Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 8 (1998), 9-10.
I am grateful to the WHO for inviting me to Geneva as a resource person and an Advisor in Medical Ethics. I come from India which has one seventh of the world's population. India has an ancient culture and its civilization dates back to the fifth millennium. It was the cradle of many religions of the world. Today we have a population of whom about 80% are Hindus, 11% are Muslims and 2.5% are Christians. The rest are Sikh, Jains, Parsis and others. I had opportunities to dialogue with some leaders of our neighbouring countries in South East Asia also, and my presentation would also reflect the views of South East Asia.
What is Cloning?
Human cloning means the sexual replication of a human individual by taking of cells with genetic materials and cultivation of these cells through egg, embryo and finally into a human individual. Discovery of DNA from which genes are made, in 1953 by Watson and Crick was a great step in medical research. When the first test tube baby was produced 1978 it was a great breakthrough in Medical Science.
In 1997, Ian Wilmut placed cells from udder of a pregnant sheep in a special solution that prevented multiplication. An un-fertilized egg, the nucleus of which was removed was taken from another sheep. These two cells were brought together and stimulated to multiply for the formation of an embryo. This was implanted into the uterus of the anther sheep which finally gave birth to the miraculously baby sheep, now named Dolly. Dolly is a copy the sheep from whose udder the cells were taken.
It showed that a life can be created from the fragments of another life This can be applied to humans. A woman can produce a baby from her own tissue and ovum without any contact with man.
Whether cloning should be done in human is a hotly debated subject.
Various views expressed
Some seeing the potential gain in health advocate cloning. The vast majority of others sensing the possible dire consequences, oppose it. Following points are expressed in favour:
1. If we can justify surrogate motherhood as an ethically acceptable process, is not cloning nearly the same?
2. If religious people consider humans as co-creator with God, why should we prevent human from improving the creation.
3. If cloning is considered is a violation of one's rights preventing it also the violation of the scientist's right.
4. Clone individuals need not necessarily be identical with the donor as we observe that, even identical twins are different from each other as a person as they are influenced by environment and other psycho-social factors.
5. In organ and bone marrow transplant, threat of rejection is a big problem. In cloning these organs would be an exact genetic match of the recipient and so there will be no refection.
6. Emotional and religious sentiments need not be weighed against
scientific progress if it is ultimately for the benefit of humanity.
Ethics should be secular and not religious.
Views against cloning
1. Every form of reproductive technology raises the question of human values, dignity, worth, juridical rights etc. A person should not be used as a mere mechanical instrument, human being an non-repeatable being.
2. Cloned embryo may not have proper set of chromosomes and there is the possibility of mutations.
3. Natural birth is the product of human love. Parents are the stewards of procreation. In cloning these values and the dignity of human procreation are missing.
4. Human cloning violates human relationships, between the person and God, between husband and wife, between parents and children.
5. in cloning human plays God and causes social disorder by violating emotional sentiments.
6. It violates the principle of equality among human beings and
the principle of non-discrimination through selective eugenic
Possibilities of Cloning Human Organs
Scientist at Bath University succeeded in producing a head-less
frog by manipulating certain genes suppressing the development
of head. This technique could pave the way for people needing
transplants in human organs.
Discussion and Conclusion
In my discussions with religious leaders, media persons and scientists in India and South East Asia, including the discussions at the WHO Forum, I found three categories of peoples: The first, the religious fundamentalists, who are basically against any embryo experiments as in interferes in the realm of God's creative areas. The second is the section of a secular group who feels that scientist should be given full freedom of independent research and religion should not interfere. The there is a mid-section of moderates who are not against scientific research of genetics and human lives. They are for all kind of research at the cellular level in cloning. They will not hesitate to resort to human cloning in certain extreme cases. For example, procreation of a child in a family where father suffers from aspermia or to replace a dying child of as widowed mother.
Personally, I tend to agree with these moderates but we should be very careful to avoid human cloning to guard against potential abuses or make a tragic twist in our genetic experiments. There should be an authorized body to meticulously guard and control these procedures and avoid human degradation.
At the WHO meeting, the consensus of the discussion group was for scientific research at the cellular level, but not normally for human reproductive cloning. There might be rare exceptions considered if under strict control of an authorized body.
Go back to EJAIB
The Eubios Ethics Institute is on the world wide web of Internet: