The ideas in this set of notes are drawn principally from a paper by Robert Wachbroit
The original paper is Genetic Encores: The Ethics of Human Cloning, Maryland School of Public Affairs,
1997 by Robert Wachbroit.
Cloning, for substitute reproduction.
When the Roslin Institute announced to the press that Dolly existed there was a riot of speculation. The first animal produced by cloning raised all the science fiction spectres. And the press had a wonderful time sensationalising the event.
But what are the real public concerns? Why the reactions of revulsion?
Consider the false ideas presented:
A clone is a carbon copy of a person. Not a real person, but an identical human being living, breathing and thinking in exactly the same way as the person copied.
Babies will be produced in factories. Identical little babies will be churning down a production line and popping out the end as computer voiced automatons ready to obey the dictates of an evil ruler.
Would a cloned human be denied of basic human rights, like for example, an open future?
Those who support cloning often see it as a way of extending the process of reproduction, and the giving of children to those without. This might be because of sterility (a woman of a couple might have a clone of herself as a child so as to keep the offspring genetically within the marriage). A homosexual couple (male or female) might have a clone of one or other or of both of the partners and bring it up within the relationship. (This should not be taken to mean I think that single sex sexual relationships are acceptable or useful or sensible.)
(On a separate issue, it may yet become possible to take the genetic material from two ova and generated a viable infant that would be the genetic and female mix of two female parents. I dont think this is possible for two males even though the material might be fused within a donated egg, because this would have two Y chromosomes, and that must be a problem.)
Those who object to cloning, often do so on the basis that it is interfering with nature / life / normal processes and so on. Behind this objection is the idea that somehow cloning changes the genetic material. In fact that it produces, or is part way to producing, GM Babies.
Robert Wachbroit1 argues that cloning must be considered in its own right, and not as a technology belonging whether to assisted reproduction or to genetic manipulation.
A clone would be a genetic sibling to the donor of the nuclear DNA. The donors parents would be the genetic parents. In a case of cloning used as a reproductive technology then a cloned human might then grow up calling its genetic parents Grandma and Grandpa; its genetic sister or genetic brothers wife Mum; and its brother or genetic sisters husband Dad.
In such a situation where do responsibilities lie? Is the genetic parent responsible for the infant, or the sibling birth mother, and from whom does such a person inherit if there is a large financial estate going begging. The growing litigious nature of our society means that there could be some wasteful legal battles if such issues are not resolved early on in the process.
Such infants would also be a product. They would not come in the natural course of events, they would never come as bonus babies as some surprised couples might call the ones that just happened. They could only ever come as a consequence of planning, forethought, agonising or the failure of other paths, and at considerable expense both to family and society (in the culture of NHS). This would take us into the whole arena of why people have children in the first place.
Emotionally my reaction is to say that responsibility gives the key to the relationship not genetics. While the birth mother, might be the genetic sibling of the child she bears, it is her choice to have the child. She is responsible for its existence. Her choices (and possibly her partners) have brought this infant into existence. If there is inheritance at issue, my feeling is that goes with the responsibility relationship not the genetic one.
Cloning, in contrast to GM possibilities, does not provide for improvement of certain traits. Rather Within the limits of environment, it freezes traits. So that as technology principally available to the wealthy for reproductive purposes, cloning gives no genetic advantage other than those which already exist, and also retains the disadvantages of a particular genome. In fact, if used to perpetuate a particular genetic identity it might lead eventually to the accusation in a couple of generations to a cloned person being a "throw-back" to a former age.