Should Human Cloning be Legal? | Teen Ink

Should Human Cloning be Legal?

May 15, 2019
By Arianna-R BRONZE, Kittery, Maine
Arianna-R BRONZE, Kittery, Maine
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Scientists have already cloned over 20 different animals in the past 23 years, including camels, sheep, and monkeys - will mankind be the next organism to be cloned? Reproductive cloning is one of the three types of cloning methods, that also includes therapeutic and gene cloning. Through reproductive cloning, scientists are able to create an exact copy of an organism in a laboratory. The topic of cloning gained public interest on July 5, 1996, when the first cloned organism, Dolly the Sheep, was introduced to the world by Roslin Institute. Since then, the debate of cloning has become a very controversial argument whether or not reproductive cloning should continue making strides towards more intricate species, specifically humans in particular; as well as if the clones should become available to the public. Reproductive human cloning should be illegal to the public and only be permitted for biomedical research because of the very unpredictable and unsuccessful outcomes, safety and psychological concerns regarding the ‘parents’ and the clone, and potential societal changes.

Reproductive cloning is notorious for its unforeseeable outcomes, even in the very few experiments that resulted in successful clones. Various studies have proven that clones can vastly differ from their progenitor from a plethora of causes. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, “The first cat to be cloned, named Cc, is a female calico cat that looks very different from her mother. The explanation for the difference is that the color and pattern of the coats of cats cannot be attributed exclusively to genes. A biological phenomenon involving inactivation of the X chromosome in every cell of the female cat (which has two X chromosomes) determines which coat color genes are switched off and which are switched on. The distribution of X inactivation, which seems to occur randomly, determines the appearance of the cat's coat” (Cloning). Cc the cat was technically a successful attempt at reproductive cloning, but her success does not overshadow what some might call ‘failure’ in her cloning experiment. Hollywood movies portray clones to appear exactly the same as the original, which should be theoretically correct if a clone is just an exact copy of something. However, Cc the cat shows that some clones are not always going to appear exactly like their progenitor due to certain chromosomes altering the final product of their appearance in certain organisms. Due to the fact that clones may not always look identical to their progenitor, some might conclude that the clone was not entirely successful, especially if the clone was only made to copy another's appearance as a replacement. The NHGI also expresses, “From a technical perspective, cloning humans and other primates is more difficult than in other mammals. One reason is that two proteins essential to cell division, known as spindle proteins, are located very close to the chromosomes in primate eggs. Consequently, removal of the egg's nucleus to make room for the donor nucleus also removes the spindle proteins, interfering with cell division…In addition, some dyes and the ultraviolet light used to remove the egg's nucleus can damage the primate cell and prevent it from growing.” Not only are outcomes of reproductive cloning often unsuccessful, but the process in creating a potential human clone is as well. The procedure for creating human clones is difficult when removing the egg’s nucleus, which could very easily result in the loss of spindle needles. Without the restoration of these essential proteins, cell division cannot take place; therefore implying that as of right now, a human clone cannot be created until the ineffective scientific technology used for creating clones is further advanced. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are other forces that alter the accuracy of a clone that was shown through an experiment; “two strains of rats were selected over many generations; one strain for brightness at finding their way through a maze and the other for dullness…the descendant bright rats made only about 120 errors running through the maze, whereas dull rats averaged 165 errors. That is a 40% difference. However, the differences between the strains disappeared when rats of both strains were raised in an unfavorable environment of severe deprivation, where both strains averaged 170 errors. The differences also nearly disappeared when the rats were raised with abundant food and other favorable conditions. In this optimal environment, the dull rats reduced their average number of errors from 165 to 120” (Ayala). The experiments show that cloned organisms respond differently when placed in different environments. This means that clones who are created to be an exact copy of the original will not always be the same based on their responses due to their specific genotypes and phenotypes being changed along with their environment. For potential human clones, the environment would also play a big part in creating a clone. The environment and influences such as education, time period, location, and friends could result in new personalities that are entirely different than the progenitor. As the NCBI stated, “it might be possible to clone a person’s genes, but the individual cannot be cloned. The character, personality, and the features other than anatomical and physiological that make up the individual are not precisely determined by the genotype” (Ayala). If a clone’s sole purpose was to be a replacement or a copy of the original person, the environment would be very likely to shape the clone out differently than the progenitor; consequently meaning that the clones individuality would be unpredictable and unsuccessful if they were dissimilar from the original’s. Based on extensive research, studies have shown that reproductive cloning for all organisms has very low success rates. During the creation of the clones, humans and other primates are very tricky to duplicate due to their spindle proteins being removed along with the egg’s nucleus. Even when clones are successfully created, the environment in which the clone resides in can affect the differences between the clone and their progenitor. Disregarding the environmental effects, certain organisms have chromosomes that randomly alter their appearance, which could make clones look nothing like their predecessor as seen in the case of Cc the cat. The process of creating clones, genes, and their environment can all cause unsuccessful results. Due to the clones being different from the original, the validity and overall purpose of creating clones become diminished. Health and safety concerns within clones and their ‘parents’ also stem off from unpredictable results in the few successful clones.

Although cloning does not currently have a high success rate, the clones who do succeed still face inevitable health issues that the present-day technical knowledge cannot protect them, or even their ‘parents’ from. The NCBI claims that "the animals produced by cloning suffer from serious health handicaps, among others, gross obesity, early death, distorted limbs, and dysfunctional immune systems and organs, including liver and kidneys, and other mishaps. Even Dolly had to be euthanized early in 2003, after only 6 y of life, because her health was rapidly decaying, including progressive lung disease and arthritis” (Ayala). The health issues could be because of, “telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences at the tip of chromosomes that get shorter as an animal gets older. When the telomeres of a cell get so short that they disappear, the cell dies. The concern is that cloned animals may inherit the shortened telomeres from their older progenitor, with possibly premature aging and a shortened lifespan as a result” (“Reproductive Cloning Arguments”).  After many unsuccessful trials, Dolly the sheep was born and lived up the age of six, which is only half of the average sheep's life expectancy. The large majority of clones face deformities and health issues, which are unsuccessful towards the lifespan of the clone. Along with the health issues, the telomeres will also make the cloned organism rapidly age prematurely, causing most clones to die earlier than expected. Along with Dolly herself, the three ‘parents’ of Dolly the sheep all faced health issues as well. The three parents all had to undergo operations in order to obtain nuclear DNA and an unfertilized egg cell that would later be placed into the surrogate mother. This could place stress on any one of the parents at any given time as the procedures and pregnancy were being conducted. The Dolly experiment took 277 attempts at cell fusion to create 29 developed embryos, that were implanted into thirteen different surrogate mothers, yet only one of them survived to create Dolly. 95% of surrogate mothers of clones face miscarriages and stillbirths, which can easily make any mother depressed or sick upon losing their child, thus damaging their health psychologically (“Reproductive Cloning Arguments”). Despite scientists efforts, Dolly was part of the large majority of cloned mammals that show how their copied genes and shortened telomeres will eventually damage them in the end. Aside from the countless physical anomalies that clones face, psychological issues regarding the clones well being can also affect their health. The Journal of Evolution & Technology stated, “In individuals originating from transfer of an adult’s nucleus, the knowledge that one is the result of cloning may diminish one’s sense of uniqueness…Individuals originating from embryo splitting carried in the same pregnancy, such as twins or triplets, may have problems in defining expectations of themselves and for their future, because they know there is another genetically identical individual…Individuals originating from embryo splitting, where embryos are frozen and implanted at different times or in different women, may have to deal with the knowledge that they have not originated from an undirected combination of two particular genomes (instead, someone has determined who they are genetically)” (Morales). When and if human cloning ever become successful, the clones will face many psychological problems within themselves and their perceptive society. Clones can very easily face stress or depression once realizing that they are a ‘delayed twin’, where their progenitor may have lived a life enough for the two genetically identical people; that may or may not cause the clone or their parents to enforce expectations on them to achieve the progenitor's success. Strict expectations, a realization of their origins, and a narrow future can all cause clones to feel unsafe in their surroundings, and most likely will mentally scar them for the remainder of their lives. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, clones and their relations would also cause a strain on a clones health, “In cloning the situation would be more complex as it may blur generational boundaries…the clone would likely be confused about her kinship ties…For example, a woman who has a child conceived through cloning would actually be the twin of her child and the woman’s mother would, genetically, be its mother, not grandmother” (Devolder).  Upon comprehending that their ‘parent’ is actually just another version of themselves, clones may start to become distressed about their family and actual origins. These issues could result in even more stress being added on to their psychological health. Clones will always face conditions that will negatively alter with their well being; whether it is physically with shortened telomeres segments and other health issues, or psychologically with stress in regards to their families and expectations. Nevertheless, clones will face obstacles along with the uproar in the society if human clones ever became globalized.

Reproductive cloning of homo sapiens would undoubtedly lead to countless amounts of societal changes that would affect the world and way of living in many different ways. The Nation Human Genome Research Institute addresses the idea that, “reproductive cloning would present the potential of creating a human that is genetically identical to another person who has previously existed or who still exists. This may conflict with long-standing religious and societal values about human dignity, possibly infringing upon principles of individual freedom, identity and autonomy” (“Cloning”). Human clones would lead to religious groups and a great abundance of others who disagree with cloning to conspire into a possible revolution against the clones. Police officers and the government would have to learn how to regulate a society with ‘normal’ humans and the controversial clones, all while maintaining peace between both sides. This also stems into another hypothetical issue of clones having legal rights, and whether or not they would be the same as ‘regular’ humans. If these issues are not resolved, a war could break out against clones and their supporters against the opposers of clones. The customs, beliefs and traditions would be at stake with a new race of people living among mankind, even if they are genetically the same to us. With these new superior humans, some may start to worship clones and create new religions, would cause issues with the ‘traditional’ religions and their followers. A similar issue that stems off from widespread human clones affecting the society is brought up by the Green Garage, “many opponents of the technology feel that its process is artificial and interferes with nature, even believing that the natural process of procreation is not something that should be corrected or altered in a way. They said that this form of interference is decidedly wrong and can lead to a domino effect, which means that other attributes of life could be changed or altered negatively as a result. If genes are modified to create beings who are smarter than others, the average person will not have a place in society” (“Important Pros and Cons”). One of human cloning biggest issue is the argument of mankind playing God. With the arrival of clones, a disastrous domino effect can occur. Once natural means of procreation becomes just one option in creating a child, ideas thought to be impossible could slowly start to become possible. People who create clones of themselves as children would be able to simply create and get rid of any unwanted child if they know they can easily create their own perfect child through cloning; thus meaning that the worth of individuals and respect for the natural life of humans would be diminished and be viewed as easily replaceable. With the genetic engineering and reproductive cloning, people would become genetically perfect and ‘normal’ people would not stand a chance against the new race of mankind; as a result, people born of normal procreation could be seen as less in a world full of clones. One of the many possible effects that this domino effect would cause is the extinction of human life due to the decrease in genetic diversity (“Cons”). As believed by Scientific Research, “the development of technologies such as reproductive cloning may give impetus to the action of criminal organizations which are involved in human organs’ trafficking…having its ultimate goal to kill them, in order to sell their valuable organs” (Tsekos). Philosopher and bioethicist Dan W. Brock addresses a similar theory about the results of human clones being prevalent, “In a science fiction frame of mind, one can imagine commercial interests offering genetically certified and guaranteed embryos for sale…This would be a fundamental violation of the equal moral respect and dignity owed to all persons, treating them instead as objects to be differentially valued, bought, and sold in the marketplace…that they would violate the thirteenth amendment prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude…” (Brock). The two dystopian theories about the future with clones being normal in society would raise a question whether or not creating a clone would be ethical for the choice in creating one for good or bad deeds. Although the two ideas seem not very likely to happen, the damages that could happen from creating clones to traffic organs as well as selling cloned embryos for a designer baby would create even more disputes about human cloning being legal and further split our society in an argument of morals. Even if clones can surpass their health and mental problems, many other issues involving the society are bound to happen if human clones became a norm in the world. The religions and customs of many people would be violated and a new race would take over the world; potentially causing an undetermined future where human clone organ trafficking, slavery of clones, and even extinction of mankind could be a possibility. However, many others disagree and strongly believe the reproductive cloning for humans would actually be beneficial to the lives of many.

In spite of the many reasons to be against human cloning, numerous amounts of people argue that human clones would have many advantageous towards society. A strong argument that human clone supporters use is that with the development of clones, LGBTQ+ and infertile couples could have a biological child. As well as giving people the option of picking out all their children’s traits, such as sex, eye color and other genetic characteristics to create their perfect ‘designer baby.’ The value of people and their individuality would be diminished, instead, people could start to value their physical attributes, talents or specific accomplishments that could later be passed down into the clone. For people who are infertile or LGBTQ+, vanity would take place as parents modify their ideal child, even if that was not their plan in the first place. The idea of creating a customized child would mean that clones could be treated as luxury objects; thus sparking even more ethical issues. If these designer babies became widespread, then a child born by natural procreation could be frowned upon; even more so for children who are born with illnesses or disabilities. With the option for creating perfect children, rates of adoption and facilities that specialize in egg or sperm donors would either lower immensely or disappear entirely. Other than ethical debates, if human cloning were allowed for the sake of creating a flawless child by cloning yourself, then the variation of humans would also be at stake. Without a diverse human variation, resistances to diseases could lower as well as present a negative message towards a society full of many different cultures. Some people believe that the usage of clones would be beneficial to people who are in needs of organ or tissue transplants, as the rates of success is higher and host rejection are lower. While it is true that some people would not have to wait as long to find a donor and have a higher chance at outliving the lost time on the wait lists; according to Center for Genetics and Society, “Embryonic stem cells appear less likely to stimulate rejection after transplantation than other cell types. If this proves true, therapeutic tissues could be developed from existing embryonic stem cell lines rather than from cell lines customized for a particular patient. Other recent research suggests that it may eventually be possible to achieve similar results by ‘reprogramming’ some of the patient's own cells” (Reproductive Cloning Arguments”). If this proves true, therapeutic tissues could be developed from existing embryonic stem cell lines rather than from cell lines customized for a particular patient. The estimated costs for a singular person to clone themselves is about 1.7 million US dollars (Herper). This means that theoretically, therapeutic cloning would be much cheaper and would be suited towards more people who need transplants; as opposed to reproductive cloning being tailored for one specific person. The usage of clones being made for their progenitors that needed organs or tissues would also result in a moral debate whether or not creating a human clone to only take parts of their body involuntarily, thus causing distress to a clone, would be ethical. In addition to vouching for predetermined lives of clones in designer babies and transplants, supporters believe that using reproductive cloning on humans could be used for people who don’t want to pass on damaging hereditary genes to their children without having to go through an embryo selection or screening. Cloning healthy genes could potentially help make many people and their family healthier. However, the whole argument is discredited if the progenitor had the damaging genes clones themselves; because if somebody who has damaging genes clones themselves - wouldn’t the clone also be born with the same genes? Along with the large payments for cloning, people would have to pay extra to somehow remove the genes through genetic engineering; which would be more of a hassle than learning to embrace an adopted child instead. More money and time would be wasted while waiting for a clone to be created. Contrary to popular belief about human cloning being beneficial for the lives of many by creating designer babies, transplanting organs and tissue and restricting damaging traits from passing onto offspring, the ethical, costly and scientific issues can equalize or outweigh the ideas of benefiting the world with reproductive cloning.

Reproductive cloning should remain illegal towards the public because even if human clones pass the slim chances of being successfully created through reproductive cloning, clones will be faced with many health, psychological, and societal issues weighing against them. The rates for reproductive cloning are very low, and oftentimes unsuccessful through differing appearance, individuality, environmental influences, and genes are known as spindle proteins that prevent growth in primates. Scientists believe that there has been no completely healthy clone, due to the many health issues that affect both the clone and their parents, along with psychological and mental issues that affect the clones entire welfare throughout the rest of their short-lived lives. The majority of the hypothetical assumptions made of clones in a future society are negative. Human clones would create many different religious and moral debates that could lead to uprisings against a new race in regards to the safety of the society, exploitations of clones organs and traditional ways of life being at stake. Although having your very own clone seems very alluring, human clones do not seem to be happening anytime soon and it is probably for the best.

The author's comments:

My name is Arianna Rubianes, and I am currently a fourteen-year-old freshman student at the Traip Academy in Kittery, Maine. I come from a hard-working military man as a father, and a mother, who left her career in order to raise her three children; both of whom I look up to every day. I have many hobbies to take up my free time, such as reading fantasy novels, playing field hockey, improving my art skills, as well as practicing on the piano, guitar, and ukulele. At school, I am an active member of the student council representative of the freshman class, and I enjoy being able to be the voice of my peers. Although I do enjoy writing and reading, I hope to go into a STEM-based career, like architecture or engineering by the time I enter college. The writing I submitted was a piece I turned into my English teacher for a persuasive essay unit, as I find the topic of human cloning very alluring and interesting. With new technological advancements, we as a society need to look upon what we want for the future, whether it be flying cars, or cloning man-kind; which I why I wrote this essay as a call to action for people to start to take notice of the changing society that we can decide the path of. 

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