Human Cloning

This week’s readings discuss policies and discussion on cloning. We see a Christian view in Kass’s report to the President George W. Bush and then Jewish views in the work of Breitowitz. Lastly, Prainsack discusses how Jewish and Israeli views on reproductive technologies arose which will allow us to compare and contrast the policy of the United States with the policy of Israel regarding cloning.

In the first reading, Human Cloning and Human Dignity: The Report of the President’s Council on Bioethics by Leon Kass, the committee first discussed the science behind cloning and then separated the concept of cloning into two distinct categories of “reproductive” and “therapeutic”. Reproductive cloning referred to cloning-to-produce-children and “the goal is the production of a (cloned) child” whereas therapeutic cloning referred to cloning-for-biomedical-research with the goal of “the development of treatments for diseases “suffered not by the clone, but others” (Kass 43). The exact science and possibilities of each form of cloning were then discusses before arguing the positive and negative consequences of pursuing each form of cloning. The purpose of cloning-to-produce-children could be summarized by “replacing” a related member, replicating geniuses, being used for reproduction of the unviable and obtaining organ matches (Kass 79). Contrasting the positives were five categories of concern: “(1) problems of identity and individuality; (2) concerns regarding manufacture; (3) the prospect of a new eugenics; (4) troubled family relations; and (5) effects on society” (Kass 102). Based on these criteria, the council concluded unanimously that cloning to produce children was unsafe and should not be attempted due to safety concerns (Kass 115). On the other hand, the committee could not unanimously agree on a ruling on cloning-for-biomedical-research. While this form of cloning could potentially “lead to important knowledge of human embryological development and gene action”, this form of cloning would also lead to the “deliberate production, use, and ultimate destruction of cloned human embryos” (Kass 115). The inherent complexity of these issues lead to a lack of unanimity in regards to policy on cloning-for-biomedical-research.

These discussions and beliefs surrounding the two forms of cloning lead to the committee to create six basic policies. In essence, these six policies were: (1) “self- regulation”, (2) “ban plus silence”, (3) “ban plus regulation, (4) “regulation of both”, (5) “ban on both”, and (6) “ban plus moratorium” (Kass 186). For all of the policies regarding a ban and an additional action, the ban was referring to cloning-to-produce-children with the later action in reference to cloning-for-biomedical-research. Each policy’s morality, enforcement, and acceptability were then discussed before the committee decided on the best course of action (Kass 186). Ultimately, the majority of the committee (10 members) agreed on a proposal to ban cloning-to-produce-children with a four-year moratorium on cloning-for-biomedical research (Kass 205).In addition to this proposal, a minority (7 members) recommended that cloning-to-produce-children should be banned with regulation of the use of cloning-for-biomedical-research (Kass 218). Both recommendations call for a ban on cloning-to-produce-children, but the first policy emphasized giving more time to observe and gather more information before discussing policy on cloning-for-biomedical-research (Kass 215). On the other hand, the second policy sought to regulate cloning-for-biomedical-research as the potential discoveries of such research was extremely valuable and should be allowed to proceed (Kass 219). Additionally, the second policy also called to review previous regulations on embryonic research (Kass 222).

In regards to these two policies, something I found interesting was who supported which policy. All of the science or medicine related members favored the minority policy with the exception of a psychiatrist and a human biologist. Additionally, the only non-science or medicine related members to favor the Second Proposal were a professor of law and a professor of ethics emeritus. Additionally, gender did not seem to play a major role in the decision as two females members favored each proposal (Kass xxxvii-xxxviii, xxxix). This reminded me of last week’s class where there was a clear disparity between science and society when we discussed if an inherent bond existed between a gestational mother and her child. Another interesting connection I noticed was the similarities that these proposals had with Catholic beliefs. Banning cloning-to-produce-children falls in line with the catholic belief that humanity begins at conception and a major issue seen with cloning-for-biomedical-research was the safety of the embryo which also falls in line with catholic beliefs.

As someone who grew up in a primarily Christian community, What’s So Bad about Human Cloning by Yitzchok Breitowitz really broadened my views on cloning. Breitowitz addresses Judaic perspectives on the topic of cloning for reproductive purposes in his piece by addressing six areas of concern regarding reproductive cloning. Breitowitz first notes how Judaism would reject the argument that cloning is playing God and it is wrong to play God. According to Jewish tradition, “that wisdom and skill and knowledge are, in themselves, gifts that come from G-d” (Breitowitz 328). This is in reference to the usage of technologies that blur the lines between natural and unnatural such as in vitro fertilization and reproduction cloning. Therefore, when new technologies and medicines are developed, “G-d gives us that wisdom with the hope and the expectation that we will use it responsibly (Breitowitz 328). Breitowitz then argues how there are at least two positive uses of reproductive cloning: “response to infertility and generating genetically compatible tissues for transplantation” (Breitowitz 333). After listing these two positive uses, Breitowitz then discusses the six areas of concern regarding cloning.

The six areas of concern for Breitowitz are: issues with justice and governance, issues of quality control, psychological burdens, impact on relationships, immoratlity, and genetic diversity. On the topic of justice and governance, Breitowitz discusses the economical cost behind cloning and justifying who would be eligible to be cloned. Additionally, who regulates cloning and the worth of a cloned human are also discussed (Breitowitz 333-334).  In regards to issues of quality control, the morality of instituting technologies that creates human suffering is questioned. To this question, Jewish beliefs are not clear on choosing between no existence and an impaired existence as existence at least means there is potential (Breitowitz 335). Breitowitz then addresses the idea that a clone would have the psychological burden of living up to their parents. He notes that Jewish belief is that while there is a “mazal” or predisposition towards certain traits, everyone has the ability to make autonomous decisions (Breitowitz 337). The fourth area of concern discussed was on the impact on relationships. The main issue was “that in every child there are three partners: father, mother, and G-d” (Breitowitz 338). However, reproductive cloning would allow a woman to remove the relationship of a father and thus create reproduction without relationship (Breitowitz 338). Breitowitz then discusses how believing that one’s genes are immortal would fill one with “arrogance that can undermine one’s relationship to G-d” (Breitowitz 339). Lastly, a discussion on genetic diversity takes place as widespread genetic cloning can skew genetic diversity. Due to these concerns and benefits, Breitowitz believes that reproductive cloning should not be completely prohibited but rather strictly regulated such that it could be “available under narrow constraints” (Breitowitz 340).

The reading by Barbara Prainsack takes this a step further and discusses policy on cloning in Israel, a predominantly Jewish nation. In her work, Prainsack argues how a different system of morals is used to justify human embryonic stem cell (ESC) research and cloning, in reference to the usage of and also that a “demographic threat” and pro-natalist storyline influence the permissive Israeli approach towards technologies (Prainsack 172). Prainsack notes that according to Jewish law, ECS research is justified due to four reasons. The first is that embryos outside of the uterus do not enjoy a high level of protection since they are not considered a human life. Second, born humans life has priority over developing human life. Third, responsible interference with God’s creation is acceptable, and lastly, procreation has a very important role in Jewish tradition (Prainsack 181). These views contrast greatly with Christian views that dominate many countries. Prainsack then addresses the issue of a “demographic threat”. According to Prainsack, many feel that Israel follows such permissive guidelines in regards to reproductive technology because it wants to retain a Jewish majority population (Prainsack 185). Prainsack argues how this perspective is wrong and Israeli policy on reproductive technology lies in its healthcare system (Prainsack 186). Along with the healthcare system, Jewish beliefs and Zionism teaching promote science and technology (Prainsack 187). Lastly, Prainsack concludes that those two arguments alone are not sufficient on their own, but it is the overlapping of the two narratives that complement each other (Prainsack 176). From this, we can see how Israeli policy on reproductive technology is not a lack of morality but rather something well thought out and grounded in the culture and society of the region.

Works Cited

Leon R. Kass, Human Cloning and Human Dignity: The Report of the President’s Council on Bioethics.  (2002).

Yitzchok Breitowitz, “What’s So Bad about Human Cloning?” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal (2004): 325-341.

Barbara Prainsack, “Negotiating Life: The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel.” Social Studies of Science 2006: 173-205.


9 Replies to “Human Cloning”

  1. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for a great post! I relate to many of your points, especially your background of growing up in a primarily Christian community and the impact that the Breitowitz article had on your perspectives towards cloning. My parents and grandparents, all Catholic, would immediately jump onto the idea that cloning people to produce children is, in fact, “playing God,” but they would probably support the idea of cloning eye genes and proteins to allow a blind person to see. They share this opinion with many others in the U.S. and beyond. Breitowitz’s discussion, however, provides an intriguing argument for considering the strict use of cloning techniques in reproduction itself. His cost/benefit analysis of six areas regarding the use of cloning contribute to his credibility as a scholar and force the reader to consider his ideas.

    You also make an interesting point about the demographic division of the President’s Council on Bioethics’ support of cloning policies. Although it is unsurprising that scientific experts favor policies with more leniency in regulations towards research, it isn’t always useful for people to so clearly align their decisions with their own field, and it makes me hesitant to credit them with an ability to consider multiple perspectives and impacts of cloning polices. What does everyone else think of this demographic division? Is it surprising? How does it impact the interpretation of the policy at stake?

  2. Thanks for the posts this week Kevin and Josh.

    Cloning has long since been a controversial topic in the US and in an international regard (as WHO and various other organizations have been mobilizing to ban its usage, or at least severely restrict it). However, Israel has had a rather lax approach towards the subject. This week’s reading tackled a lot of the reasons behind Israel’s position on the subject as well as inspecting the reasons for ethical misgivings about cloning.

    Leon R. Kass, in the report of the President’s Council on Bioethics, outlines many of the core reasons why cloning might be used and then adds counterpoints to support its nationwide ban. Points such as cloning for reproduction, to promote better genes, and to “replace” a dying or dead loved one were all reasons mentioned in the report. The report then goes on to note how the potential child raised from cloning could suffer severe social issues stemming from the circumstances of birth as well as the not-yet perfected cloning technology. In Kass’s reflection, he notes that people have reproductive rights but this is not a universal right to create them in any way as desired – as seen in the case of cloning.

    Prainsack’s analysis on the Israeli point of view was very enlightening. She enumerates the potential uses of cloning technology, such as research cloning (ie. producing organs for donation) and reproductive cloning (ie. making a full fledged human child) before delving into the Israeli ethics of cloning.

    She notes that the Jewish population is under severe demographic threat. Tensions are extremely strained between the Jews and the Arabs in surrounding states. Pro-natalism is a long-known adopted policy – birth control is not often subsidized and Israel has been a fervent supporter of a variety of different reproductive technologies as they are “permissive towards technologies that help foster and create life.” Israelis view the “interference with “God’s creation” in a responsible manner is virtuous” and not necessarily wrong.

    Much like Prainsack’s analysis, Breitowitz notes that the core tenet is the commandment from God – to be fruitful and multiply – is why Israel is so lax towards cloning and other technologies. Humans are subjects to God, but they must choose whether to follow him, Breitowitz mentions in regards to circumcision. Thus humans can also choose to balance their relationship with God with their interpretation of how to follow his will – a “contradictory but complementary visions of human beings in their relationship to the world and in their relationship to the Divine.”

    I noticed a lot of the Jewish interpretation of God’s will in Genesis (at least according to scholarly analysis) has been a core factor in their open views toward reproductive technology. Catholicism has, in contrast, been rather unforgiving. There is not necessarily a wrong or right interpretation per se, but it’s a fascinating insight on what different religions consider ethically permissible versus not based on what they make of God’s will.

  3. Lipkin, Cole
    Mon, Apr 8, 8:17 PM (17 hours ago)
    to me

    Thank you for your post. It was well done. However, because of focusing on the other readings in my last two posts, I wanted to focus on Prainsack’s article

    Prainsack article was a good article to read after Breitowitz’s. I say this because Breitowitz’s article gives more of a personal opinion piece, where arguments from both sides are given out, while Prainsacks piece gives a Jewish account of the foundation, history, and reason why Israel is very pro-cloning. I appreciated the article because it didn’t only rely on logic and mental excercices, but gave a historical account of the backing of Jewish ideas on cloning such as Ben Gurians mandate that the Arab population be at 15% of the total Jewish population in Israel. This was in direct relation to the point she was making that one of the main goals of Judiasm is to procreate. While she echoes a lot of the same points as the other article she goes more in depth and gives better understanding of the technology that is being discussed. While reading this article, I couldn’t but help draw the parallels that it had with abortion such as she states, “In the case of ESC research and human cloning, the bodies that are discursively created do not yet exist materially, but they are present as an inherent part of the imagined collective body whose survival is at stake” arguing that since the person does not exist yet, there is nothing wrong with the practice. It also drew the parraells to surrogacy and the problems that were faced in the film we watched when she said, “VF in the 1970s, when these considerations emerged for the first time. When a woman donates an egg that is fertilized with sperm of the husband of another woman, who is the mother of the child-to-be? And what scenarios are to be avoided? Similar problems arise with reproductive cloning”

    She does a good job of adding layers to this view point and showing how it’s multifaceted by also giving the Catholic view of it to juxtapose the Jewish view, “Catholicism generally adheres to the concept of the person as coming into existence at the time of conception, thus making it impossible to conduct research on the embryo or fetus at any stage of development, except for cases in which the procedures are free of risk and notable pain and promise considerable benefit for the embryo itself”. While reading this there were two points that I agreed with, one being this quote, “Once safety issues are solved and the potential impacts of cloning on society are explored, there will be no binding reason to ban it any longer. Following this rationale and having established that there are ‘no valid moral reasons’ (bioethics expert B, 2004) for requiring a permanent ban, the Knesset voted to extend the moratorium (with minor changes) for another 5-year period in March 2004”. As I said in my other post, I believe that the only reason that cloning should be banned is because of the societal impacts, which however will not be known until implementation. Secondly, I think the greatest issue with cloning, and every other reproductive technology can be summed up in this point, ‘Mordechai Halperin amends that in his opinion much of the emotional public debate about human cloning in the USA and Europe is due to bad terminology.” Terminology is critically important when discussing this topic, and if it were to be cleared up, the issues would be a lot clearer.

    One thing that she left out I thought was the argument of what happens to a cloned child in his/her lifetime. I think that is a viable argument and question to ask. Lastly, one thing I noticed in both of their articles was the discussion of cloning people like Adolph Hitler. I am understand the points they are trying to make, however, with anything there would be regulation and cloning would be no different at least in my opinion. I honestly believe that cloning should not be looked at differently from any other reproductive technology. I believe that if used appropriately, it should be legal.

  4. Hi Kevin, Thank you for the summary and commentary on this week’s readings. I especially liked how you brought up the different points argued in the Breitowitz reading. In particular, I thought the debate of existence through cloning versus non existence was really interesting. As we have seen throughout the semester, it’s important for Jewish people to continue to create more Jewish people in order to obey the demand set forth in Genesis and also maintain their population. So it might not be clear which side is truly the right side to be on, because at the end of the day, cloning would create more jewish people. I thought the idea of genetic diversity was also interesting in how he compared it twins. Although twins are genetically the same, we know that the environment, not only in which the fetus is grown, but also how the person develops throughout the rest of their life, will shape who they are. So while genetic diversity will decrease should cloning ever become widespread, how similar would we truly be? Another point I thought was reasonable to address was cloning with the intention of selecting for certain traits. If only the brightest, most talented, etc. individuals are selected, this would make those elements that seem special and unique more ordinary. As you pointed out from the Prainsack reading, embryos outside of the uterus are not given much protection, so it’s important to keep these arguments in mind when there is potential room for leniency on cloning. Furthermore, what might create even more leniency on cloning, especially therapeutic cloning, is the prioritization of humans already in existence over developing humans. I actually agree with this prioritization, and I feel like many other people do as well which is why many are able to justify abortion. However, I am aware that if therapeutic cloning becomes widely accepted, it would make reproductive cloning more easily accepted as well.

  5. Thank you for the post! I enjoyed your personal commentary on the readings and the way that you critically analyzed some of the nuances such as the demographic division of the President’s Council on Bioethics’ support of cloning policies. That was something I did not consider when initially reading, but now circling back, I am beginning to approach it a bit critically, maybe due to Elizabeth’s comment. To answer her questions, I wouldn’t say that I was surprised by the demographic split. I was not quick to question their credibility because although they may be supporting the outcome that would potentially benefit their personal careers, they too, have to weigh in their own local moral worlds. I don’t doubt they aren’t biased – we all are – but it’s hard to tell from here how this decision might affect their lives immediately.

    I very much enjoyed Prainsack’s analysis of the Israeli regulations of cloning and stem cell research. Her arguments are central to this telling quote: “Jewish ethics aim to respond to the daily needs of individuals in immediate ways” (182). I found that this idea was reflected consistently throughout her paper and not only is it thoughtful and an ideal concept to uphold in human society, but it could be problematic when mapped onto larger, more stratified societies, such as the United States. I do hope that this idea is adopted in future bioethical conversations because I believe it exemplifies the central purpose of a structured society with laws and regulations.

  6. Well done! This post is in response to all 3 bloggers.
    A theme I’ve noticed about the readings and the blogs this week is that surprisingly or not, the opinions about cloning are the least decisive ones we’ve encountered thus far. As we’ve discussed, this is likely given the novelty of the technology. Opinions about IVF were also very lackluster, inconclusive, or strongly opposed until time went out, technology advanced, and understanding increased. I predict this will be the same regarding cloning technology… the trend, based on the language of the writers, seems to indicate that it will only be a number of years before human cloning becomes available as a technology.
    The above analysis is based on what you wrote in these blogs. Josh, I thought this comment a concise and accurate summary of a core theme of this week: “issues of reproductive technology are debated not for definitive answers, but to increase the reasonings with which we comprise our perspectives.” And Kevin, you wrote regarding Israeli policy on reproductive technology that it ought to be “something well thought out.”
    Jeffrey, I’d like to address your blog as well by commending you for what I thought was an excellent interpretation of the Breitowitz reading. While all of these articles related to the aforementioned theme, I believe that Breitowitz did so most thoroughly, addressing the many pros and cons and concluding by recognizing that this is a complicated question lacking a simple solution. I believe that “the notion of singularity of the individual—Tzelem Elokim (in the image of G-d—cut[ting] two ways” is exactly the idea that encapsulates the dichotomy we as humans have when facing this technology. On one hand, we have the creative capacity to do wonderful things, like create clones, “for the betterment of mankind,” yet we cannot diminish the value of the individual. Essentially, my main takeaway is that we must tread carefully. I do not believe that the answer is absolutely closing the door on cloning, but rather that cloning has major potentially to do both very good and very bad.
    See you tomorrow!

  7. Hi Kevin, thanks for your summaries of the readings for this week. I, like Paige and Elizabeth, found it thought-provoking that you brought up the demographic split of the members of the ethics committee and which voting members took which side. I think Elizabeth and Paige are both valid in their thought processes regarding bias by the scientists, but my initial reaction was actually the opposite. I naturally gave their opinions more credit, which is perhaps a bias of my own, but as scientists and researchers working in these fields I am more apt to trust their judgements than those of someone unfamiliar with the field. While that is not to say that outside arguments are less important, I think a certain amount of trust ought to be placed on their inside accounts.

    I also really liked Prainsack’s article, mostly because she presented Israeli and Jewish perspectives on cloning and ESC as complicated and intertwined rather than simplifying them down to just one root cause. She uses the idea of self-governance as the connecting piece between religion and pro-natalism, two often cited (and oversimplified) reasons for Israel’s generally pro-reproductive technology stance. She gave, in my opinion, a comprehensive analysis of the different factors at play that shape the cultural sentiments around reproductive technologies, including cloning.

  8. Hi Kevin!

    I appreciated your blog post, and agree with you that the juxtaposition between the Christian/Western perspective with the Israel perspective was particularly interesting. To tie in the words of Prainsack, “Conservatives, who are sometimes reluctant to use explicit religious terminology, replace the concept of ‘sanctity’ and ‘God’s creation’ with ‘dignity’ and ‘nature’, or simply with ‘life’…”; while Christianity is never explicitly mentioned in the President’s Briefing and presents superficially as secular, Christian values integrate themselves into the value lexicons of Western culture.

    To me, this juxtaposition between the Jewish and “secular” American perspective echoes juxtapositions of the past regarding differences of IVF permissibility due to how Abrahamic religions interpreted the same text. Both Prainsack and Breitowitz touch on the Jewish interpretive tendency of finding a rationale to *not* do something in contrast to the Christian tendency of finding a rationale to *allow* something. The Jewish approach is more more flexible, largely because the autonomy of the individual to create and decide in the image of God is assumed whereas the Christian approach tends to take a more deterministic approach.

    However, I’d like to offer a bit of pushback on your statement: “Banning cloning-to-produce-children falls in line with the catholic belief that humanity begins at conception and a major issue seen with cloning-for-biomedical-research was the safety of the embryo which also falls in line with catholic beliefs.” While concern for the embryo is clear and there is an obvious belief that fetal life is to be valued and respected, I think the larger argument here was that once the technology moves past the point of embryology, there will be countless flukes in the birthing and post-natal development of clones. The council argues that if there is a risk that in the process of perfecting cloning one will create countless humans living with severe disability and suffering, the technology is unjust. To thrust the burden of development and progress onto the bodies of others without their consent is a dangerous narrative with inherent human rights violations. In conclusion, while it is not false that the Council is influenced by Christian values, I argue that there exists empathy and objectivity in the reasoning that can’t be completely explained through religion, just like Prainsack argues the Jewish proclivity to embrace reproductive technologies is not soley religious in origin.

    Anywho, thanks again Kevin!

  9. Thank you for your interesting blog post. I liked the background information from Bush’s presidency. I agreed with Eleni’s comment; it is often difficult to separate our personal biases, whether religious or political in nature, from our arguments even though we are raised in a culture that values secular arguments.

    The traditional Christian view on cloning is quite negative; these Christians tend to believe that human life and the purity of conception is violated by cloning. This is again seen as humans overstepping their bounds since reproduction is, as Donum Vitae stated, both a gift from God and a natural process. Cloning is viewed to alter the “natural” course of life. As we have seen with many other reproductive technologies, Jewish law seems to have an opposite viewpoint. In this culture, embryos outside of the womb are not considered human so therefore do not need protective laws.

    I also really liked Jeffrey’s blog post in particular: he brought up a great number of pertinent questions that show how truly complex the topic is. Leaving the usual question of “Where do we draw the line?” aside, we can also argue that cloning, unlike many of the other ARTs that we have discussed, is a procedure that we don’t yet know the consequences of, both biologically and socially. We have not yet perfected the procedure to ensure the safety of all parties involved, and we have a long way to go before cloning ever becomes a commonly used commercial option.

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