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.