Cloning: hard cases can make bad laws

The reality of cloning is now a global phenomenon, and as technologies improve the possibility of human cloning becomes more plausible. The use of cloning to manufacture, as mentioned by both Leon Kass and David Elliot in Arguing about Bioethics, exists in the realm of animal technologies, and eerily, China is now cloning pigs on an “industrial scale” ( The photo below depicts the mass production of pigs that is now possible due to genetic cloning. Therefore, there is only a short time until human cloning is efficient and safe enough to enter the market place. Interestingly within the United States, individual states take different stances on cloning, and cloning boundaries are blurred across the nation. (, ). As technological advances further blur lines, there needs to be conversation on the moral boundaries of cloning as a form of “assisted reproduction,” and critical engagement is necessary to translate moral standards into public policy that will govern scientific procedures.


Cloning takes the discussion of human experimentation another step further, and challenges the ethical line of human subject experiments. The first cases of cloning would be all encompassing biological, genetic, social, and procreation experiments. Science has already taken baby steps towards further human experimentation such as cloning through techniques like prenatal genetic screening and parental genetics testing. This brings up debates about selection, the power of positive selection, and what can be categorized as too much selection (Holland 153) David Elliot in “Uniqueness, Individuality, and Human Cloning” presents a weak objection to the manufacturing argument, and instead he argues, “It can simply be a choice to have a child of one’s own in the only way possible” (Holland 153). Elliot’s counterargument against the manufacturing objection highlights defendable and seemingly reasonable motivations for cloning, such as infertility or genetic diseases, and he overlooks unreasonable motivations for positive selection, such as for control over sex, intelligence, or beauty. This reasoning treads a dangerous path, and the President’s Council on Bioethics warns “hard cases can make bad laws” ( Therefore, it is essential to look beyond the logical and sensible cases that seem to necessitate cloning, to cases of inappropriate and dangerous motivations. Difficult life circumstances relating to fertility can blind a society, or an individual, of the moral implications of bringing new life into this world (

Thus, evaluation of cases of cloning will involve prudence. There are recognizable and defendable motivations to clone in order to produce a child, but no one can articulate how much control and design selection amounts to a product, rather than a child. Tough cases can make bad laws, and it will be a societal test for how justifications like those presented by Elliot will affect public policy and laws.

Joyelle Flemming in her previous blog post brings up interesting considerations about the repercussions of cloning on the future. While in time our generation or future generations may come at accept cloning as a form of reproductive assistance, how will this impact future generations and the relationship of science and society? Cloning conversations must address the implications on the future and how man-made selection through cloning will effect the development of the human species as well as the world. While there is no perfected cloning technique to date, considerations of the morality of cloning should address cloning in context to the present as well as projected techniques.



Elliot, David. “Uniqueness, individuality, and human cloning.” Arguing about Bioethics. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.

“Human Cloning Laws.” Human Cloning Laws. National Conference of State Legislatures, Jan. 2008. <>.

“Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry — Full Report.” PCBE: Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry — Full Report. The Presidents Council on Bioethics, July 2002. Web. <>.

Kass, Leon R. “Why We Should Ban the Cloning of Humans: The Wisdom of Repugnance.” Arguing about Bioethics. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.

Nikas, Nikolas T. “Human Cloning Laws: 50 State Survey.” Bioethics Defense Fund, 19 May 2011. Web. <>.

Shukman, David. “China Cloning on an ‘industrial Scale'” BBC News. BBC, 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2014. <>.

9 thoughts on “Cloning: hard cases can make bad laws

  1. Laura,

    I like what you said about how cloning “challenges the ethical line of human subject experiments”. There is risk in all cutting edge technology, but with cloning, the risk is greater than ever before, it is a human life. There is no way of knowing if cloning a person for reproduction can successfully be done without trying it, but the chances of the process going terribly wrong should caution any scientist against it. If something goes wrong in the process (and it very well could seeing as things go wrong in natural childbirth all the time) someone is to blame for the unwanted result. If the clone suffers throughout its life, the people who created it will have to answer to it. Putting aside the arguments about uniqueness, inferiority, how the world will be affected, and many others, these are all issues that could arise further down the road after cloning has already been well established. The more immediate and pressing issue if cloning for reproduction were to happen, would be with the very first cloned individuals. The individuals that are created as “Guiney Pigs”; before the process is perfected would inevitably suffer. There are unforeseeable issues with cloning that cannot be addressed without practice and experimentation. But once the experiment (clone) is developed, it has rights of its own. What if it wants to try and live a normal life without being constantly monitored and tested? Who makes the choices? Will the scientists feel some sort of ownership over the “experiment”? There are many issues with cloning that are already anticipated, and likely others that have not yet been considered. Until there are fewer unknowns, the act of cloning for reproduction should be left alone.

  2. I agree with the underlying principle expressed in this post, that there are “inappropriate and dangerous motivations for cloning”. Deeming cloning morally permissible contributes to a slippery slope, in which both exceptions and objections are continuously made, leading to the creation of bad laws. For example, people could be bred to be living organ donors for sick people or family members, and not enjoy an autonomous life of their own. This idea violates the tenets of a democratic society in which all lives are valued equally. In addition, although we can make laws in the United States about cloning, we unfortunately cannot stop human experimentation in totalitarian countries, such as the aforementioned China, where people could potentially be cloned to serve as slave labor or as an army. In such instances, there will be the risk of these cloned people getting into the gene pool of other countries. Therefore, in order to create “good” laws, any regulations on cloning should be worldwide and verifiable.

  3. I find it very refreshing how you propose in your post that we need to look at the big picture when it comes to making laws pertaining to reproductive cloning. Too often do we allow our emotions to cloud our judgment and we fail to realize the effect something may have in the long run. Personally, I think cloning and genetic enhancement would severely alter our societal dynamic. It’s important to take this into consideration when determining regulations of something as complex as human cloning. If human cloning is deemed safe and somehow justifiable at a point in the future, my concern would be its accessibility. I imagine cloning and genetic enhancement will be tremendously expensive and thus restrict who is able to use such techniques. I fear it could possibly give the wealthy an even bigger advantage over those on the lower end of the economic ladder.

  4. I find the convergence of sources and points of information interesting in your paper, and agree with Cameron Goller. The big picture does indeed need to be kept in mind, as it undoes bias that arises in more specific cases. This means that under certain circumstances, one fact of a case can dramatically polarize views of those asked, as opposed to being asked what, universally, they like or dislike about the topic. I agree with the original post in the sense that all considerations should include procedural morality of the future in addition to the present.

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