Cloning: Why we shouldn't be against it

Marina

You have been told that you are unique. The belief that there is no one else like you in the whole world made you feel special and proud. This belief may not be true in the future.

The world was stunned by the news in late February 1997 that a British embryologist named Ian Wilmut and his research team had successfully cloned a lamb named Dolly from an adult sheep. Dolly was created by replacing the DNA of one sheep's egg with the DNA of another sheep's udder. While plants and lower forms of animal life have been successfully cloned for many years now, before Wilmut's announcement it had been thought by many to be unlikely that such a procedure could be performed on higher mammals. The world media was immediately filled with heated discussions about the ethical implications of cloning.

Some of the most powerful people in the world have felt compelled to act against this threat. President Clinton swiftly imposed a ban on federal funding for human-cloning research. Bills are in the works in both houses of Congress to outlaw human cloning which it taken to be a fundamentally evil thing that must be stopped. But what is exactly bad about it? From an ethical point of view , it is difficult to see exactly what is wrong with cloning human beings. The people who are afraid of cloning tend to think that someone will break into Napoleon's Tomb, steal some DNA and make 2000 emperors. In reality, cloning would be probably used by infertile people who now use donated sperm, eggs, or embryos. Do the potential harms outweigh the potential benefits of cloning? From what we know now, they don't. Therefore, we should not rush to ban a potentially useful method of helping infertile, genetically at-risk, or single people to become parents.

We can start by asking whether human beings have a right to reproduce. I say " Yes". I have no moral right to tell other people they shouldn't be able to have children, and I don't see that Bill Clinton has that right either. If humans have a right to reproduce, what right does society have to limit the means? Essentially all reproduction is done these days with medical help- at delivery, and even before. Truly natural human reproduction would make pregnancy-related death the number.1 killer of adult women.

OF course, some forms of medical help are more invasive than others. With in vitro fertilization, the sperm and egg are combined in the lab and surgically implanted in the womb. Less than two decades ago, a similar concern was raised over the ethical issues involved in " test-tube babies". Today, nearly 30,000 such babies have been born in the United States alone. Many parents have been made happy. So what low or principle says that one combination of genetic material in a flask is Ok, but another is not?

Nature clones people all the time, and rather frequently. Approximately 1 in 1000 birth is of identical twins. However, despite how many or how few individual characteristics twins have in common, they are different people. They have their own identities, their own thoughts, and their own rights. They enter different occupations, get different diseases, have different experiences with marriage, alcohol, community leadership, and etc. They have different souls as would cloned individuals. Even if somebody did clone 2,000 Napoleons, they would be even more different from their parents than twins are from each other because the cloned child would be raised in a different historical period. The argument that cloning robs individuals of their individuality therefore doesn't hold.

Perhaps the strongest ethical argument against cloning is that it could lead to a new , unfamiliar type of family relationship. We have no idea what it would be like to grow up as the child of a parent who seems to know you from inside. Some psychological characteristics may be biologically based and the parent will know in advance what crises a cloned teenager will go through and how he or she will respond. It may produce a good and loving relationship, because the parent may understand, to greater degree than most parents, what the child is going through. ON the other hand, most children want to have their own space. Still, just because a family relationship is new and untried, is not a