Ten years ago, the subject of human cloning was considered madness. In recent years, US scientists have used therapeutic cloning (therapeutic cloning: cloning to create an embryonic stem cell line to take advantage of pluripotency by inserting the nucleus of a somatic cell nucleus into an egg that has been removed without the purpose of reproduction.) despite recent developments, the issue has received little political attention. But as the ongoing fights over CRISPR (a set of DNA sequences) and mitochondrial change show, some of the fundamental discussions about genetic engineering and the ethics of embryo experiments are still ongoing.
According to the report published in the journals “Witherspoon Council on Ethics” and “Integrity of Science”, a bioethics group consisting of members of the bioethics Council, both reproduction and therapeutic cloning are wanted to be banned. The distinction between therapeutic and reproductive cloning is misleading, the report argues, because the creation of a cloned embryo is always an act of reproduction – the embryo is a new organism that is the lineage of the source from which it was cloned.
While some academics advocate cloning as an exercise in radical reproductive autonomy, public opinion is always opposed to productive cloning. But if there is a time when the interests of children are balanced with the interests of their prospective parents, human cloning is at stake. The medical risks posed by cloning are well known, and the first experimental use of cloning would pose unfair risks to the children created.
Beyond concerns about safety, there are deeper moral objections to the way cloning transforms reproduction into a production process. This is not a false argument that cloning will inevitably produce ‘defective products’, as moralists such as Kerry Lynn Macintosh suggest. Rather, it is an argument that the relationship between generations will come to see potential parents, children, as products that will be shaped and controlled, accepted or rejected, rather than loved unconditionally.
Some of the cloning laws proposed in the US Congress prohibit the transfer of cloned embryos into a woman’s womb. But as Gilbert Meilaender noted in 2002, such laws “create a class of people whose destruction is mandated by law.” Creating human embryos with the goal of destroying them, accidentally destroying embryos that occur during IVF (In Vitro Fertilization = the classic IVF process), or destroying them for Stem Cell Research becomes even more problematic. It has been a topic with quite a lot of controversy.
Supplying human egg cells is another serious moral problem for human cloning research. Egg collection procedures pose health risks to women, and the risk of paying for female eggs can lead to exploitation of people who may feel pressured to expose themselves to risk. Some ethical experts have suggested that compensation for oocytes (female sex cells before the maturation cycle) is unlikely to provide an unnecessary incentive, and that “compensation for time, impropriety and inconvenience associated with oocyte intake can and should be distinguished from oocytes ‘ own payments.” But the cloning researchers know that in the absence of payment, they can’t find enough women willing to provide eggs for their research. The money apparently encourages women who do not want to participate in egg collection procedures, which explains why researchers are trying to reform laws restricting women from being able to pay oocytes
However, the ethical dilemma that leads to cloning for biomedical research, there seems to be a way out of this: first developed in 2007, human-induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, offers a promising alternative based on the destruction of embryos. But after this discovery, cloning research continued, and many scientists and ethicists argued that iPS cells could not replace cloning and other forms of embryonic stem (ES) cell research, because it is unclear which types of cells would work.
Of course, pursuing both cloning and other forms of cell reprogramming would be reasonable if it were not an ethical issue. But even if cloning offers some advantages over iPS cells, finding a comparable alternative weakens the situation to allow cloning. A ban on human cloning of any kind does not mean a pardon for personalized regenerative medicine, but at worst, it means progress in this area could be slower than it would be without the ban.
In addition, the reasons for following both lines of research can also be increased. Created through using existing ES cell lines, including cloning, scientists can continue to compare the effectiveness of two types of cell line, while re-programming can be done using animal models, studies of basic mechanisms.
The United States has long lagged behind other countries in its policies towards assisted reproductive technologies (ART). The ban on human cloning is, of course, not a comprehensive ART policy, and emerging technologies such as mitochondrial replacement, next-generation prenatal genetic screening and genetic modification all deserve more attention in the US. But finally creating a national cloning policy would be an important step towards addressing the moral and social issues raised by art with the seriousness they deserve.