The Ethics of Cloning: Morality and Issues


A research team successfully cloned a sheep in Scotland in 1997 by modifying the genetic composition of the sheep. This cloning technology was developed first by amphibians. The following year, in 1998, a study in the University of Hawaii managed to produce several mouse clones and a process was hatched to make mass clones. In both the instances, the processes involved use of somatic cells as the DNA source. The nucleus of the cells served as the source of genetic material as the nucleus was shifted to enucleated ovum and the new ovum implanted into a host mother’s uterus. These cases introduced to the forefront a venerable debate concerning whether cloning human beings was acceptable. This debate addresses scientific and ethical aspects of the future of cloning. This paper will address the potential moral repercussions of cloning. This being a contentious issue, several perspectives have been approached in addressing the concerns including religious, scientific, legal and cultural viewpoints.

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Wachbroit Explanation of Human Cloning

Wachbroit says those opposed to cloning have falsely been indoctrinated about genetic influence. He goes ahead to state that the gains of cloning far much outweigh the negative effects hence opponents’ arguments do not hold any moral ground for refuting cloning. He then says that if ethical concerns were to be raised then assisted reproductive technologies and genetic engineering are worse off compared to cloning.

Arguments In Support Of Cloning

Cloning: A Medical Issue

As a senior researcher, Thomas Okarma initiated the discussion to give justification to cloning research. Under his Geron Corporation, he suggested that there was a very big difference between what is known as human embryonic stem cell study and cloning for reproductive purposes. Basically there is strong support that is behind the possibility of exploiting research on stem cells bearing the explanation why these processes create stem lines and their association with genetics and telomere. The reason for supporting stem cell science is that there could be medical potential that would end up in beneficial outcomes (Kass & Wilson 123). It’s believed that the ban on the fetal research during the reign of President Reagan was a very big drawback towards attaining a solution to Parkinsonism. Scientists support the idea stating that stem cell studies would only develop on the embryos that are already being used to treat fertility. These embryos would find use in other functions rather than allowing them to be disposed of (Mappes and DeGrazia 513).

Fundamentally, scientists believe that whether for research or on commercial basis, study of stem cells is very critical for the advancement of science and its subsequent application in real life. However since the current stem cells are for commercial, many nations have banned creation of new lines. If it is allowed however it could amplify serendipitously and occasionally the more altruistic advances of intellectual research in universities and research centers (Kass and Wilson 123).

There are some diseases that are genetically transferred. According to Mendelian theory, when the two parents are carriers of a disease (recessive autosomal sickness), there is 50% probability that the offspring will be like them, a 25% chance that the sibling will be a afflicted by the said disease and a 25% chance that the sibling will be free. This means that there is a strong possibility that out of the four children one gives birth to one must have a serious defect inherited from both the parents. Such diseases are very common in a normal population. In African Americans for instance, about 10% are carriers of sickle cell anemia. It’s also purported that one out of thirty Caucasians is a carrier of cystic fibrosis. Stem cells propagation holds the future of such problems even though other therapeutic means are highly developed.

Morality and Risk of Reproduction

Critical to the use of cloning technology is the issue of treating genetic diseases and assisting in reproduction. In essence, human genetics are more attached to the morality of the reproduction process. According to researcher Purdy Laura, it would be morally wrong to allow reproduction to go on when it portended a very grave genetic illness. To be precise, Huntington’s disease has been very significant in this debate. The symptoms of the illness usually show up at prime age in life (about 35 – 50 years). They include mental and physical deterioration and death in few years. The causative autosomal factor is dominant. This means that the possibility of having offspring with the disease is 50%. Opposition to Laura’s precepts offers the argument that if that was the case then it could spiral into prenatal diagnosis for selective abortion. This type of abortion has been used to sidestep diseases like sickle-cell anemia and Huntington’s disease among others.

In close association with morality and reproduction is the justification of using force to meet certain social control over individual decisions regarding their reproduction choices. It means something else to suggest that some reproductive decisions are ethically incorrect and another to justify coercive measures in controlling reproductive choices. Basically, mandatory sterilization and imposed amniocentesis and subsequent abortion are discarded as invasion of fundamental human rights (Kass & Wilson 123). Cloning is consistent with assisted reproductive technologies hence no need for opponents to raise eyebrows. Cloning is a continuous process aimed at giving existence to human beings through what one will or wishes and designs as it allows for definite selection of genetic blueprints of a clone.

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Reproductive (DNA) Cloning Ethics

Over the years there have been several attempts made to offer solutions to problems of infertility. As a result, extensive research has been going on to find the most appropriate method to sidestep infertility problems (Kass and Wilson 123). Several methods have been devised including the In Vitro Fertilization where an ovum is fertilized in a tube before being implanted into a host mother; Gamete Intra-Fallopian transfer (GIFT) where the sperm and the ovum are transferred to the oviduct for fertilization to be in vivo (Mappes and DeGrazia 514). Directly connected to this is zygote intra-fallopian transfer (ZIFT) where the fertilized zygote is transferred to the oviduct and expected to flow and get implanted in the uterus. These methods are numerous and have been very successful. Those arguing that cloning products are not individuals but ‘carbon-copies of others fail to realize that cloning can be compared to cases of delayed birth of an identical twin who are having different biological, psychological orientations as well as dissimilar morals but have same genetic makeup. The fact that the clones are having same genetic make up as the person from which it was cloned never make it a carbon copy. Scientists are in consensus that the genome does not play absolute role in determination of a person’s behavior and other traits. Environmental factors also do determine this. People opposed to cloning are basically offended by mental pictures they generate about the issue of identical twins (Mappes and DeGrazia 514). The Argument that mothers will have children they have no biological connection to is a misplaced one as gene transplantation provide mothers with an option of parenting children they might not have been able to give birth to naturally. The issue about whether the clone should be called a sibling or an offspring is neither here nor there as it is the parent not the sibling who is responsible for the cloned child (Mappes and DeGrazia 514). Fears on ambiguous lineages should not feature here because nobody is being asked to relinquish their responsibility to the child who is recognized as theirs.

Arguments against cloning

However despite these successes, there is opposition as to what extent should these technologies be used in moral context. Most of these oppositions to reproduction stem from religious perspective. Artificial insemination (AID) has been very controversial (Mappes and DeGrazia 514). Religious experts argue that this is destroying what God intended from the foundation of the earth, that man and woman be united in sacred matrimony to foster reproduction or procreation in this order. AID will destroy marriage concept since it brings in a third party in the name of a sperm donor. They argue that this is a certain kind of adultery (Mappes and DeGrazia 515). AIH which does not separate procreation from marriage has still been attacked claiming that any type of procreation is immoral if it does not involve lovemaking between a man and a woman. Some arguments are however of very little influence on the individual who does not share similar sentiments. Cloning to the religious makes a child a product not a gift from God.

Another aspect is the naturalist aspect of these processes. Religious perspective views assisted fertilization as being unnatural and it depersonalizes or dehumanizes childbearing. God intended the process to be natural. However assisted reproduction can commodify this process (Mappes & DeGrazia 515). This means that children can be made and sold just like in other commodities in manufacturing technologies. Further argument in the same vein is that if in vitro fertilization finds acceptance in the society, then it will develop to various objectionable advances since technology is developing very fast to things like ectogenesis (Mappes and DeGrazia 516).

Recent adjustments refuse to discard the whole process of assisted reproduction or reproductive cloning. They take a more specific restriction where embryo transfer can be allowed or artificial insemination provided that a third party (donor) is not involved in the marital context.

Human Cloning

The successful sheep clone (Dolly) that was developed in Scotland in 1997 sparked concerns for prospective development towards human cloning. If this is achieved, the subsequent sequence of activities can go beyond imagination (Mappes and DeGrazia 517). This means a case like obtaining an embryo from a woman then enucleate it, Another nucleus is obtained from a somatic cell of another person who could as well be the donor of the embryoid infused. The re-nucleated egg will then be reactivated to develop just as a normally fertilized egg would. The transfer of the embryo and successive development in utero-gestation would result in development of a human clone (Mappes and DeGrazia 518). In contrast to the natural fertilization process, where the offspring has genetic material from both parents, the cloned human being is similar to the parent in terms of genetic composition. The process described above is the somatic cell-nucleus transfer (SCNT) and essentially this forms the basis of the ethical debate.

The ethical concerns that are raised with reaction to human cloning are copious and continuous with those that affect reproductive cloning. The prospects of creating human beings are far-reaching and hence bring up a very characteristic ethical disquiet.

Human Cloning Ethics

Human cloning is just a reproduction of oneself despite the fact that the newborn will be born from the surrogate mother. This can be likened to grafting and its immorality at its peak: the narcissism of people who think that they can “make copies” of themselves and superciliousness of scientists who think that they can determine what type of genes a child need or deserves to be cloned (Mappes and DeGrazia 520). The Frankenstein concept should open their eyes and see that man cannot play God.

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Ethical aspects in this category are addressed in four lines. The objections to human cloning on ethical grounds are based on the following lines:

  • Scientific experimentation ethics or moral perspective of the research
  • Identity and individualism of human beings with inalienable autonomy (birth)
  • Fabrication and commoditization concept. Humans cannot be produced like products
  • Despotism and infringement of what it actually means to bear children

First, scientific trials on making human clones comprise unethical experiments upon the individual to be. Just as previous animal trials revealed, there are severe mishaps that are risked in such attempts and subsequent deformities (Mappes and DeGrazia 566). Furthermore, we cannot merely suppose that the cloned individuals would readily and gladly consent to be a “clone” even when he/she is very healthy. For this reason there cannot be any correct ethical basis to determine feasibility of human cloning. There is difficulty in philosophical comparison between living with imperfections in opposition to non-existence at all. Nonetheless, this is irrelevant according to common sense (Mappes and DeGrazia 566). There are instances when children can be severely maimed even during the most natural way of childbearing- parturition. For instance, transmission of HIV virus from the parent, or transfer of drugs effects (dependence on heroin as so on). Nonetheless, to do this deliberately or through negligence is unforgivable and without a doubt unethical.

Second, Identity and personality is a solemn issue that comes to dispute in the event of cloning. When an individual is cloned, he/she may experience serious problems regarding his/her distinctive identity not only due to the fact that the genotype is totally identical to that of another person but also that the individual will be more like a twin. So what is the intuition of parenting a person who in absurd practicality is your twin? The new person will be burdened by carrying a genotype that is considered to be already in existence (Mappes and DeGrazia 566). The individual will never be unique in his/her own right and there will be a lot of comparisons with the other alter ego. It’s true that the foster and living conditions will be different as genotype is not a determinant of destiny. But it’s expected that parenting and other effort to bring up the new individual would have a strong discernment in mind that the individual is a version of the original.

In normal habitat, the distinctiveness a person gets by birth symbolizes uniqueness of each human being and the autonomy from parents. It can as well be a reason for living a dignified as a human being and not a product of science. Such disputes have relevant with great impact on mass production of human beings (Mappes and DeGrazia 566). But they are in moral context adequate to disprove even the first shot at cloning a human being. It should not be forgotten that these are autonomous individuals on who science is eugenically and playfully manipulated.

Third, if human cloning succeeds, it can get out of control and escalate into ‘production industry’ where begetting is transformed into manufacturing. In literal sense, these human beings will be man-made or hand-made for that matter. This process is feared to already have begun by the in vitro fertilization and testing of embryos for genetic viability (Mappes and DeGrazia 567). The process of cloning is not only handy but the complete genetic composition of a human being is determined by another human being – artisan. To be certain, subsequent progress is still in accordance with the natural process and the children born will still be recognized as humans, procreation should be natural. But in this case scientists will be taking a very critical step of making humans man-made products. Humanity should be the last thing ever that can succumb to technology which can turn everything else into raw material for use and disposal.

Begetting is very different from the process of “making”. Naturally, procreation involves two human beings who are complimentary (man and woman) coming together and contributing equally to the new person to be born. A living being which will be perishable and hopefully erotic, nevertheless in the event of cloning, the new human beings are not rightfully what they are by nature but by what scientists or ‘we want them to be especially when it culminates into manufacturing (Mappes and DeGrazia 567). It would be so dehumanizing when children inherit same mentality as ‘parents’. The children will just be artifacts. This is infringement of human dignity, autonomy, human equality and independence.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the idea of making human clones just like other anticipated types of genetic engineering for future generations would preserve and exacerbate an insightful and waywardness, making misinterpretation of the implication of childbearing by parents in marriage. When people get married and decide to have children, they are accepting the surfacing of new life in its novelty (Mappes and DeGrazia 567). This is not just accepting the child but also tacitly accepts whatever the new life will turn out to be. This is accepting own finitude and mortality, accepting replacement necessity and accepting limits in terms of control. Procreation means that one is giving up the grip and immortality of human life. Parenting is a way of ensuring that the children bear hopes that would surpass that of parents and gain ultimate happiness. However cloning presents the mischief of people who seek to exist vicariously through clones. Cloning is hence intrinsically despotic as it attempts to other human beings from another person’s image (Mappes and DeGrazia 568).

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Based on the ethical concerns raised by those against and for cloning, the gains of cloning far much exceed the disadvantages. This is clearly outlined in the raised medical issues, morality and risk of reproduction and reproductive DNA cloning ethics. However, policymakers should illuminate social and legal concerns related to cloning. Issues related to the possibility of cloning creating a market for the desired physical traits should be addressed as this may threaten to create a society of DNA haves and have nots. Parents who stick to traditional methods of reproduction risk being branded irresponsible.

Works Cited

Kass, Leon and Wilson, James. The Ethics of Human Cloning. Washington DC: AEI Press, 1998. Print.

Mappes, Thomas and DeGrazia, David. Genetics and Human Reproduction: Biomedical Ethics. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006. Print.

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