Final Blog Post – Jemimah Kim

Good afternoon, esteemed members of Congress.

I appreciate your invitation and time to share my intellect on the continuation of the Emory in Atlanta Cloning Initiative research investigation. I sincerely believe that the Committee’s collection of insights from specialists in a variety of fields is the optimal approach to deciding if research into this reproductive technology should be continued. For those of you that do not know me, I am Dr. Jemimah Kim and I am the 17th director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The views expressed throughout this testimony are my own, and are not representative of any official position of the National Institutes of Health. My proposed perspective, though, is not entirely personal but has been heavily influenced by not only an ethical approach but through religious and cultural perspectives that attempt to advocate for various communities throughout the United States.

In this testimony, I will argue for the cessation of funding for the Emory in Atlanta Cloning Initiative and their search for successful cloning techniques. Not only can this area of reproductive technology research be viewed as a complete violation of laws of nature, but it has significant potential to create more problems than it attempts to solve, assuming that cloning procedures can ever be successful. Along with questions regarding the technicalities of cloning procedures, the results of a procedure must be just as seriously considered before continuing experimentation. This testimony will focus on just a few of these questions that cloning produces, such as initial processes of experimentation, the dangers of predetermined genetic makeup of offspring, and the accepted kinship of the clone. Furthermore, this testimony will incorporate a variety of religious perspectives on the matter because of the large variety of religious communities that this technology will impact if continued. These communities turn to religious texts and figures that help form the fundamental, firm beliefs that these communities base many of their moral stances on, especially in situations regarding procreation and human life.

I have researched four of the most prominent religions in the United States and have maintained a focus in their perspectives on procreation. These four religions include Christianity, or most specifically Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism, which have collectively been surveyed to comprise of more than one fourth of the U.S. population by Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center also produced survey results revealing that six of ten Americans say religion plays an important role in their life. Because of the importance of religion in a large portion of Americans, a look into religious perspectives and ethnographic studies on religion are significant contributions to be considered in an argument for the continuation of a procreative technology such as cloning. Consequently, some religious arguments have been weaved throughout this testimony so that I could propose a more all-inclusive argument.

Successful cloning has been proposed as an ideal way for both individuals and couples to have biological children if they are unable to do so independently or sexually. In this way, an individual could use their own genetic material to produce a being with the same exact genetic makeup as one’s self. While this process is quite interesting as a whole, its consequences include severe questions of kinship, originality, and “tempting fate.” Overall, a previous submission in 2002 from the President’s Council on Bioethics had established that cloning was unethical. Although this advice has been overlooked for the initial funding of the Emory Cloning Initiative, it is time that this research has been reviewed again for the sake of termination of a potentially harmful scientific quest.

The principles of the ethics of human research are inevitably compromised in the search for a perfected cloning method. Due to “high rates of morbidity and mortality in the cloning of other mammals,” the complicated cloning process applied to human subjects would be “extremely unsafe” and attempts to satisfy this inquiry would be highly unethical, even if the techniques were perfected in other mammals first. It was concluded by the Council in 2002 that “no ethical way to try to discover whether cloning-to-produce children can become safe, now or in the future” (“Human,” 2002). The Catholic Church’s strict policy against experimentation on research on all human life (embryo’s included) is a driving factor for the Church’s stance against cloning because “unless there is a moral certainty of not causing harm to the life or integrity of the unborn child and the mother,” medical research on such subjects cannot be conducted (“Instruction,” 1987). Even the legislative branch of Israel, the Knesset, has established and extended a ban on human reproductive cloning for the time being because of the unsafe procedures and unawareness of potential implications for cloning technology (Prainsack, 2006). The initial process for establishing safe cloning procedures are too dangerous and would cause too much collateral for a reproductive technology whose consequences still remain questionable.

If one were to hypothetically ignore the inevitable risks of continued experimentation for cloning success, the consequences of success in such a reproductive technology require an even more considerable amount of review. The positions against the process in general and the status of the individual are the most pressing factors to be considered.

From a Christian perspective, human children have naturally been designed and granted to couples, where both male and female contributions are necessary for the manifestation of a new life. Mores specifically, this gift has been granted to married couples, so one trying to reproduce on their own or without physical input from their partner should not be granted reproductive rights. This view focuses on the comprehensive process of cloning and the required components for reproductive success, or rather, the lack thereof. Because cloning reproduces an individual, it does not occur between a male and female nor is it required to occur between people holily united. The Catholic Church’s official statement on reproductive technology declares that “attempts or hypotheses for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality through “twin fission,” cloning or parthenogenesis are to be considered contrary to moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity of both human procreation and of conjugal union” (“Instruction,” 1987). This published declaration emphasizes the importance of Natural Moral Law and the blessings that come from God as a fruit of marriage. Thus from the Catholic perspective, any attempt to reproduce artificially, more specifically via cloning, is prohibited. To attempt cloning processes as an alternative for procreation of biological offspring would go against what the Catholic Church has deemed acceptable due to marital status and the perceived Natural Moral Law.

A perspective on cloning from a Hindu perspective is relatively less direct and comprehensive but can sensibly result in similar stances. The term “Hinduism” in itself is misleading because of it reference to a widespread community that differs in many aspects aside from original geographic location (Bhattacharyya, 2006). Nevertheless, there are six important elements of Hindu that help produce religious decisions. These elements emphasize two focuses for a Hindu follower: societal good and the success and good of the individual. There is a focus on the individual through teachings of dharma and karma, as well a commitment to ahimsa or no harm. These teachings would support the termination of cloning research studies due to the potential harm for the mother and fetus. However, some may argue that this focus on the individual can be overridden by the importance of societal well-being that is also emphasized in the Hindu religion. Could this argument for the well-being of society be applied to increased care for those who already exist and are not being cared for like orphans? There are even parallels of adoption that can be derived from religious Hindu texts (Bhattacharyya, 2006). I am proposing that the Hindu faith would support the termination of cloning due to the potential harm to test subjects, animals and human alike, as well as the potential good that can come from the inability to procreate through cloning. Instead of cloning for reproduction, Hinduism may promote the care of a child to be done in the form of adoption rather than reproduction through artificial cloning specifically, which would ultimately promote overall societal good and the unity of all life.

On the other hand, some scholarly articles that I reviewed on Judaism and Islam promoted the development of reproductive cloning technology for the sake of maintaining religious homogeneity and determining clear kinship ties. Through the perspective of the articles, these religions prioritize biological ties in the determination of kinship linkages. For example, in the past, Islam has explicitly discouraged adoption practices, thus disregarding the possibility of social parenthood. It is described as “a religion that privileges – even mandates – biological descent and inheritance” where most Muslim men “cannot accept the possibility of a social parenthood via adoption or gamete donation” (Inhorn, 2006). Furthermore, these religions are very specific about who may serve as a donor for in vitro fertilization procedures because of the unclear resulting kinship, the potential of donation to be considered adultery, and the religious identification of the baby. Because of these concerns, followers of these religions may prefer cloning reproductive practices because of the pure genetic lineage guaranteed for the offspring. However, a concern more specific to the Jewish perspective is the kinship of cloned progeny. Because of the religion’s emphasis on both on the gestational and social development periods of an offspring’s life, the relationship of a surrogate and the genetic donor are a little blurred. These distinctions make it “markedly harder for a woman to be considered the mother of her cloned progeny than it would be for a man to be considered the father of his cloned progeny” (Broyde, 1998). However, cloning is the optimal procreative technology that aligns with the religion’s preference for reproduction with individuals within the religious community in addition to their concern for incest among individuals reproduced via donor in vitro fertilization and other reproductive practices. These restrictions combined with the community’s cultural obligation to “inhabit the earth” makes artificial procreation a viable option, and a cloning procedure to be the optimal option (Broyde, 1998).

Though these articles offer more pros for the development of cloning methods, I have observed a shared lack of reference to the potential collateral that would be necessary for the perfection of cloning processes. In the aforementioned religious perspectives of Catholicism and Hinduism, scholarly writers emphasized the religion’s prioritization of the well-being of the mother and babies affected in potential experimentation. I propose that Congress assemble religious authority figures for a deeper, fuller understanding of perspectives on cloning for major communities in the United States.
Withal, the development of cloning processes opens the door to weary potential for situations that are against the common good. Successful cloning procedures would promote an understanding of people as a science that can be predetermined for possible betterment of an individual. In other words, successful practices could expand to sciences that allow parents to specify predetermined characteristics. Cloning specifically diminishes originality among all people and could motivate discrimination or devaluation of clones or the original genetic donor. Clones could experience decreased quality of life both physically and socially, whether the scientific technique was not perfected for their normal development or the expectations preset by the accomplishments of their genetic donor would be a constant shadow over their heads. Lastly, there is a prevalent concern for the safety of the clones, and the proposed possibility of their exploitation as test subjects for increased understanding and potential cures for the non-clone population (“Human, 2002).

It is important to distinguish two potential goals for the development of cloning techniques: cloning for reproduction and cloning for biomedical sciences. While I fully understand and respect the desire for children and potential restrictions working against couples wanting to start a family, I believe the developments of in vitro fertilization and surrogacy are sufficient techniques to achieve this desire. There are religious and personal barricades to the acceptance of IVF for some couples, but the dangers associated with the development of cloning techniques and the consequences and challenges associated with a successful procedure far outweigh potential benefits for cloning technology. Additionally, UNICEF has estimated that 140 million children around the world under the age of 18 are orphaned and in need of adoption. The artificial procreation of more children does not seem like it should be a large concern, and I suggest programs and processes that provide care for these children be prioritized as well. In a Western country like the United States, adoption has earned a reputation as a time-inefficient and tedious process, so increased efficiency and promotion of this social parenthood could be an effective focus to both alleviate the need for artificially created offspring as well as decrease the amount of children left without families. The Emory in Atlanta Cloning Initiative should not continue to receive funding because of the threat cloning technology is to acceptable human existence. An argument for and against perfected cloning techniques is the potential of clones to be subjects available for human research studies and even organ donations. In other words, some may argue for the continuation of cloning processes in order to benefit the terminally ill in biomedical practices. However, an alternative investigation for Congress’ funding could be towards the development of tissues and organs from nonhuman sources. I propose success in this field of research would satisfy the public’s desire for cloning technologies for biomedical advancement. For example, rather than looking to clone development for organ donations and somewhat ethical human research, funding could be directed towards developing organs outside of a human body. An example of both a successful study and a study with incredible potential is the investigation that used decellularized plants as perfusable tissue to engineer biological scaffolds (Gershlak et al., 2017). The benefits that cloning technology offers can be achieved in many more humane, less ethically complex ways. Funding for the Emory in Atlanta Cloning Initiative should be discontinued and alternatively redirected towards encouragement for adoption and child care, as well as into other investigations that humanely research cures for the terminally ill.

SOURCES:
Bhattacharya, Swasti. “Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology.” Suny University Press, 2006.

Broyde, Michael. “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

Gershlak, J., Hernandez S., Fontana G., Perreault, L., Hansen, K., Larson S., Binder, B., Dolivo, D., Yang, T., Dominiko, T., Rolle M., Weathers, P., Medina-Bolivar, F., Cramer, C., Murphy, W., and G. Gaudette. “Crossing Kingdoms: Using Decellularized Plants as Perfusable Tissue Engineering Scaffolds.” Biomaterials, 2017, vol. 125, pp. 13-22.

“Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry.” The President’s Council on Bioethics, July, 2002. www.bioethics,gov.

Inhorn, Marcia. “He Won’t Be My Son.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 2006, vol. 20, pp. 94-120.

Instructions on Respect for Human Life. Congregation for Doctrine of Faith, (1987):141-175.

Prainsack, Barbara. “‘Negotiating Life’: The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel.” Social Studies of Science, 2006, vol. 36, pp. 173-205.

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