sibling if they could, but rather that the daughter should be able to make this decision on her own. It also touches on the psychological burden of being a clone, as Breitowitz feels that the clones may feel that they are living a life that has already been lived (336). However, do you think that clones could lead an individualistic life while serving a purpose from birth? How did you all respond to Breitowitz’s arguments?

Lastly, Breitowitz touches on the accessibility of cloning, even if it became commercially available, as well as the possibility of cloning being used for eugenics. If cloning is implemented, would the technology be privatized or run by the government?


  1. Hi Audrey, I think you raise a very valid point about the permissibility of cloning. Even though scenarios like cloning a child for the purpose of saving one’s life do not explicitly violate the Jewish law based on the argument that the Jewish recognizes that some people have children so that the children could take care of them in old age or the argument that having a child to save a child is like killing two birds with one stone, these arguments seem to consider the child as the cloner’s property and not giving them the right of full control over their own bodies. If, according to the Jewish law, that any person born to a mother (especially Jewish) is undoubtedly a human, then why is that human not entitled to human rights?

    I also agree with your point that cloning should not be banned on the basis that it is an unsafe technology. As we read in Hadley Arkes’ article, reproductive technologies are rapidly advancing and evolving. Therefore, he argues that previous ‘markers’ for humanity such as viability and consciousness could no longer be used. Disregarding whether this invalidates or validates abortion, his point undermines Kass’s argument, and we should perhaps focus on problems like limited genetic diversity, or like you mentioned, the social effects of cloning. Still, I think like other technologies that seemed intimidating when they were first developed, cloning will not be completely banned or abandoned because when used with caution and restraint, cloning could bring great benefits to the society.

  2. Great post, Audrey. It’s written well, asks interesting questions, and provides very solid evidence and summary. This was one of the most intriguing units, as cloning on a wide scale is completely hypothetical, so there is a lack of established precedence. Embarking on untested moral waters means going to the core of one’s ethical beliefs, and I am a utilitarian who sees nothing wrong with cloning. I think the positives outweigh the hypothetical negatives.
    I also think that a person can certainly live an individualistic life even if they serve a purpose from birth. In a way, most everyone serves a purpose from birth. Some children are conceived to save marriages, many to satisfy someone’s wish of becoming a parent, all because a mother decided, for some reason, that a child should exist. All people make individual decisions and live completely unique lives; I don’t see how cloning would be any different.


  3. I really appreciate the detailed summary and critical analysis you provide for each readings! It’s interesting to read about the ideas gathered from President George W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics around 2 decades after its establishment given that there have been many different advancements in medicine since then that may oppose that conclusion for banning cloning based on widely accepted morals and ethics of cloning from that time context. Although the council was explained to be diverse in discipline, I doubt that there was much of any diversity in their background and upbringing to engage with the moral experiences given the different positions and identities of people in American society. Assuming that the council consisted of mainly upper class, college educated white men it may be unproductive to hold their view about cloning in such high esteem since it’s more than likely that they lack the same intimate relationship and care towards assistive reproductive technology systems from people who make up the majority of populations that would be interested in utilizing this option if empirical evidence and research were to declares it to be a safe, standard method like IVF that allows alternatively conceived offspring to be carried to full term without increased chances of morbidity and mortality. My question in response to this wonders how medicine and legal systems will regulate the use of cloning tech among those interested since this system may affect the biodiversity of subsequent generations since the offspring, if viable, would be an exact copy of the parent’s genetic code? Which principles of bioethics is most at stake with the implementation of this process if there weren’t any other lives at stake like with the case of producing a child to offer a serious organ transplant for an older sibling as mentioned? If people were to be safely undergo such processes to be created as of embryos outside of traditionally biological methods, how might society view such births and what stigmas may be attached to their livelihoods? How might kinship patterns differ based on the parties involved with conception and why may people be hesitant to accept their relations to genetically modified offspring?

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