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Part 2 of two parts
Reproductive cloning:
a.k.a. cell nuclear replacement

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This topic is contined from the previous essay

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Adult DNA cloning topics covered here:

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Plans to attempt human DNA cloning:

Richard Seed, a physicist from Illinois, attempted to establish a human cloning clinic. 1 He claimed on 1998-JAN-7 that he was "90% complete" in hiring a team of experts to attempt the cloning of a human being, following the experiments on "Dolly." If successful, the resultant child would have identical DNA to one of its parents. Lord Robert Winston, a London based fertility expert who helped produce the first test-tube baby in 1978, said: "My first reaction is that here is somebody who is trying to make a quick buck off of self-advertising, because of course there is no way you could clone a human being safely at this point. I think the man is clearly unhinged and I don't think he is to be taken seriously." Marian Damewood, a member of the board of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine said: "I have very serious reservations about cloning human beings." The Society has declared a 5 year voluntary ban on cloning humans. Mr. Seed responded: "I can't really answer the critics who think it's a bad idea. They'll never be persuaded. As far as I'm concerned, they have rather small minds and a rather small view of the world and a rather small view of God." 2 Dr. Seed apparently did not succeed in his project.

As of 2001-AUG, there are two publicized projects underway to clone humans. There may be others which are secret:

bullet Dr. Panayiotis Zavos of the Andrology Institute in Lexington KY and Dr. Severino Antinori, a fertility doctor in Rome announced in early 2001 that they want to proceed with the cloning of humans. Professor Antoniori announced in early 2001-AUG that he intends to start cloning human embryos before the end of 2001.
bullet ".. a religious sect called the Raelians insists it will shortly undertake the same project. The Raelian sect believes, among other things, that human beings were created in laboratories by extra-terrestrials, and that the resurrection of Jesus was a cloning procedure! Donors and surrogate mothers have already lined up to pay $250,000 for the actual cloning experiment." 3

"In an effort to stall these attempts, Congress is planning to pass a bill banning human cloning by any organization in the United States. However, it is unlikely that this will prevent these efforts from being made elsewhere." 3

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On 2001-AUG-14, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Joseph Rotblat said that our understanding of cloning is "too meager" at this time to succeed. He suggested that many of the scientists involved are motivated by money. He said: "Inevitably the problems will be overcome, and it's then that the real ethical problems begin." He suggested that ethics evolve: "Ethics are not absolute. Look at in-vitro fertilization. This was originally considered unethical but is now widely accepted..."I feel that this [cloning], too, will become acceptable."

In early 2002-APR, Dr. Severino Antinori announced that a woman who joined his program for infertile couples is now eight weeks pregnant with a fetus derived by human reproductive cloning. Although such cloning is banned in Italy where he lives, he was allegedly able to go to another country to perform the experimental technique. If the woman's pregnancy produces a live newborn, it will probably suffer from one or more serious genetic disabilities. 4

Surprisingly, some researchers do not seem to be deterred by the high levels of mortality, deformities and other genetic problems observed in animal cloning. At a National Academy of Sciences, three human cloning researchers spoke. "One Kentucky-based researcher, for example, offered only a vague assurance that cloning for human fertility purposes wouldn't be done if it couldn't be done right, and then angrily objected to being lectured by a scientist who wanted more of an answer. Another, a chemist who directs a Bahamas company and belongs to a [Raelian] religious sect that seeks cloning, made the extreme claim that 'it is a fundamental right to reproduce in any way you want.' " 5

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Is adult human DNA cloning moral?

Some say yes: 
bullet Some talents seem to be genetically influenced. Musical ability seems to run in families. Cloning using the DNA from the cell of an adult with the desired traits or talents might produce an infant with similar potential.

bullet A heterosexual couple in which the husband was completely sterile could use adult DNA cloning to produce a child. An ovum from the woman would be coupled with a cell from the man's body. Both would contribute to the child: the woman would provide the "factory" for creating cells; the man would provide the "genetic information." They might find this more satisfactory than using the sperm of another man.

bullet Two lesbians could elect to have a child by adult DNA cloning rather than by artificial insemination by a man's sperm. Each would then contribute part of her body to the fertilized ovum: one woman would donate the ovum, which contains some genetic material in its mitochondria; the other woman the nuclear genetic material. Both would have parts of their bodies involved in the conception. They might find this more satisfactory than in-vitro fertilization using a man's sperm.

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Some say no:

bullet There is no guarantee that the first cloned humans will be normal. The fetus might suffer from some disorder that is not detectable by ultrasound. They may be born disabled. Disorders may materialize later in life. Such problems have been seen in other cloned mammals. There is no reason to assume that they will not happen in humans.

bullet Cells seem to have a defined life span built into them. "Dolly" was created from a cell that was about six years old; this is middle age for a ewe. There were some indications that Dolly's cells were also middle-aged. She was believed to be, in essence, about six years old when she was born. She was expected to live only for five years, which is shorter than the normal life span of 11 years. If this is also true of humans, then cloned people would have a reduced life expectancy. The cloning technique could take many years off their life. [These fears proved to be unfounded. "Dolly" has grown into a comfortable middle age with signs of normal aging for her age.]

bullet Dolly was conceived using a ewe's egg and a cell from another ewe's body. It is noteworthy that no semen from a ram was involved. If the technique were perfected in humans, and came into general usage, then there would be no genetic need for men. All of the human males could be allowed to die off. [The author of this essay is a male and does not think kindly of such a future. However, some readers might not object to this eventuality.]

bullet Large scale cloning could deplete genetic diversity. It is diversity that drives evolution and adaptation. It prevents an entire species from disappearing because of susceptibility to a disease. [It is doubtful that cloning would ever be used at a level to make this a significant threat.]

bullet Some people have expressed concern about the effects that cloning would have on relationships. For example, a child born from an adult DNA cloning from his father would be, in effect, a delayed twin of one of his parents. That has never happened before and may lead to emotional difficulties.

bullet There are religious objections to cloning.
bullet Most pro-life supporters believe that a fertilized ovum is a full human person. When its nucleus is removed during cloning, that person is, in effect, murdered.

bullet A secondary concern is the whole business of collecting surplus embryos and simply storing them in a deep-freeze as a commodity.

bullet Some claim that cloned humans may be born without souls. They speculate that the soul enters the body when a sperm fertilizes an ovum. Since there is no sperm involved in cloning, perhaps the fetus would develop without a soul. There is no way to know whether a soul is present; it has no weight, it cannot be seen, touched, smelled, heard, or detected in any other way. In fact, many people believe that souls do not exist. Speculation on this topic can never be resolved.

At the current stage in cloning research using adult DNA, the random appearance of genetic defects, noted above, appears to be an overwhelming problem. Such dangers would seem to put an indefinite halt on all ethical cloning of humans.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Cloning Proponent 'clearly unhinged,' scientist says", Reuters News Agency, 1998-JAN-7
  2. Religion Today news summary, 1998-NOV-18.
  3. Prasad Venugopal, "The science and politics of genetic engineering," Political Affairs, Vol. 80, #7, 2001-JUL, at: http://www.cpusa.org/pa/0701pa/07gmofood.htm
  4. "Reproductive Cloning: Just What The Doctor Ordered," Washington Update, Family Research Council, 2002-APR-5.
  5. "The cloning debates," Editorial at The Buffalo News. See: http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/

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Copyright ©1997 to 2016 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1997-AUG-5
Last updated 2016-MAR-27

Author: Bruce A Robinson

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