CloningA question posed on another thread; I thought I'd pose it separately here. Imagine that a baby is born to the Smiths and that this baby has severe and extremely painful birth defects....


A question posed on another thread; I thought I'd pose it separately here.

Imagine that a baby is born to the Smiths and that this baby has severe and extremely painful birth defects. Imagine next that the Smiths could create a new embryo from which stem cells could be harvested and that these cells would certainly repair the extremely painful, life-long problems from which their infant suffers.  Would the Smiths be justified, in that case, in taking cells from an embryo that would not suffer in order to radically improve the life of a child already suffering severely? I don't pretend that answering this question will be easy.

Expert Answers
belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It entirely rests on your personal opinion of embryo/fetus and its status as a living, "ensouled" human. (I use "soul" because there is a distinct difference between a non-thinking human and a thinking human; "soul" is an easy word for that difference.) In this case, you do not even need to create a fetus; once stem cells are generated, you can clone an almost infinite number of them without growing the embryo any further. Therefore, the question is whether life begins at conception or not, and that's not for me to decide.

I will throw out the Jewish belief, that the child is not "ensouled" until birth (by whatever method) and that if the mother's life is in danger, the mother always comes first; in those cases, abortion is mandated by law to save the mother. This isn't to say the fetus is not important, but if you are looking at it from a religious perspective, it might be worthwhile to research various beliefs and decide how they fit in with your personal moral system.

justaguide eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not consider a fertilized egg as something that is alive. Though I would have to agree that an embryo has a come a long way from being just that I do not think it has life, (does make me wonder what exactly life is then, though that can be delegated to another discussion post). If an embryo does have life shouldn't all those that undergo abortion be legally treated as murderers.

The reason why a doctor may advice a woman to undergo an abortion if it has been determined that actually having the child can place the life of the woman at risk could be seen by many as killing one person to save another. I guess the same applies here, the procedure is justified because the embryo has less of the life in a sense than the sibling it is being created to save.

#8 makes a nice point, but I guess that is something where what is being discussed here goes to an extreme.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Doesn't it really depend on whether you think the second embryo is alive?  I mean, you wouldn't kill your living child (even if you did so humanely and without them having to suffer) in order to give another child a better life.  So if you feel that the embryo is alive, I can't see it being a hard call.  If you don't believe the embryo is alive, it shouldn't be that hard of a call either.  You're just taking some cells that aren't really alive and using them to essentially save your child's life.  Not that hard, I think.

Maybe it's just because I'm not in actually in that situation, but it seems that it would be pretty cut and dried.  (Of course, if you did believe life begins at conception I imagine you'd be forced to really thinnk that through and to decide if you *really* believe that.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That's an interesting question, but I have a different solution.  Why not wait until the second child is born to harvest the stem cells?  We can now replicate stem cells easily and quickly.  The large quantities of stem cells in the placenta and cord blood would certainly allow for enough cells to help the first child.  This is actually something that is in medical practice now.  There is no need to abort a child in order to obtain stem cells.  Yes, the second child would need to be genetically compatible.  This would likely mean some type of invetrofertilization or other genetic modifications to ensure the second child would be a match for the first.  Whether having a second child to save the first is acceptable is a completely different argument.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult is a fictional novel based on this premise. Child number one has leukemia, child number two is conceived with the hope that she will be compatible to provide whatever is needed to help the older sister survive. Because she is a good match, the younger daughter is asked to undergo progressively more invasive procedures - from donating her umbilical cord blood to donating blood when she is aware of the procedure to donating a kidney. At that point, younger sister takes her parents to court, suing for the right to control for herself what is done to her body.

It's a powerful tear-jerker, but portrays all the complications of such a situation.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Currently on TV, there is a program that shows actual cases of people having cloned their pets so that they can "resurrect" them and yet enjoy this cherished animal.  Such actions raise fears of what can happen with cloning in the hands of more than pet lovers.

Regarding cloning with the human species, sometimes the "what-ifs" become the "what-next."

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I could not see creating a life and taking it away in order to save another.

I tend to lean toward this sentiment.  I do not claim to have a full understanding, scientifically speaking, of how/when an egg becomes a "life" but something inside me wants to believe that when an egg is fertilized, it becomes a soul.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I guess it would depend upon if only the cells could be created and used. Outside of that, I could not see creating a life and taking it away in order to save another. That being said, I am not in that position. I never hope to be. But, one can only assume what one would do if not in the exact circumstances in question.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this particular scenario, I agree with pohnpei. I have no qualms with clone research, and using the cells to possibly cure your living child would be a godsend for the child and the parents.

niconics | Student

Cloning a human is an ethical issue. There is a law in the United States that prevent Scientists to use cloning method for medical purposes. Stem cells can be harvested through the child's placenta or umbilical chord. Harvesting through embryo kills the embryo cause your removing their parts while they are a ball of cell. Stem cells often rejects our body because it is not part of our DNA or maybe the cells that is being harvested is infected by pathogens and this stem cells will be destroyed by our defence system.