Ethics related to the topic of human cloning

genetics research and ethics related to the topic of human cloning. Specifically, we review a publication co-authored by Kuppuswamy, Macer, Serbulea & Tobin (2007) entitled ” Is Human Reproductive Cloning Inevitable: Future Options for UN Governance.” The central theme of this article is to distinguish two major types of cloning that are possible with contemporary genetic technology. The article outlines the issues and controversies surrounding each cloning type, and asserts a moral and ethical position which the authors consider to be a viable and necessary middle ground. The report was targeted to the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) as an assessment of the UN’s response to the need for international governance of human cloning, particularly in the context of the UN’s non-binding A/RES/59/280 Declaration on Cloning. The article is secondarily targeted for consumption by the general public as an informational resource.

The selected article by Kuppuswamy et. al. consists of a thirty-page treatise, divided into four primary sections. The first section introduces the topic of cloning for the general reader, and outlines the key differentiation between the methods of reproductive cloning and research cloning. These two methods comprise the main positions argued within this article. Section II delves into the ethical issues surrounding cloning, outlined from multiple perspectives including human dignity, health considerations, the role of cloning within Nature and deeper impacts upon concepts of justice, freedom and governance. Section III delves into details and disputes about the international governance of cloning, specifically related to the organization of UN committees and their primary discussions and positions with the so-called “deadlock” surrounding this topic. Finally, Section IV looks to the future of international governance related to human cloning and reviews available options for selective banning or promotion of selected cloning practices. In this final section, the authors compare and contrast the ramifications of a complete ban on all cloning research with less severe and more practical options, such as a ban on reproductive cloning while condoning selected areas of research cloning. For the selected areas in therapeutic cloning, the authors provide several options for meaningful levels of restriction, ranging from a temporary moratorium on all cloning to limitations in time and scope of permitted research cloning.

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Kuppuswamy et. al. (2007) elected to utilize the definitions provided by the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) and the UNESCO Living Bioethics Dictionary to establish the baseline for their discussions about what constitutes a clone, the cloning process, and the distinctions between reproductive cloning and therapeutic or research cloning. A clone is essentially an identical copy of an organism, be it animal, plant or human. It is created through an artificial, asexual process of recombinant DNA manipulation to replace natural fertilization. As defined, the result of cloning is the creation of multiple copies of a complete organism or its component genes or DNA segments via the extraction of the ancestor organism’s somatic cells, which are genetically identical to the selected ancestor organism. Reproductive cloning is that which is intended to produce complete, functional, living copies of the ancestor organism. This capability became widely visible in the late twentieth century cloning of a sheep named Dolly, which was successfully cloned and survived for several years to live a relatively normal life. This highly publicized event led to vigorous efforts by many countries to outlaw and forestall the possible reproductive cloning of humans, based upon concerns about a number of ethical and social justice ramifications that could result. This reflexive response in public sentiment in opposition of all cloning served to detract from the benefits of therapeutic cloning. Therapeutic or research cloning involves the use of embryonic stem cells, but need not involve the production of complete cloned organisms. The reproduction of selected tissues and organs through therapeutic cloning has compelling benefits for health science which cannot be accomplished with other known methods. However, a significant obstacle has been the ethical, religious and legal status of embryonic clones and their source candidates, particularly in the case of human embryos. Under the guidance of unscrupulously motivated parties, genetically cloned pre-embryos could be used to create living copies of actual human beings, which raises serious concerns on many fronts. In addition, the very status of the pre-embryo stage of a human being has been vigorously disputed in legal, religious and ethical forums.

The suggestion of a total ban on cloning to prevent the undesirable advance and proliferation of human reproductive cloning has been recognized as unrealistic. The authors note that various states have already made significant investments into research-based cloning, and would be unlikely to provide signatory support to international measures or treaties for a complete ban that could undermine or stop the continuation of valuable cloning research. Enacting a clear ban on reproductive cloning could be a constructive first step however, if carried out conscientiously in accordance with the 1997 Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human rights, as well as the 2005 UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/59/280.

The authors of this article have been able to draw fundamental distinctions between reproductive and research cloning issues and methods, which lends support to the key assertion by Kuppuswamy et. al. that although the UN has missed past opportunities to effectively regulate human cloning, international law has nevertheless gained significant benefit and traction from the UN’s Declaration on Cloning directive. In summary, the authors’ positions in support of the near-universal opposition to reproductive cloning whilst promoting the numerous benefits of research cloning have been well substantiated in this critical submission to the United Nations.

References

Kuppuswamy, C., Macer, D., Serbulea, M., & Tobin, B. (2007). Is Human Reproductive Cloning Inevitable: Future Options for UN Governance. UNU-IAS. Retrieved from http://www.ias.unu.edu/resource_centre/Cloning_9.20B.pdf


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