Cloning: Ethical issues
Bioethics and Cloning (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Bioethics was founded as a discipline by ethicist Van Rensselaer Potter (1911-2001) in the early 1970’s as the formal study and application of ethics to biology and biotechnology. The discipline was initially created as an ethical values system to help guide scientists and others in making decisions that could affect the environment. The world has become even more complex since Potter’s original vision of a planet challenged by ecological catastrophe. Humans have developed the ability to take genes from one organism and transfer them to another, creating something entirely new to nature, with unknown consequences. Moreover, humans have the ability to make endless genetic copies of these organisms by cloning. Bioethics now includes asking hard ethical questions about biotechnology, and, as Potter suggests, “promot[ing] the evolution of a better world for future generations.”
Cloning involves making a genetic twin of an organism or of a DNA sequence. The process of cloning has actually been performed with plants for centuries.
Cuttings can be removed from many species and induced to make roots. These cuttings are then grown into full-size, genetically identical copies of the parent plant. The emergence of crops that cannot be propagated in the standard fashion, such as seedless navel oranges, has led to whole groves of cloned siblings. Few would suggest that such cloning is inherently wrong or unethical....
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Human CloningCloninghumanHuman cloning (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
There is an apparent widespread consensus that human reproductive cloning is legally, socially, and ethically unappealing. The United Kingdom and Australia both passed legislation banning reproductive cloning in humans. In the United States, legislation has been proposed on numerous occasions, to ban both reproductive cloning and any type of human cloning, but it has never been passed into law. The United Nations adopted a nonbinding declaration against reproductive cloning, and the European Union’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine bans reproductive cloning (although the convention had not been ratified by all member states as of 2009).
Therapeutic cloning, on the other hand, occupies a much more controversial position in public opinion. Production of large numbers of embryonic stem cells of a patient’s own genotype promises to deliver, in the relatively near future, staggering therapeutic benefits for an enormous variety of diseases. Patient advocates and others have lobbied strongly to proceed with therapeutic cloning research in humans. Many other groups, however, consider it profoundly immoral to destroy human embryos in order to obtain these stem cells. As a result, this technology is a highly contentious political topic around the world.
Bioethicist Karen Rothenberg, in statements delivered to the U.S. Senate’s Public Health and Safety Subcommittee of the Labor and Human...
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Further Reading (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Andrews, Lori B. The Clone Age: Adventures in the New World of Reproductive Technology. New York: Henry Holt, 1999. A lawyer specializing in reproductive technology, Andrews examines the legal ramifications of human cloning, from privacy to property rights.
Baudrillard, Jean. The Vital Illusion. Edited by Julia Witwer. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. A sociological perspective on what human cloning means to the idea of what it means to be human.
Bonnicksen, Andrea L. Crafting a Cloning Policy: From Dolly to Stem Cells. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2002. Political and policy issues surrounding human cloning.
Brannigan, Michael C., ed. Ethical Issues in Human Cloning: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives. New York: Seven Bridges Press, 2001. A collection of writings from a broad variety of Western and non-Western traditions and perspectives—philosophical, religious, scientific, and legal—good for sparking debate.
Harris, John. On Cloning. London: Routledge, 2004. A frank discussion of the myths of human cloning and a presentation of the benefits that cloning could have for humans.
Klotzko, Arlene Judith. A Clone of Your Own? The Science and Ethics of Cloning. London: Cambridge University Press, 2006. A bioethicist who considers reproductive cloning “inevitable” makes a strong argument against genetic...
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Web Sites of Interest (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
ActionBioScience.org. http://www.actionbio science.org/biotech/mcgee.html
“Cloning.” American Journal of Bioethics. http://www.bioethics.net/topics.php?catId=4
Human Genome Project Information. “Cloning Fact Sheet”. http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning.shtml
President’s Council on Bioethics. http://bioethics.gov
World Health Organization. “A Dozen Questions and Answers on Human Cloning”. http://www.who.int/ethics/topics/cloning
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