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Reproductive and therapeutic cloning

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Quotations on reproductive cloning (creating duplicate humans):

bulletConservative position: "...scientists who envision medical breakthroughs using stem cells from human embryos are now moving on to human cloning -- breeding people for the purpose of harvesting their tissues and organs from their bodies, then disposing of them." 1

bulletLiberal position: "Human cloning allows man to fashion his own essential nature and turn chance into choice. For cloning's advocates, this is an opportunity to remake mankind in an image of health, prosperity, and nobility; it is the ultimate expression of man's unlimited potential." 2

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Quotations on therapeutic cloning (creating human organs for transplanting):

bulletConservative position: "Cloning, even so-called therapeutic or experimental cloning, creates a new life without a father, and reduces a mother to the provider of an almost emptied egg. Nonetheless, it is a new human life and the determination to destroy it and limit its use to scientific research for therapeutic ends compound further the moral issues rather than protect mankind. As such, cloning embryonic human life under any circumstance crosses an ethical line, takes an irrevocable step, from which science can never turn back." 3
 
bulletLiberal position: "Therapeutic cloning will in time allow scientists to create organs that are a perfect match for those in need of a transplant. The cloned organ would be based on the recipientís genetic material and would not require the use of debilitating immunosuppressive therapies. There would also be no chance of rejection, which is fatal. Therapeutic cloning represents the ideal in organ transplantation, as it would provide an unlimited source of organs to anyone who needs them. The need for these organs is dire." 4

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Overview:

It is unfortunate that the term "cloning" refers to three very different procedures with three very different goals. It is also unfortunate that the first thought many people have when they hear the term is of horror movies which have showed the creation of human monsters or of armies of superhuman soldiers with subhuman brains. The reality of cloning is very different.

The three different types of "cloning" are:

bulletEmbryo cloning: This is a medical technique which produces monozygotic (identical) twins or triplets. It duplicates the process that nature uses to produce twins or triplets. One or more cells are removed from a fertilized embryo and encouraged to develop into one or more duplicate embryos. Twins or triplets are thus formed, with identical DNA. This has been done for many years on various species of animals; only very limited experimentation has been done on humans.

bullet Adult DNA cloning (a.k.a.  reproductive cloning) This technique which is intended to produce a duplicate of an existing animal. It has been used to clone a sheep and other mammals. The DNA from an ovum is removed and replaced with the DNA from a cell removed from an adult animal. Then, the fertilized ovum, now called a pre-embryo, is implanted in a womb and allowed to develop into a new animal. This may or may not have been tried on humans. It is specifically forbidden by law in many countries. There are rumors that Dr. Severino Aninori has successfully initiated a pregnancy through reproductive cloning. It has the potential of producing a twin of an existing person. Based on previous animal studies, it also has the potential of producing severe genetic defects. For the latter reason alone, many medical ethicists consider it to be a profoundly immoral procedure when done on humans.

bulletTherapeutic cloning (a.k.a. biomedical cloning): This is a procedure whose initial stages are identical to adult DNA cloning. However, the stem cells are removed from the pre-embryo with the intent of producing tissue or a whole organ for transplant back into the person  who supplied the DNA. The pre-embryo dies in the process.  The goal of therapeutic cloning is to produce a healthy copy of a sick person's tissue or organ for transplant. This technique would be vastly superior to relying on organ transplants from other people. The supply would be unlimited, so there would be no waiting lists. The tissue or organ would have the sick person's original DNA; the patient would not have to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their life, as is now required after transplants. There would not be any danger of organ rejection.

There are major ethical concerns about all three types of cloning, when applied to humans.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletEmbryo cloning (a.k.a. artificial twinning)

bulletReproductive cloning (to produce an exact twin of an existing person or other animal) This is essentially a dead issue. The risks involved make reproductive cloning profoundly unethical.

bulletHow it is done, history, its morality

bulletNews items during the years....
bullet1997 to 2000 incl.
bullet2001
bullet2002
bullet2003 to now

bulletTherapeutic cloning (to produce an organ that matches that of an existing person)

bulletHow is it done; possible benefits

bulletEthics, Public opinion

bulletOne person's belief: Human personhood is in the blood

bulletAmniotic stem cells discovered

bullet U.S. legislation

bulletNews items
bulletUp to the end of  2001
bullet2002
bullet2003
bullet2004
bullet2005
bullet2006 & 2007

bulletComments on cloning by individuals, political groups, & religious authorities
 
bulletMissouri amendment, 2006-NOV: allows therapeutic cloning & bans reproductive cloning
 

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Related essay on this website:

bulletStem cell research

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A molecular biology resource for researchers:

  • Addgene is a non-profit plasmid repository dedicated to helping scientists around the world share high-quality plasmids. See: https://www.addgene.org/

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You can buy these books safely from Amazon.com's online bookstore:

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References:

  1. Anon, "Still Work to Do," Focus on the Family Magazine, 2004-JAN, Page 21
  2. Patrick Stephens, "Cloning: Towards a new conception of humanity," The Reproductive Cloning Network, at: http://www.reproductivecloning.net/
  3. Daniel Reilly, "Statement on human cloning," The Diocese of Worcester, (Roman Catholic), 2001-NOV-26, at: http://www.worcesterdiocese.org/
  4. Justin Durivage, "Therapeutic cloning raises new questions concerning morality," The Student File, 2001-DEC-07, at: http://www.tsl.pomona.edu/

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Copyright ©1997 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1997-AUG-5

Last updated 2013-MAR-05
Author: Bruce A Robinson

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