Human Cloning: How Far Away Are We? Is It Ethical?

Human cloning is a part of science fiction that scientists and researchers are working to make science fact. If human cloning does become possible in the future, many issues both legal and ethical will need to be figured out. Are we close enough to this technology to even really worry about it?

The first attempt at cloning took place in 1885 by Hans Adolf Edward Dreisch. Dreisch was attempting to prove that cloning was possible by working with sea urchins. Dreisch was able to separate sea urchin embryo cells to show they would grow into copies of themselves. This proved that each cell contained a complete set of an organism’s genetic code. It took over a hundred years from Dreisch’s experiment until a mammal was cloned.

In 1996, Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell were able to take cells from an adult sheep and transfer them into a sheep’s egg. Because they used cells from an adult sheep, the genes had to be reset in order to spark growth as an embryo. Out of 277 attempts, one survived to be born. The sheep was named Dolly. Now that a mammal had successfully been cloned, human cloning was thought to be possible.

Earlier this week, news was made about a scientist in China who claimed that he had the technology and the ability to create human clones. The scientist claimed that the only reason he has not begun any human cloning was due to being fearful of how the world would react. The Boyalife Group are planning to break ground on their cloning plant in Tianjin, China. Instead of cloning humans, the Boyalife Group will be focusing on cloning cows, racehorses, and police dogs. The chief executive of Boyalife, Xu Xiaochun, commented on the potential of human cloning.

“The technology is already there. If this is allowed, I don’t think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology.”

It seems inevitable that a human clone will be made at some point. Instead of waiting until human cloning becomes reality, the ethical dilemmas surrounding it should begin to be addressed. Xu Xiaochun states, it is “a short biological step from monkeys to humans — potentially raising a host of moral and ethical controversies.”

Jeffrey Kahn is a professor of Bioethics and Public Policy at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Kahn has been talking about human cloning for 15 years. Kahn talks about the fact that someone will come up with a reason to clone a human.

“We’re effectively as far up the ladder of using animal models as one can go. Oregon Health & Science University has cloned nonhuman primates. That leaves only humans.”

Who is in charge of regulating human cloning? Surprisingly, no federal law that exists that makes it illegal. Only a couple of states has decided to outlaw the procedure. The Food and Drug Administration also has no rule regulating human cloning.

In the past, technology was the factor that limited science’s ability to clone humans. Now that the technology exists, ethical issues are now the limiting factor. Some of the ethical issues surrounding cloning have to deal with the rights of a human clone. If a human clone is an exact copy of another human, does that clone have the same rights as the human it was created from? One of the main arguments for human cloning is to create a copy of yourself for organs. Essentially, a clone would be a one-stop shop for spare parts. If that clone is made for that specific purpose, but it is human, can you kill it to harvest the organs which was its main purpose?

What are your thoughts on human cloning? Do you think clones should have the same rights as humans? Should we even open the proverbial Pandora’s Box?

[Photo by AP Photo/Steven Senne]