Human Cloning

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Controversial Issues Paper

Topic: Human Cloning

Issue # 5

John A. Robertson, "Human Cloning and the Challenge of Regulation," The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 339, no. 2 (July 9, 1998), pp. 119-122.

George J. Annas, "Why We Should Ban Human Cloning," The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 339, no. 2 (July 9, 1998), pp. 118-125.


In the article that I chose there are two opposing viewpoints on the issue of "Should Human Cloning Ever Be Permitted?" John A. Robertson is an attorney who argues that there are many potential benefits of cloning and that a ban on privately funded cloning research is unjustified and that this type of research should only be regulated. On the flip side of this issue Attorney and medical ethicist George J. Annas argues that cloning devalues people by depriving them of their uniqueness and that a ban should be implemented upon it. Both express valid points and I will critique the articles to better understand their points.

John A. Robertson's article "Human Cloning and the Challenge of Regulation" raises three important reasons on why there shouldn't be a ban on Human Cloning but that it should be regulated. Couples who are infertile might choose to clone one of the partners instead of using sperm, eggs, or embryo's from anonymous donors. In conventional in vitro fertilization, doctors attempt to start with many ova, fertilize each with sperm and implant all of them in the woman's womb in the hope that one will result in pregnancy. (Robertson) But some women can only supply a single egg. Through the use of embryo cloning, that egg might be divisible into, say 8 zygotes for implanting. The chance of those women becoming pregnant would be much greater. (Kassirer) Secondly, it would benefit a couple at high risk of having offspring with a genetic disease choose weather to risk the birth of an affected child. (Robertson) Parents who are known to be at risk of passing a genetic defect to a child could make use of cloning. A fertilized ovum could be cloned, and the duplicate tested for the disease or disorder. If the clone were free of genetic defects, then the other clone would be as well. Then this could be implanted in the woman and allowed to mature to term. (Heyd) Thirdly, it would be used to obtain tissue or organs for transplantation. (Robertson) Cloning could produce a reservoir of "spare parts". Fertilized ova could be cloned into multiple zygotes; one could be implanted in the woman and allowed to develop into a normal baby; the other zygotes could be frozen for future use. In the event that the child required a bone marrow transplant, one of the zygotes could be taken out of storage, implanted, allowed to mature to a baby and then contribute some of its spare bone marrow to its (earlier) identical twin. Bone marrow can be harvested from a person without injuring them. (Kearney) All three of these points are well documented in medical literature today and will help people greatly. He then brings up the National Bioethics Advisory Commissions concern about physical safety and eugenics.

He also brings up the reasons why cloning humans can be harmful. Some people have expressed concern about the effects that cloning would have on relationships. For example, a child born from an adult DNA cloning from his father would be, in effect, a delayed twin of one of his parents. That has never happened before and may lead to emotional difficulties. Also that this child would lack individuality and the freedom to create his or her own expectations. He than goes on to disprove this by bringing up the fact that monozygotic twins are essentially clones of each other and have different personalities entirely. Also that these twins have a unique closeness that others don't. Differences in mitochondria, the uterus, and a childhood environment will minimize the risk of overidentification with the first twin....
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