Alana Redden Final Blog Post – Cloning

Good afternoon. My name is Maria Stefford with the Interfaith Council on Reproductive Technology. With a doctorate degree in Bioethics and a Masters of Divinity, I am in a special position to testify in front of you all today on the issue of cloning. The topic of cloning may elicit what esteemed bioethics professor Arthur Caplan has been known to call the ‘yuck factor’ — a visceral reaction to such seemingly unnatural technology (Prainsack 175). However, as the chairman of the 1997 Presidential Council on Bioethics once admited, “revulsion is not an argument” (175). I ask that you take this opportunity to stay open-minded and consider my reasoning intellectually, and not emotionally. I will offer two different theological and religious perspectives in favor of continuing funding for the government regulated human cloning research program. Before we begin, I find it necessary to outline the science behind cloning.

Each human brought into this world possesses a genetic code comprised of nucleic and mitochondrial DNA. In traditional conception, the former is inherited from both parents, the latter inherited solely from the mother. In the case of cloning, scientists isolate nucleic genetic material from cells of one single donor. They then introduce this genetic material into an ovum that has been stripped of its genetic code (although the mitochondrial genes will come from the surrogate carrier). The egg — containing transplanted DNA — is then electrically stimulated to behave like a fertilized egg and begins to split. This egg is implanted into a surrogate’s uterus where the cells will continue to divide and grow. Normal gestation will follow and the surrogate will give birth to a fully formed human being at the end of pregnancy. (Broyde 297-298)

Having laid the basic scientific groundwork, I will take off my biological hat and put on my theological hat. Because human cloning technology is still in the abstract, hypothetical stages, not all the major religious institutions have released official positions on the issue. I will use a combination of published material and my own expert analysis to explore its relationship to Judaism and Catholocism.

Jewish theological and legal scholars have written specifically on theissue of cloning and determined that it is not in violation of Jewish law. In Michael Broyde’s essay, “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law,” he states the following:

In sum…when no other method is available, it would appear that Jewish law accepts that having children through cloning is a mitzvah [good deed] in a number of circumstances and is morally neutral in a number of other circumstances. Clones, of course, are fullyhuman, and are to be treated with the full dignity of any human being. (315)

Although Broyde is not advocating for cloning to be the primary mode of reproduction — and I do not know of anyone who is — he makes it clear that it is not immoral according to Jewish law. Furthermore, cloning seems to fulfill the biblical obligations for those who are barren and living in pro-natalist societies like Israel (301). As explicated in Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…” Given that children conceived in Israel using other reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilization are the legal children of the donor, it seems cloning would follow suit (301). If the clone possessed a Jewish man’s DNA and was brought in his Jewish wife’s womb, that couple would fulfill their biblical obligations, still produce a child within the sanctity of their marriage, and the clone would attain full legal and religious status.

I now shift focus to a seminal Catholic text. In lieu of a document that addresses cloning specifically, I will focus on three arguments in Donum Vitae to exemplify how cloning does not necessarily violate many Catholic ideals in the way the Catholic Church feels other types of reproductive technologies do. Firstly, it is articulated that human procreation must take place within a marriage. “[F]rom the moral point of view a truly responsible procreation vis-a-vis the unborn child must be the fruit of marriage” (157). With nucleic genetic material originating from a husband and the mitochondrial genetic material originating from a wife, and the clone growing in the wife’s womb, a Catholic couple can absolutely produce a clone that is the product of their marriage, both in terms of genes and kinship. Secondly, it is asserted that, “the doctor is at the service of persons and of human procreation. [They do] not have the authority to dispose of them or to decide their fate” (167). The human cloning trials facilitated by the federal research program will seek consenting adults as both genetic donors and surrogates. They will have autonomy and control over their genetic material — not the doctors. Therefore, the medical persons involved in the trials will not have decision making power regarding the fate of an embryo. They will be the facilitators in the donor and surrogates’ procreative process. Thirdly, it is made clear that the government must protect the well being of the people. “It is part of the duty of the public authority to ensure that the civil law is regulated according to the fundamental norms of the moral law in matters concerning human rights, human life…” (171-172). The research program will be highly regulated and monitored to ensure just that.

I would be remiss to ignore the potential dangers of cloning. Yitzchok Breitowitz, in his essay in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal titled “What’s So Bad About Human Cloning,” astutely identifies a multitude of risks associated with human cloning. First, it would be necessary to determine how the technology would be funded. Publicly funded human cloning programs would exist at the potential expense of social services, whereas privately funded human cloning programs would result in unequal access and raise eugenics concerns (Breitowitz 333-334). Second, clones in the early stages of human trials would likely face high viability, health, and disability risks (335). This was also the case with the early stages of in-vitro fertilization technology, which is now a popular technology used on a global scale. Third, there might be psychological burdens associated with being a clone — specifically issues of identity, expectation and individuality. Fourth, there are evolutionary and survival benefits of broad genetic diversity within a population. Widespread cloning could potentially jeopardize that diversity, which could have dire consequences in the future. And lastly, cloning provokes contested questions of immortality, human intervention and evolution. Is there a line in the sand? If so, would we be crossing it?

I am not advocating for unregulated, uncensored human cloning. Consent of all parties is mandatory. Responsible implementation of practices is vital. All theoretical and practical consequences must be considered. With that being said, we stand on the precipice of a technological revolution. We have the opportunity to set international precedent for reproductive technology. Our country’s ideas of family, parenthood and reproduction are shifting — let us enable the technology to reflect these changing times. I ask the members of Congress here to continue the funding for government regulated human cloning research program. With the hard work of our best and our brightest, the possibilities are endless. Thank you.

2 Replies to “Alana Redden Final Blog Post – Cloning”

  1. Conservative Family Doctor

    Hello Dr. Maria Stefford,

    Although you pose and interesting argument in favor of cloning in the United States, I am afraid that its risks outweigh the benefits you’ve proposed.

    To begin, the gravity of the medical dangers associated with cloning that you’ve glossed over are to be taken seriously. One of cloning’s initial processes regarding artificial implantation of an egg into someone’s uterus is a complicated task. The process of natural sexual reproduction for those who are able is much simpler and does not involve riskily inserting sharp tools inside someone. Do you understand the risks of reproductive damage and/or side-effects of anesthesia that may be required for this process? How much danger are you willing to place a surrogate in for this technology?

    Moreover, our studies from cloning animals show that “late-term fetal losses and spontaneous abortions occur substantially more often with cloned fetuses than in natural pregnancies. In humans, such late-term fetal losses may lead to substantially increased maternal morbidity and mortality” among other complications (Kass et. al, Chapter 5).
    Cloning pregnancy is not like any other normal human pregnancy. If it were, it would not produce such aversive effects in our animal models. The risk of death for the gestational carrier along with the cloned fetus is something to take seriously. As referenced to earlier, how can we put surrogates for women who cannot carry children in such a situation? We know that many surrogates are already often pushed into positions like these because their resources are limited (Made in India). Are you comfortable with exploiting and endangering women in need?

    Moreover, I do not find your arguments that support cloning through Catholic text convincing. As a man of strong Christian faith, I can tell you that the Bible not only supports human procreation through marriage, but also through sex. As a theologian, you may know that
    Genesis 4:1 states, “Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.” Sexual reproduction that involves coitus between a married man and woman is strikingly apparent as the natural mode of familial formation within the Bible. McKinnon Because technology has advanced past Biblical times, we cannot assert that cloning is supported by it. In addition to this, who said that God wants us to have this much power over human creation? You also explain that Catholicism could support this because clones are made up of mitochondrial genetic material from mothers and nucleic genetic information from fathers. Likewise, because the processes in the Bible involved nuclear DNA from both parents, we cannot fully liken cloning to sexual reproduction. This shift to mitochondrial DNA may also contribute to unprecedented health consequences.

    Overall, your calls for regulation and consent to combat the qualms of cloning are not enough. Advancing technology is important—but at what costs? There is no way to responsibly study when we do not even know what to expect of it. And what we do know about it, is that it’s plagued by medical and ethical dangers.

  2. *** Sentence beginning with “McKinnon” should’ve said:

    Cultural anthropologist Susan McKinnon’s On Kinship and Marriage, highlights that evolutionary psychologists would support this Biblical notion (107).

    Sorry, it was erased somehow!

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