What sorts of moral and ethical issues surround both reproductive and therapeutic cloning? Ever since Dolly the Sheep was successfully cloned in 1996, people have expressed concern over the...

What sorts of moral and ethical issues surround both reproductive and therapeutic cloning?

Ever since Dolly the Sheep was successfully cloned in 1996, people have expressed concern over the possibilities of human beings ever being cloned themselves. There are two types of cloning that scientists are experimenting with: reproductive cloning, which is designed to produce a genetically exact replica, like Dolly, and therapeutic cloning, wherein stem cells are used to create new organs, such as pancreases for diabetics. Stem cells come from embryos, which are, at times, created for the sole purpose of being used for the cells, and then are destroyed. What sorts of moral and ethical issues surround both types of cloning? 

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The purpose of therapeutic cloning is to create cell lines specific for the patient with the intention of creating organs or other cells and tissue. Scientists take a somatic cell, a cell that generates an organism, and remove the nucleus. The scientists then take an egg cell and remove that nucleus, forming an empty egg cell. If we put the nucleus from the somatic cell into the egg cell, we create a "repogrammed" egg cell. The fact that human stem cell research produces a cloned human beings and also the fact that the cells must come from women raise ethical questions concerning therapeutic cloning. However, scientists have the potential of regenerating organs, immune systems, creating treatments for Parkinson's disease, as well as many other benefits. Therapeutic cloning does not break the law regarding biomedicine found it Article 13 set forth at The Convention on Human Rights declaring that "an intervention seeking to modify the human genome may be only undertaken for preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic purposes" (Mcgill J Med, "Therapeutic cloning: promises and issues"). While other legislation concerning therapeutic cloning is still vague, if human cloning can save a life without destroying another person's life, there are very few reasons why it should not be permitted under very strict legislation.


wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of the difficulty in discussing cloning comes from the question of when an embryo is considered alive.  We clearly protect life, but we do not always consider an embryo life.  It is currently debated whether or not stem cells taken from embryos should be allowed.  Even embryos created in a lab for the sole purpose of providing stems cells is hotly debated.  Scientist are discovering other ways to create stems cells.  The most promising in my opinion is the ability to revert a cell back to a stem cell.  This would eliminate the debate over the morality of embryonic stem cells.  With that element removed, we must then continue the discussion of whether or not we should be cloning at all.  I see little benefit to reproductive cloning.  It serves little purpose and I do question the morality of this type of cloning.  Therapeutic cloning is a different story.  Imagine the diseases and disorders that could be cured by therapeutic cloning.  No more organ donor transplant lists.  No more rejection of a replacement organ.  Scientists are working on ways to grow organs in a lab with cells derived from the patients own  body.  I think it is a very exciting area of science.




Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The primary moral question arising from reproductive cloning is, as litteacher suggests, the viability or disposability of the human being thus cloned. As we saw when Dolly was disclosed to the world, she was a sheep. She was no different in inner or outer characteristics than other sheep (perhaps more pampered...). "Sheep whisperers" might be able to attest that her psychological and cognitive function were no different from other sheep (I can't corroborate this ...). Therefore, logically, a reproductively cloned human being would be as equally human as she was equally sheep when compared to the natural order of their species (perhaps even the "more pampered" part might equally apply to reproductively cloned humans, at least for the first crops anyway). In contrast, the greatest moral question arising from therapeutic cloning relates to harvesting of stem cells, the point of beginning, rather than on the point of end result.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I against reproductive cloning of human beings. I can see this turning into a way for people to create clones to "harvest" organs. The ethical problem of whether or not to treat a clone differently than the donating human is unresolvable.

I'm more tolerant of therapeutic cloning, as long as embryos are not created for the use of their stem cells.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am against cloning humans for any reason whatsoever, even if we don't create viable children or adults.  Stem cells research is fine.  The problem is when we clone ourselves in order to harvest organs from the living being that results.