Final Blog – James Pittinger

I am here to speak on behalf of research into human cloning. Cloning is a marvel of modern day bio-engineering, yet the ethical line can sometimes be blurry. I believe federal funding should be allocated to research cloning in order to advance modern medicine. Before we begin looking into pros, cons, congressional councils, religious, and cultural interpretations of human cloning, I would like to say a few words as an introduction of sorts. We are to look at cloning not to judge whether these deeds are deemed moral or immoral or whether certain technology should be banned or not. Instead I ask to search deep into the human condition to fully understand what is at stake when “biology and biography” become intertwined (Kass, 224). This focuses the question on what the implications will be for family dynamics as the possibilities for reproduction continue to expand. The questions we seek to answer are philosophical, practical, and also political. Given the complexities of the choices we have before us, it is important to open the stage on a national level. The best way to do this, is to further research the topic and spread awareness and insight into the field of cloning. This is a technology that is heavily debated with relatively little research due to legality. Cloning can play an important role in the upcoming decades in the field of artificial reproduction and medicine.

 

Let’s look at some of the previous research on cloning. The President’s council of Bioethics, under President George Bush, was composed of a diverse group of contributors. These included scientists, physicians, lawyers, and theologians to name a few of the professions on the council. The council was also composed of politicians on both sides of the isle, democrats and republicans. Not to mention a diverse religious presence. The council undertook five projects in the span of two years. These projects have publicized a complex area of research and have begun to find a way to oversee the most prevailing questions in biotechnology that we presently face.

 

One of the five projects the council undertook was on the subject of cloning. They first began with the broad human contexts of cloning. These include the importance of wholistic moral healing in the face of biomedical research, the ethical contract between scientists and society, and lastly and most importantly, the worth of human life in all stages. After this, they go further and break two different types of cloning, cloning for reproductive purposes and cloning for biomedical research. The panel all agreed that regardless of the purpose cloning is used for, the process starts with a human embryo. This embryo is what makes people hesitate to further research the practical uses of cloning.  The council then unanimously voted that cloning for reproductive purposes is not only unsafe as research and techniques are still relatively primitive.  In terms of cloning for biomedical research the council, much like the nation is divided (Kass). What I have to argue is that the advantages of cloning can potentially solve much bigger puzzles. For example, inserting fetal pig brain cells into a person diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease can cease all symptoms. People with diabetes rely on insulin therapy to keep their disease under control. The transplant of genetically modified animal pancreatic islet cells, to replicate a healthy human pancreas. These are just a few of the possible advantages. Research into this field is limited. Because of this limited research there could feasibly be untapped cures to cancer, HIV, and heart disease to name a few. With careful oversite and federal licensing, research into biomedical cloning should be permissible. If there are possible cures for some of the world’s most devastating diseases, it is our duty as human beings to fully investigate.

 

Next, I would like to talk about how cloning is interpreted and accepted in the Jewish faith. In Jewish Law there are a few obligations. Among those are to help others in need and the second is from the book of Genesis “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Most people of the Jewish faith take this as a command instead of a suggestion. Since reproduction is so highly valued in Jewish culture the use of assisted reproductive methods is permissible. It is safe to argue that cloning is also a form of assisted reproductive method, and therefore should be allowed in order for the Jewish people to be faithful to their religion (Broyde).  Within Jewish law, cloning is considered “mitzvah” which means permissible or even good deed. One of the potential arguments for anti-cloning is the cloned child would not have a true mother and father. Yet, in his paper, “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law”, Michael Broyde offers the gestational mother should be the one who served as the incubator. While the child would not share any genetic material as the mother (for male donors – male clone) under Jewish law there are no other possible candidates as to who could be labeled the mother.

 

A possible argument against cloning is that this selective and predictive genetic engineering is a fear of the lead to eugenics, a form of selective breeding among humans. The concept of eugenics was once very popular in Nazi Germany, and it is Ironic that the worldwide leader and innovator in cloning is the people that were brutally cast away and killed due to eugenics. This ultimately ties back into my point, that the fear of eugenics should not be a reason to cease funding to programs doing research on cloning. It just might help someone be a better practicing member of the Jewish faith. While on the topic of possible arguments against cloning we turn to one of the most commonly referred to arguments. It is immoral due to the process of running tests on human embryos. If we stick to the Israeli train of thought we can find a counter argument here that Jewish law (Halakha), does not attribute human dignity to an embryo outside of the uterus. This grants the use of embryos created via somatic cell nuclear transfer for research purposes as ethically permissible (Prainsack). This allows the use of human embryos to be used for research purposes.

 

In summary, we have looked at the facts of the matter. There are benefits to cloning that go far beyond common conceptions, or perhaps I should say misconceptions. Some people will simply think of “Mini Me” from the Austin Powers movie series when they hear conversations about cloning. These people are wrong, there is so much more than what meets the eye. The medical benefits of stem cell embryotic cloning continue to grow, with feasible solutions to today’s toughest most resilient diseases. Additionally, when looking at the concepts and applications of cloning through an Israeli lens, we see a whole new perspective; not to mention Israel is one of the United States’ closest ally. I believe it is possible for us to learn from them. While I believe cloning for purposes of self-love and wanting “mini-me’s” should not be done. I believe there is a world out there that is relatively untapped, that could lead to unprecedented advances in modern medicine. Cloning is still a new technology. Like most technologies on the forefront of innovation they are surrounded by controversy. This was the case with IVF and also surrogacy, now they have become more common and less controversial. I believe cloning will follow this path and become less outlandish. Federal funding should be used to research the scientific aspect of cloning to advance human kind.

Sources:

Leon Kass, Reflections on Public Bioethics: A View from the Trenches,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal15 (2005): 221 -250.

Barbara Prainsack, “Negotiating Life: The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel.” Social Studies of Science2006: 173-205.

Michael J. Broyde, “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law,” In Michael J. Broyde and Michael Ausubel editors,Marriage, Sex and the Family in Judaism. (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 295-328.

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

One Reply to “Final Blog – James Pittinger”

  1. Interesting take on this important theme! My main suggestion is that you use more specific citations from the readings rather than speaking about them in very general ways that could have been based almost entirely on class discussions. Remember, the more detailed and careful your readings, the more convincing you are likely to be!

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