Is cloning humans ethical?
- Cloning does happen naturally in nature when single-celled organisms, like bacteria, “produce genetically identical offspring through a process called asexual reproduction.”
- In Scotland in 1996, Dolly, a domestic female sheep, was the first mammal successfully cloned from an adult somatic cell.
- According to the Center for Genetics and Society, as of 2020, 46 countries have “formally banned” human cloning.
- According to a 2016 Gallup Poll, over 80% of respondents said cloning a human is “not morally acceptable.”
The image many have of cloning is largely inaccurate and driven by science fiction movies--creepy identical twins that speak simultaneously and have supernatural communication abilities. The reality of cloning is very different. Even though two individuals would be genetically identical, their personalities would be significantly different. The 'nature' part would be the same, but the 'nurture' aspect, which science has proven to be very important, would be very different. Also, one individual would be significantly younger than the other.
While many feel that cloning an entire person is unethical, cloning organs or tissue for medical use is widely viewed as acceptable. This demonstrates that, as a society, we are comfortable with the basic premise of cloning. And as we gain more familiarity and technical skills, we may feel more accepting of cloning humans. Many advanced medical and scientific ideas are first met with skepticism and fear but become more mainstream over time.
The reasons to embrace cloning are numerous. Cloning could be a way for homosexual couples or those who cannot conceive to have biological children. Cloning could also be a way for parents who have lost a child to get another chance--not necessarily by replacing the child with an exact copy but honoring the lost child by creating another from his or her DNA.
While science fiction movies may paint one portrait of cloning, the reality is that it could be a very useful tool in society, giving people opportunities that never existed before.
Humans are highly complex creatures, with multiple integrated systems and complex chemical reactions at work every day. We still don't fully understand everything going on inside the human body and brain, and we are still discovering new anatomical features and organs.
With this in mind, it's clear that the path to cloning humans would not be direct, nor without missteps and failures. It's not ethical to engage in a process very likely to yield failed creations of 'almost' or 'incomplete' human beings, perhaps able to suffer pain or sorrow. Indeed, such behavior may fall afoul of the Nuremberg Code and its human experimentation directives. Number one on that list is the 'voluntary consent of the human subject.' The fifth point addresses experimental situations in which logical deduction demonstrates the probability that disability or death will result.
The United Nations says 25,000 people per day die of hunger. Ethics may be better served by dealing with that before adding more people to the planet. Additionally, human cloning has the potential to lead to more hierarchical societies. Perpetual ruling classes could be created, with the wealthy buying cloning services to reliably create more superior beings than the old-fashioned toss of the genetic dice does for the rest of us. Conversely, cloning could be used to create a menial labor class, perpetual servants, or slaves.
Human cloning comes with a Pandora's Box of ethical dilemmas and horrors, not the least of which is the dangerous potential to redefine what it is to be human.