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?