Some ethical issues of cloning

- Masahiro Morioka
Integrated Arts & Sciences, Osaka Prefectural University,
Gakuencho, Sakai, Osaka, Japan 593
(Email: PBI01055@niftyserve.or.jp)

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 7 (1997), 67-68.


Dr. Ian Wilmut succeeded in cloning. Media around the world wrote that he created the copy of an adult sheep. For example, Time magazine, (March 10, 1997) wrote Dolly is "a carbon copy" of her mother (p.30). However, biologically speaking, Dolly's DNA sequence will only be exactly the same as her mother if some errors has occurred during the cloning process; Dolly's body is not "a carbon copy" of her mother because Dolly's developmental process and the environment in the uterus were different from her mother, which may have made a significant difference. Hence, even if Dolly's DNA is the same, Dolly's body is not the same as her mother.

April 12, Japanese NHK aired a TV program on cloning in which biologist Keiko Nakamura had a series of discussion with scientists, a sociologist, and I, philosopher. Dr. Nakamura emphasized again and again that a cloned creature is not biologically same as its mother, hence we do not have to afraid of this technology. She also said to me that normal scientists never think of the application of this technique to humans, and went on to say that she did not understand why people were talking about human cloning so loudly.

Hearing her talk, I began to doubt her idea that normal scientists and the ordinary people never think of human cloning. Bioethicists had talked about the hypothetical possibility of making our own cloned body and use it as a resource of organ transplants to ourselves when we have severe diseases at our organs. Of course this is highly hypothetical; we can not take this seriously.

However, scientists usually have a strong desire for acquiring new knowledge. For example, Wilmut's cloning experiment gave us new knowledge on a number of biologically significant issues, and led us up to a new stage in life sciences.

Then, I think, some of the normal scientists, particularly medical scientists, are now starting to consider what is really happening in human cells. The functions of human cells are different from other animals, especially those in their developmental processes. They must think that if human cloning is allowed they will discover a number of scientifically significant facts on human's body. Hence, someday, scientists may start to insist that they should be allowed experimentation on human cell cloning within 14 days from the egg cell fusion.

In that TV program, I pointed out that in the future some people may require physicians to clone their children who have been killed by traffic accidents. I asked the audience if people raise special needs for human cloning, how we should respond to them. Should we allow them to clone their dead children, or let them abandon their greed of this kind?

After airing the program, we had a telephone call from a woman, who said to us that her son was killed by a traffic accident, but she could not accept her son's death. She has her son's hair as a memory. "Hence," she asked, "is it possible to clone my son by using cells of his hair?"

After that I received a letter from an old woman. She wrote that she had been sterile, and had long given up having a baby. But hearing the success of cloning she had a little hope of leaving her own gene after her death by making a human clone using her bodily cells. She wrote that this was the last hope in her life because she was very old and had already used up her eggs.

Receiving these opinions in favor of human cloning from the ordinary women, I began to fall into a chaos again. What should be the real ground for banning human cloning? How can we evaluate human cloning, especially in the country like Japan where Christian ethics has not widely taken root. Many people now have strong interest in cloning, but most of them do not know how to think about this in terms of ethics.


68 Commentary on Morioka - Munawar A. Anees
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