The world of science and the public at large were both shocked and fascinated by the announcement in the journal Nature by Ian Wilmut and his colleagues that they had successfully cloned a sheep from a single cell of an adult sheep (Wilmut 1997). Scientists were in part surprised, because many had believed that after the very early stage of embryo development at which differentiation of cell function begins to take place, it would not be possible to achieve cloning of an adult mammal by nuclear transfer. In this process, the nucleus from the cell of an adult mammal is inserted into an ennucleated ovum, and the resulting embryo develops following the complete genetic code of the mammal from which the inserted nucleus was obtained. But some scientists and much of the public were troubled or apparently even horrified at the prospect that if adult mammals such as sheep could be cloned, then cloning of adult humans by the sameprocess would likely be possible as well. Of course, the process is far from perfected even with sheep— it took 276 failures by Wilmut and his colleagues to produce Dolly, their one success. Whether the process can be successfully replicated in other mammals, much less in humans, is not now known. But those who were horrified at the prospect of human cloning were not assuaged by the fact that the science with humans is not yet there, for it looked to them now perilously close. The response of most scientific and political leaders to the prospect of human cloning, indeed of Dr. Wilmut as well, was of immediate and strong condemnation. In the United States, President Clinton immediately banned federal financing of human cloning research and asked privately funded scientists to halt such work until the newly formed National Bioethics Advisory Commission could review the “troubling” ethical and legal implications. The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized human cloning as “ethically unacceptable as it would violate some of the basic principles which govern medically assisted reproduction. These include respect for the dignity of the human being and the protection of the security of human genetic material” (WHO 1997). Around the world similar immediate condemnation was heard, as human cloning was called a violation of human rights and human dignity. Even before Wilmut’s announcement, human cloning had been made illegal in nearly all countries in Europe and had been condemned by the Council of Europe (Council of Europe 1986). A few more cautious voices were heard, both suggesting some possible benefits from the use of human cloning in limited circumstances and questioning its too quick prohibition, but they were a clear minority. In the popular media, nightmare scenarios of laboratory mistakes resulting in monsters, the cloning of armies of Hitlers, the exploitative use of cloning for totalitarian ends as in Huxley’s Brave New World, and the murderous replicas of the film Blade Runner, all fed the public controversy and uneasiness. A striking feature of these early responses was that their strength and intensity seemed to far outrun the arguments and reasons offered in support of them— they seemed often to be “gut level” emotional reactions rather than considered reflections on the issues. Such reactions should not be simply dismissed, both because they may point us to important considerations otherwise missed and not easily articulated, and because they often have a major impact on public policy. But the formation of public policy should not ignore the moral reasons and arguments that bear on the practice of human cloning— these must be articulated inE-4 order to understand and inform people’s more immediate emotional responses.
This paper is an effort to articulate, and to evaluate critically, the main moral considerations and arguments for and against human cloning. Though many people’s religious beliefs inform their views on human cloning, and it is often...
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