A. Would the Use of Human Cloning Violate Important Moral Rights? Many of the immediate condemnations of any possible human cloning following Wilmut’s cloning of an adult sheep claimed that it would violate moral or human rights, but it was usually not specified precisely, or often even at all, what the rights were that would be violated. I shall consider two possible candidates for such a right: a right to have a unique identity and a right to ignorance about one’s future or to an “open future.” The former right is cited by many commentators, but I believe even if any such a right exists, it is not violated by human cloning. The latter right has only been explicitly defended to my knowledge by two commentators, and in the context of human cloning, only by Hans Jonas; it supports a more promising, even if in my view ultimately unsuccessful, argument that human cloning would violate an important moral or human right.
Is there a moral or human right to a unique identity, and if so, would it be violated by human cloning? For human cloning to violate a right to a unique identity, the relevant sense of identity would have to be genetic identity, that, is a right to a unique unrepeated genome. This would be violated by human cloning, but is there any such right? It might be thought there could not be such a right, because it would be violated in all cases of identical twins, yet no one claims in such cases that the moral or human rights of each of the twins have been violated. Even the use of fertility drugs, which increases the probability of having twins, is not intended to produce E-12
twins. However, this consideration is not conclusive (Kass 1985; NABER 1994). It is commonly held that only deliberate human actions can violate others’ rights, but outcomes that would constitute a rights violation if those outcomes if done by human action are not a rights violation if those outcomes result from natural causes. For example, if Arthur deliberately strikes Barry on the head so hard as to cause his death, Arthur violates Barry’s right not to be killed. But if lightening strikes Cheryl, causing her death, then we would not say that her right not to be killed has been violated. The case of twins does not show there could not be a right to a unique genetic identity.
What is the sense of identity that might plausibly be each person has a right to have uniquely, which constitutes the special uniqueness of each individual (Macklin 1994; Chadwick 1982)? Even with the same genes, two individuals, for example homozygous twins, are numerically distinct and not identical, so what is intended must be the various properties and characteristics that make each individual qualitatively unique and different than others. Does having the same genome as another person undermine that unique qualitative identity? Only in the crudest genetic determinism, a genetic determinism according to which an individual’s genes completely and decisively determine everything about the individual, all his or her other non-genetic features and properties, together with the entire history or biography that will constitute his or her life. But there is no reason whatever to believe in that kind of genetic determinism, and I do not think that anyone does. Even with the same genes, as we know from the cases of genetically identical twins, while there may be many important similarities in the twins’ psychological and personal characteristics, differences in these develop over time together with differences in their life histories, personal relationships, and life choices. This is true of identical twins raised together, and the differences are still greater in the cases of identical twins raised apart; sharing an identical genome does not prevent twins from each developing a distinct and unique personal identity of their own.
We need not pursue what the basis or argument in support of a moral or human right to a unique identity...