The subject of human cloning was once the stuff of science fiction novels and television programs. As technology and science improves, the creation of clones has become, potentially, a real likelihood in the impending future. For the follow, the definition of human cloning is that which has been designated by the American Medical Association:
The term "cloning" will refer to the production of genetically identical organisms via somatic cell nuclear transfer. "Somatic cell nuclear transfer" refers to the process in which the nucleus of a somatic cell of an existing (or previously existing) organism is transferred into an oocyte from which the nucleus has been removed. "Human cloning" will refer to the application of somatic nuclear transfer technology to the creation of a human being that shares all its nuclear genes with the person donating the implanted nucleus (Ethics 1999).
Scientists are proceeding ahead with research into the field with little consideration for the humanitarian implications involved. Considering the fact that the world is already in danger from over population, it is imprudent to add humans conceived unnaturally.
Although many have considered human cloning as a scientific breakthrough and cannot wait for their duplicates, the reality is that people were not designed to be duplicated. Human cloning is, by its very definition, an unnatural process. This debate has gone on since well before the first successful cloning of the sheep Dolly in 1997. Since then, however, the debate has escalated. It was one thing when the potential for cloning was still in an abstract state, but quite another when there is a physical representation of that idea currently in existence. In the years following that historical event, scientists have been able to artificially create exact duplicates of many smaller creatures like mice and cats (Human 2007). It must be acknowledged that this technology is still new and for every 100 successful cloning experiments, scientists are only able to produce one or two viable offspring (Touchette 2002). Researchers are many years away from successfully cloning a whole person, but progress in the development of replication of stem cells has brought the debate back to the forefront of discussions. The question is fast becoming whether or not clones should be created rather than wondering whether or not they could be created.
The medical community has made the argument that the subject of human cloning should include their input as well as the opinions of genetic scientists. The American Medical Association performed their own research back in 1999 to decide what the official position of the medical community should be on the subject of human cloning. Their statement of purpose was that:
Human cloning is a matter for the medical profession's attention since it would involve medical procedures and technology, and it may result in the creation of new genetic and psychological conditions that would require professional care. Therefore, the medical profession must evaluate the ethics of human cloning, and in particular, the potential role of physicians in the practice (Ethics 1999-page 1).
The process of cloning individuals for the purpose of increasing population will be detrimental to the condition of life. There are more than six billion people in the world at this time and the number is rising all exponentially every year.
Besides technical and ethical considerations, there is also the question of whether or not human cloning is legal. In the United States, legislation of materials involving human cloning is the responsibility of the United States National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC). They ruled in 1997 under the administration of then-President Bill Clinton that the most advisable action would be to place a moratorium on research into human cloning, which meant that "no Federal funds could be allocated for human cloning" (Human 2007). More recently legislation has been presented to the government which would potentially ban human cloning in the United States, whether private or public funds were used to pay for the research. Violators of this law could face a fine of up to $10 million as well as spending up to a decade in jail. So far, these federal laws have had little success in passing primarily because the United States laws regarding reproduction respect autonomy and individual choice. "Law that would prevent the birth of a first clone are difficult because they traverse complex jurisprudential ground: protecting an as-yet nonexistent life against reproductive dangers, in a western world that, in statutory and case law at least, favors autonomy" (McGee 2011). Part of the continued debate over cloning is the lack of government decision on the issue. Individual states, however, have had better success. Fifteen states currently have legislation prohibiting or restricting human cloning (Human Cloning 2008).
More than legality, most discussions about human cloning and the pros and cons of further research being conducted into this topic have to do with the ethics of the procedure. Is it ethically right to clone a human being? In their research, the American Medical Association pinpointed several ethical considerations regarding cloning: potential physical harm introduced by cloning, psychosocial harm, the impact of human cloning on family and society and the effects of human cloning on the gene pool (Ethics 1999-page 4-6). Each of the points investigated by the American Medical Association is an important factor in determining the appropriateness of human cloning and the potential detriments of the continuation of the research.
Current laws dictate that anybody who is going to have artificial conception of children must be screened to ensure that child will be placed in a home where the primary goal is the development of a healthy child. Right now, genetic research into cloning has a very spotty track record, with only one percent of samples yielding viable embryos. It is one thing when scientists are dealing with less complex life forms. In order to progress research into duplication of humans, there would need to be failed experiments. This is a simple fact of scientific research. Sample clones could be created with missing limbs, who are blind, who are barely alive but who are still genetically human. Thus, the AMA has determined that "the risk of producing individuals with developmental anomalies is serious and precludes human cloning for the time being" (Ethics 1999-page 5).
The AMA has also found that human cloning has the ability to create psychosocial harm in the individuals involved in the process. For example, if someone with genetic medical conditions is cloned, their duplicate will by the very definition of human cloning also have those genetic conditions. Additionally, if the clone were cognizant of his or her origins, and it should be considering a person's right to information regarding their own medical background and potential for illnesses from heredity, he or she would be compared inherently to the original version of him or herself. "If a clone-child saw that he or she was likely to develop diseases or had failed at certain tasks, his or her undertakings might be bounded by what the clone-parents had done. Therefore, cloning might limit the clone-child's perception of self and increase external pressures" (Ethics 1999-page 5). Some proponents of cloning have argued that the benefit could be that geniuses like Einstein could be cloned and borne again. Raised in non-identical environments, clone Einstein would not be the same person as the original and would be socially pressured to live up to the first version which would be an almost certain impossibility.
There are many who support human cloning despite the potential negative consequences. For example, geneticists are researching how certain diseases are passed from one generation to the next. According to the American Medical Association:
Research is ongoing to develop reprogramming of certain cells to turn into specific tissues types, which could regenerate nerve, muscle, and other cell types, alleviating Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and heart disease among other chronic illnesses (Human 2007).
It is hard to dispute the benefit such research can have for humanity. Scientists working on the Human Genome Project have argued that the research that they are conducting will allow the eventual eradication of certain genetic diseases. This process, known as therapeutic cloning, will one day "be used in humans to produce whole organs from single cells or to produce healthy cells that can replace damaged cells in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's" (Cloning 2009). Science promises that further research will yield the end of diseases and genetic disabilities. It is hard to argue with considering how far humanity has come technologically in just the last century. Developments are happening nearly every day and the solutions to health problems have potential treatments.
Cloning would make the process of organ transplant much simpler. Even with modern medicine and medical technologies, there are long waiting lists for people who require new kidneys or lungs. After someone receives a transplant there is still no guarantee of survival. Before the organ is implanted, it must be made certain that the blood and tissue types are a match between donor and receiver. Should the match be…