Pre-University Paper, 2002, 14 Pages
I think nobody can afford to ignore the progress that is made in science today. Scientific research gives us knowledge about things that nobody ever thought about just a few years ago, for example the cloning of humans.
In this essay I want to focus on this topic with special regard to the advantages and disadvantages and the social and ethical problems. I will start with a definition of cloning. The next part of the essay will be about the beginning of life followed by a listing of arguments about advantages and disadvantages of human cloning. Furthermore my essay will involve a look on cloning and sciene fiction and finish with the economic reasons for cloning humans. My motivation to do the essay about this topic is not only that it is crucial for everybody to think about cloning but in my mind it is also very interesting and exciting to learn more about it. It is a scientific possibility that has become reality. Maybe cloning and genetic engineering will someday even affect my life or that of my children. I hope that I will be able to learn enough about cloning by writing this essay so that I can make up my mind on how I feel about this topic.
1 The word cloning originated from the greek and means sprout or branch.
Cloning is an asexual kind of reproduction. In order to understand the technique we first have to know how sexual reproduction basically works.Every human body cell has a set of 46 chromosomes2 and every gamete, which is the man’s sperm cell and the woman’s egg cell, has 23 chromosomes. The gametes have only half of the chromosomes a body cell has because during sexual reproduction the egg cell and the sperm cell come together and create a new life which then has a complete set of chromosomes (46) in every body cell again, 23 from the mother and 23 from the father. If gametes would have complete chromosome sets, too, the number of chromosomes in the body cells of the following generations would continue to grow.
Cloning works kind of similar but since the goal is to create something which is genetically identical to one model the fertilization process has to take place with the chromosomes ( the hereditary material) of only one person or thing. This can only be done by scientists in the laboratory (asexual). It works like this: One body cell from the model is taken and the core of the cell is removed (the core contains the whole hereditary material which is on 46 chromosomes). The core of this body cell is then implanted into an “empty” egg cell (empty because the core from the egg cell with the hereditary material on 23 chromosomes has to be removed as well). The fertilized egg cell then contains 46 chromosomes like it contains after sexual fertilization but with the difference that these 46 chromosomes are from one person and not from two, the man and the woman. What happens with this fertilized egg cell next depends on what kind of cloning is to be practised, either therapeutic cloning or reproductive cloning.
If therapeutic cloning is practised, the fertilized egg cell is harvested. When the cell has itself a few times divided, the valueable embryonic stem cells can be taken from the developing embryo, hereby the embryo is killed. These embryonic stem cells are so valueable because they can only be won from umbilical cord or from embryos and they are crucial for scientific research. The purpose of therapeutic cloning is to clone things such as organs and tissue for patients in need (see advantages and disadvantages of human cloning).
If reproductive cloning is practised the fertilized egg cell is implanted into the womans womb where it is able to develop to full maturity like a “normal” sexually fertilized egg cell. Therefore reproductive cloning has the purpose of actually producing a human that is genetically identical to somebody else.
3 There are several opinions regarding this question but the only one that is biologically demonstrable is that life begins with the fertilization of the egg cell. The reason to support this argument is that with fertilization the genetic identity of the new life is already determined completely since the mother’s and the father’s genes4 are fused together. From this point on the embryo steadily develops and during this process the genetic identity doesn’t change any more. You could say that the genetic identity is like an instruction for the creation of the embryo, it just takes nine months till this instruction is realized. From fertilization on the embryo develops as a human and not to a human.
Some other opinions to the question where life begins are the following:
1) Life begins with birth because before birth the embryo isn’t able to stay alive on it’s own. It needs the mothers body to survive and to develop to full maturity.
2) Life begins when a human has the consciousness to live. Supporting this argument one has to believe that some mentally sick people and coma patients are not living either since they probably don’t have the consciousness to live.
3) Life begins after the first fourteen days,the first three months, etc. It is easily explainable why people favor this argument. Many have problems to define a bunch of cells ( that’s all a human is in the very beginning) as living. After some time ( for example three months) has passed one can at least recognize the shape of an embryo. Argument one has at least a reasoning but the others a hardly acceptable from the biological point of view as there is no proof for them.
The reason why it is important to define the beginning of life is that with its beginning every human has basic human rights that are unimpeachable.These rights are granted to every human without regard of attributes like age, race, sex, state of health or anything else and involve the right of human dignity and the right to live. With cloning we would hurt these human rights, if one believes that life begins with fertilization. When a scientist takes stem cells from an embryo for therapeutic cloning and kills the embryo afterwards it is a violation of the right to live. Furthermore the scientist didn’t respect the human dignity of the embryo because he uses it like a rat for his experiments and then “throws it away”. Some people still defend therapeutic cloning by saying that this kind of cloning is a very valuable technique for scientists in order to learn more about certain diseases but that doesn’t change the crucial point that human dignity is hurt and that’s a violation against the law, at least in industrialized countries where these human rights belong to the law.
Before we can make up our mind on how we feel about cloning we defenetly have to ask us where we see the beginnig of life and we have to know the different advantages and disadvantages of cloning that I will discuss on the following pages.
Although this part of my essay has the title “advantages and disadvantages of human cloning” you will see that I didn’t clearly define every single fact as an advantage or disadvantage. Instead of doing this I wrote down all my knowledge about this fact and left it up to the reader to decide whether he sees it as an advantage or disadvantage. I think this is something that everyone has a different opinion about. I can hardly give one definition and claim this to be right.
5 We can reverse our own aging process by using cloning. It works like this: Each cloned body cell is a brand new cell. It is the exact copy from an existing cell but is has the advantage that it is not as old as the model6. If a person would copy/ clone his7 body cells and have these cells inplanted into the body when he is older, this person could renew his body. Someday this technique could allow humans to live to any age they want.
On one hand “this would eleminate fear of old age an death”8 but on the other hand realising the dream to live forever brings a lot of new problems. We already have the problem that there are too many old people and not enough young people to pay for their pension. This problem would get even bigger. Also old people may be physical healthy but we have no medicine or technique to renew their mind. For some people with mental illness this artificially prolonged life might not be worth living.
Many people need organ donors but there are often not enough available and the risk that the body rejects the new organ is high. Many patients with an implanted organ need to take a lot of medicine with side effects each day for the rest of their lives to make sure that their body accepts the organ. These side effects lower their life quality.
It is possible to harvest embryonic stem cells and therefore it would be possible to grow organs or tissues, too. Everybody could clone his own organs. The clone shares identical genes to the model and hereby “the chances of rejection are nullified”9. It is even possible to grow skin for burn victims by using the victims own skin cells and cloning them. Up to today it is a big problem to help a burn victim. At present the only solution is to take skin from a “less important“ part of the body and put it where it is needed ( e.g. when a persons face is all burned he could use skin from the leg to cover the burned parts ).
Cloning could help infertile couples if they want to have children. At the moment those couples have a harsh time. They have to “go through physically and emotionally painful procedures”10 which are not only expensive and take a lot of time but which are also “estimated to be less than 10 % succsessful”11. Current infertility treatments don’t seem to improve soon because “being infertile is not considered a ‘real medical problem’ “12 in people’s attitudes.
The solution is called “in vitro fertilization”: One single egg cell has to be taken from the woman’s ovary and put into a dish where it is fertilized with a sperm cell of the man. The fertilized egg cell is than placed into the woman’s womb. It’s guaranteed that this technique is successful.
Seen from the couples point of view using cloning in order to have children is a brilliant idea but what about the ethical views? Cloning children will probably lead to the designer baby since the fertilized egg cell ( which is to be an embryo soon ) could also be enhanced with extra genes for special traits such as musical or athletic talent.
Furthermore the egg cell could be tested for special heriditary diseases. If they don’t excist, the egg cell can be implanted into the woman’s womb, otherwise it will be annihilated. This technique is called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (pgd).
Maybe the parents want only a boy or a girl. Then, using a procedure called sexing, scientists separate the sperm cells and choose the sex of the planned child.
There are several critical points that have to be considered when talking about those embryo selecting techniques13:
1) Choosing one child over another is immoral. By doing this industrialized countries are no better than Third World countries who favor boy babies and often kill girl babies soon after birth. The only difference would be that we “kill“ the egg and not the born baby. At this point we have to get back to the question “where does life begin?“ If it begins, in your opinion, with fertilization, it would make no difference.
2) It is wrong to mess with the natural order. Some people believe that there is a “predetermined goal for the evolution of humankind”14.
3) The medicine is misused. Its purpose in the general sense is to heal.
4)Embryo selection will put a lot of pressure on couples who want to have children. First of all if they don’t test their embryo for certain heriditary diseases for example and their child gets sick later, people may reproach them that they could have prevented this. As a consequence every couple is forced to test their baby, even if they don’t want to. Furthermore insurance companies or state regulations could make the condition to only provide health coverage to children who were embryonically screened for the absence of certain diseases.
15 Reconstructive and cosmetic surgery could be improved with the help of cloning. Up to today cosmetic surgery can be risky because the used materials are foreign to the body. Silicone breast implants may cause immune disease, for example. Doctors would have the ability to manufacture bone, fat and connective tissue that matches the patient’s tissues exactly. Every person could change his appearance riskless.
Cloning can be used to cure currently uncurable diseases. Diseases such as cancer are a “major killer throughout the world”16.We may be able to cure cancer if we learn how “cells differentiate into specific kind of tissue and how cancerous cells loose their differentiation”17. We could learn about this and then we may be able to develop an effective gene therapy to help sick people. Another example of a currently uncurable disease is Tay-Sachs disease. We could manufacture the enzyme hexoseaminidase A which is calling for the disease when it is absent. Tay-Sachs disease causes an unpreventable death by the age of five18.
Using cloning to inquire after such diseases can save many lives.
On the other side we would destroy the natural evolution process (see “The threat to genetic diversity and evolution”).
Before discussing this topic a big misunderstanding has to be pointed out. Cloning can only produce genetically identical humans but it can’t ensure that the personal beliefs or goals will be similar to the model, too. This means for example that even if somebody would have a baby whose embryo was enhanced with genes for musical talent it isn’t guaranteed that this baby will someday become a famous pianist. The child may have musical talent but what he makes out of these talents, if he uses them or not, is up to the child. If it is not interested in taking piano lessons for example the talent will stay undiscovered. The problem is the same when somebody would try to replace a loved one. Unrealistic expectations on how the character will be might lead to frustration. Of course the outward appearance of the clone will be exactly the same but the personality will be probably different and that’s the critical point here. The clone can never really be a substitute for another person.
Also we have to ask us if it is justifiable from the ethical side. Cloning people to replace others is somewhat similar to have another baby just to create a perfect donor for the already existing sibling that is sick. How would you feel if your parents someday tell you that you were only born for your brother or sister and that you wouldn’t be here now if your sibling wouldn’t have needed your help or wouldn’t have died?
Clones are genetically like brothers and sisters. Therefore genetic diversity is more and more destroyed by cloning and diseases can easier be spread under equal people. That’s the reason why nobody is allowed to have a sexual relationship with a family member. Humans already destroyed the natural evolution process by inventing all kinds of medecine. In consequence, even if that sounds cruel, people who were chosen to die by nature are still living because we can heal them or at least enable them to live with their illness by using unnatural chemicals (what most of the medecine is). With cloning we would also create people that wouldn’t have been created by nature. That is something revolutional but the question is if humans are allowed to play god and control the evolution process.
Like all ethical questions the question if being homosexual is considered “normal” or not is one that everybody has own answers and opinions to. It wouldn’t bring us any further to argue about it here. If you accept it or not, technically it is possible to create a baby with the hereditary material from two mothers. They would both have to donate an egg cell. The hereditary material in both egg cells is then separated from the egg cells.Now the egg cell from one mother is fertilized with the hereditary material from the other mother. The fertilized egg cell could then be implanted into either one of the mothers. Of course their baby will later look exactly like the mother who donated the hereditary material.
By the way: that’s how Dolly the sheep was cloned, too, only that the sheep had three mothers. One donated the egg cell, the other donated the hereditary material. The fertilized egg cell was then implanted into the third mother who carried the sheep out. By using cloning for this purpose, Lesbian couples have the possibility to create a family like all other couples, too, but this will probably evoque a lot of protest in society among those who don’t feel that they should have these rights because they don’t accept homosexuality.
If someday many people have been cloned there will consequently envolve two classes of humans: the gene-enhanced and those who were “created” naturally. Of course the gene- enhanced will have a lot of advantages in life since they were given special talents. It is logical that those gene-enhanced people will be the rich ones because only rich parents have the possibility to afford the techniques to enhance their baby with special genes. These rich gene-enhanced people can probably get better jobs than the others because of their special talents so they will get even richer. Rich people often have a lot of authority. If one continues to think this through the rich gene-enhanced people could someday be the most powerful ones and rule over the others.
Also people with hereditary diseases are likely to be excluded from society and to become outsiders because their parents could not afford to test their baby for those diseases before it was born.
19 Now, after you are informed about the cloning of humans in general and it’s advantages and disadvantages (the realistic possibilities that human cloning brings with it), I want to show the unrealistic expectations of cloned humans as well.
We often find these unrealistic expectations in books from science fiction authors and in science fiction movies.These fantasy products tell us horror stories about armies of clones that want to kill humans or the creation of a second Hitler. I want tu use these two examples to demonstrate how unrealistic such horror stories are.
First of all these armies of clones are often described as armies of robots without feelings that are programmed to kill others by their creator and this is not possible. As I already wrote earlier in this essay clones are not much different from other humans except thet they were created by asexual reproduction thus having feelings like “normal” humans, too. The second question is: why would a person create such an army of clones if he would at least have to wait fifteen to twenty years till he could use this army for his interests? Clones can’t grow and develop faster than other humans.
A third problem is that this person would need several women that carrie each clone out and women that are willing to do that may be hard to find.
The idea that a second Hitler could be created is another unrealistic science fiction phantasy. I already mentioned earlier in this essay that one could enhance a person with extra genes for special traits but the clones own will and his surroundings contribute to his character and beliefs as well. Hitler could get so powerful because of the german history. He used the bad situation of Germany and convinced people that he would improve it. A clone of Hitler probably wouldn’t have the possibility to do the same thing at present, the circumstances are not given.
The most important aspect one has to keep in mind when he isn’t sure if something he heard is really possible or just a fictional story is that clones are normal people of flesh and blood, no robots or machines that have no feelings and can be programmed to do certain things. Even if it would be possible to create clones for a certain purpose it probably wouldn’t be allowed since all humans, which involves clones as well of course, have basic human rights and cannot be anyones property.
20 As you can imagine there probably will be people who try to profit from cloning. I found out some possibilities that people could use. I want to point out that the first two of those are rather unrealistic as they are a violation against human rights and they are hard to realize.
A cloning firm could buy DNA from a top ability worker and produce the clone of this person in another part of the world.When the clone has grown up the cloning firm tells him that he is the clone of a top ability worker but not who is his model. Of course the clone is eager to know who the model is and is probably willing to pay a lot of money to get this information.
Top ability people have greater returns to higher education and top schools get high rents from the top ability people who visit their school. If some top schools would get together and invest in the cloning of top individuals they would make their own future students and get a lot of rent from them later.
If a big firm would develop a technique to produce organs for transplantation, for example, and then have this patented it could make a lot of money because all the people who want to use this technique, in this example this would be people who are in need of an organ, would charge this firm.
I want to start by pointing out that the thing I learnt best while writing this essay is that this topic is very extensive. You can’t really discuss every detail in a little essay like this one. I hope I managed to give an objective overall view. In my opinion you can’t think either just negative or just positive about cloning. Many things that cloning makes possible have their advantages as well as disadvantages to them. Lets take for example the reversion of the aging process: Many people would like to “live forever”. On the other hand, this will evoque the pension problem (see “advantages and disadvantages of human cloning”).
To my mind the scientific progress today goes really fast and that’s a big problem. We have the possibility to do these big things that nobody has ever done before like cloning but we also have the responsibility for what we do. The question humankind asks today is not “Do we have the possibilty to do it?” but “Do we have the right to do it? Are we ready to stand up for the consequences of our deeds?” Technically it is already possible for a long time to clone humans. Many scientists are eager to try all of the techniques out that they know about but the problem is that the government doesn’t allow them to do it yet. Especially the german government is very strict.
I think that we should allow only therapeutic cloning since this could really help people. But we should have strict regulations. The production of organs and tissue by using therapeutic cloning, for example, should, in my opinion, only be practised when there is absolutely no donor organ for the patient who needs it and he would have to die without the organ. To my mind it would be murder if we know how to manufacture an organ but the patient still has to die because we didn’t use our knowledge. I think it is also justifiable to help infertile couples with cloning but without using embryo selecting techniques.
I reject reproductive cloning though. In my judgement it has no sense to create an identical twin of somebody, especially because the character of the clone is probably different than the character of the model anyways. The special thing about humankind is that everybody is different, why should we want to destroy this multiplicity?
Last but not least I want to say that those parts of my essay which are titled “Advantages and disadvantages of human cloning” and “Economic reasons for cloning” are just speculations. They are not unrealistic but it is important to realize that it hasn’t happened yet. Who knows what the future brings.…
1) Mc Kinnell, Robert Gilmore, Cloning - Leben aus der Retorte, Karlsruhe 1981
2) Silver, Lee M., Remaking Eden, New York 1997
3) Saint - Paul, Gilles, The Economics of Human Cloning, in: IZA Discussion Paper No. 231, pages 3 and 4
Hiermit erkläre ich, dass ich die vorliegende Arbeit selbstständig und ohne fremde Hilfe verfasst und keine anderen als die im Literaturverzeichnis angegebenen Hilfsmittel verwendet habe.
Insbesondere versichere ich, dass ich alle wörtlichen und sinngemäßen Übernahmen aus anderen Werken als solche kenntlich gemacht habe.
1 I got this knowledge from my biology class.
2 Chromosomes carry the hereditary material.
3 Compare http://www.solidaritaet.com/neuesol/2000/35/col1.htm and http://cloning.ch/cloning/doku/doku_ewig.html
4 Genes are little units on the chromosomes that carry the hereditary information.
5 Compare http://www.humancloning.org/publish/posts/142.html
6 The model is the person or thing that donates the hereditary material in order to clone it.
7 I decided to use only the male grammatical forms like “he”, “his”, because the essay is easier to read this way, of course the women are meant as well when I talk about “persons”.
13 compare point 1), 2) and 3) to “Remaking Eden”, pages 255-257
14 ”Remaking Eden”, page 256
15 compare http://www.humancloning.org/publish/posts/142.html
18 compare “Remaking Eden“, page 251
19 compare “Cloning-Leben aus der Retorte“, pages 94-98
20 compare “Extract rents from clones via education” and “Information retention” to “The Economics of Human Cloning“, pages 3 and 4.
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