Cloning: Paradox, Paradigm and Ethics in Indian Society

- Minakshi Bhardwaj* & Jayapaul Azariah
Dept. of Zoology, University of Madras - Guindy Campus, Chennai 600 025, India
*Eubios Ethics Institute, P.O. Box 125, Tsukuba Science City 305, Japan
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 9 (1999), 71-73.


Introduction

Technological advancements in science have greatly increased the real and potential impact of their implications when they are extrapolated to humans. One of such said advancements is the technique of cloning. Conventionally "cloning is the process of asexually reproducing a group of cells or organs all genetically identical to the original ancestor". Past developmental biologists like Driesch (1892), Spemann (1928) and Holtfreter (1988) have proved that with progressive cell differentiation the nuclei do not lose their equivalence. This is the key factor based on which the earlier cloning experiments were performed with the technique of nuclear transplantation. This was developed by R. Briggs and T.J. King (1952) in the United States. Later J.B. Gurdon (1962) performed classical experiments with more elegant methods that proved that animals such as amphibians can be cloned using differentiated cells from intestine. Since then attempts were made to clone other groups of animals, most prominent being mammals. Attempts to clone mammals met with mixed results, because of the technical obstacles, misunderstandings and misdirective way towards the approach.

A breakthrough in the approach came in early 1997 when Ian Wilmut and his colleagues at Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, produced their results obtaining a cloned viable sheep "Dolly" from adult mammalian cells. Dolly is considered to be first mammalian clone produced from matured differentiated somatic cells. It has sparked the moral and ethical concerns the world-wide over as it shows the potential to clone humans, although cloning of cattle and sheep using embryonic cells were heard off earlier too. But the technique used to produce Dolly was different as it used "Somatic cell nuclei" for transplantation instead of embryonic cell nuclei. This has generated an unprecedented uproar over the potential extrapolation of this technique to human. Attempts like cloning of two rhesus monkeys at Oregon Regional Private Research Centre in Beaverton U.S. by embryo splitting, cloning of mice by Dr. Ryuzo Yanagimachi of the University of Hawaii, and cloning of calves at the National Institute of Animal Husbandry, Japan. The cloning of 3 successive generations of mice; numbering more than 50 at the University of Hawaii with a technique considered to be more reliable than used for "Dolly" meeting favourable results have added fuel to fire over the issue of cloning humans.

As the concept of cloning is gaining momentum, the Indian scenario seems placid over such a raging international issue. An attempt is made to discern the awareness, enthusiasm optimism and people's attitude to cloning. A detailed survey was conducted on the academic community of India so as to examine the perception of cloning and its implications on Indian Society. This information will also be used for developing a suitable curriculum for text books.

Sample Characteristics

The survey was performed among the a group of 50 selected educated respondents belonging to different academic fields, namely botany, zoology, biochemistry and physics. The age, sex, religion, marital status were mixed. Opinions were taken before and after the lecture program on the relative topic so as to examine any change in their attitude.

Questionnaire Design

A set of 30 questions was given and the respondents were given the choice as strongly agree, agree, I don't know, disagree and strongly disagree. The question were grouped into following major sections for analysis [see other papers in TRT4]. The responses to the 30 questions are presented under the 7 sections as follows:

i) General: 11, 16, 5, 15, 19, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29

ii) Natural (human) Resources: 6, 7

iii) Commercialization & Reproduction: 24, 1, 8, 30, 5

iv) Medical Research disease cure and transplantation: 13, 14, 20, 12

v) Surrogacy: 2, 4

vi) Personal: 10, 17, 18, 21

vii) Ethical: 3, 9, 28

Results

1. General

It is known that cloned person will be different from the donor, and 33% of the respondents were uncertain about the impact of intra-uterine environmental conditions on the personality of cloned person (Q11). The background history of a particular person (Polpot/Hitler) is a denominator in accepting cloning technique for human beings, as 77% of the educated respondents disagreed (Q16). Perhaps we could say that Indian society is egoistic and traditional and people do not want duplicates of themselves as about 75% of the respondents disagreed to clone 100 replicates of oneself (Q5). This position is again strengthened in that about 72% disagreed to clone Newton/Einstein. The range of response shifted from 20% to 72% (Q15). The general tendency of the educated respondents is that of caution. They are not favourable to any modification of the human genome or insertion of any smart gene into the genome without first obtaining a full knowledge of the human genome (Q25 and Q26). This indicates that there is some reservation in the minds of people. That the cultural and traditional foundations have a long and lasting impression on their attitude is indicated by the wavery positions the respondents took before and after the lecture program. The genomic condition of a cloned person is a subject matter for discussion as evidenced by the fact that around 40% disagreed and 31% were undecided (Q19).

The technique of cloning has raised many doubts over the traditional view of childbirth. None of the respondents considered cloning as a sexual mode of reproduction. Prior to the teaching session about 76% believed in cloning as an artificial method of reproduction. However a dramatic change was recorded after the teaching program. About 59% considered it as asexual while 15% considered at as a non sexual mode of reproduction (Q29). The prospects of cloning in the mind of respondents is not so clear for many as 30% were ignorant and 45% disagreed when the question to use the technique to overcome imbalance in sex-ratio was taken up (Q22). It is disheartening to note that most educated respondents were ignorant of the recent concept of assisted reproductive technology. They were confusing a technique of contraception such as IUD with that of assisted reproductive technology. Most preferred to have IVF as a accepted method in assisted reproductive technology (Q27).

2. Cloning - For Natural (Human) Resources

Traditionally Indian Society is conservative and hence 60% agreed to natural resource conservation of endangered wild life and re-evolution of beleaguered species through cloning. The survey revealed that traditional values are deeply implanted and difficult to change (Q6). That cloning can decrease the genetic diversity was favoured by 72% of the population. A varied response was recorded after the lecture program which may indicate that while education is necessary it should avoid confusing curricular material. The survey revealed that education on this subject brought about a marginal shift from undecided or agree to strongly disagree (Q7).

3. Cloning - For Commercialization and Reproduction

The question of producing human clones for money has a negative image in that only about 14% of the respondents were agreeable for commercial sale of cloned human beings. It is interesting to note that there was only a marginal incremental change in those who disagreed due to education i.e. there was a rise from 54 to 58%. It is shocking to know that after the lecture program there was a sharp increase from 14 to 31% in the group who favoured this commercial aspect of cloning, a violation of article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Some of this increase came from the 32% who were initially ignorant before the teaching. This position showed that it is highly desirable to evolve a carefully selected educational program (Q24).

The traditional view of bringing forth a child is through family relationships. Unexposed to scientific information of cloning, 64% of the participants agreed that cloning will be a boon to an infertile woman. After the lecture program the disagreed category increased to 49%. Such a shift indicates that some of the Tamilian community although educated can shift back to their values when the pros and cons of a scientific advancement are made known to them (Q1). Although initially a minor percentage favoured commercial use of cloning, the majority of the respondents are highly favourable if cloning is not used for reproduction. The uniformity in response showed the positive attitude towards medical use of cloning (Q8). It is evident that modern assisted reproductive technology introduces further complications in family values. The responses were inconclusive and confusing with regard to the parental affiliation of the cloned child. The group considered both the donor of the ovum and the surrogate mother as possible biological mothers (Q30).

4. Cloning - For Medical Research, Disease Cure and Transplantation

The survey indicated that the respondents were not only conservative but highly cautious that they don't prefer experimentation with the human genome, in the first instance, without obtaining a full and complete knowledge about the human genome itself and its diversity as about 65% of the people agreed (Q26). Producing a headless human for organ retrieval is a gray area in cloning. The population is traditional but at the same time shows a tendency to consider changes in human personality and personhood. Although 54% disagreed with this concept, about 28% do not mind to kill a headless human being for one's own health concern or for capital gain (Q13). If the question is slightly reworded to remove any inhibition of obtaining a headless human being from a zygote; even if the clone is derived from a somatic cell, the same pattern of response was recorded (Q14). The same view was reiterated with a response to the question of considering a cloned human being as a swift human with disease resistance as 46% people disagreed and 28% were ignorant (Q20). The respondents showed that these are undecided areas such as curing genetically inherited disease through cloning is not acceptable as there was a wavery response among the agree and disagree group (Q12).

5. Cloning and Surrogacy

The idea of surrogate motherhood is foreign to Indian mothers. The static response before and after the lecture program being 40% and 44% support respectively suggests that Indian mothers are traditional (Q2). However it is interesting to note that Indian society considers that a child born of a surrogate mother is a normal child as evidenced when 75% people agreed to it (Q4). This shows that they are unwilling to change their attitude towards the normal way of procreation by sexual reproduction and only in extreme cases such as infertility they may accept surrogacy.

6. Cloning - Personal Attitudes

Being traditionally oriented, they consider cloning as an artificial process. But the birth of a child through a surrogate mother is considered normal. When they consider cloning as an artificial means, they also consider a cloned person is not a normal person (Q10). The society is conservative and not willing to change its concept of human-ness. Cloning one's own self is also not acceptable to Indian society as 74% people disagreed (Q17). The majority of the respondents are uncertain of entering into a marital relationship with a cloned human being. The response is consistent with other responses in that they neither consider cloning or the birth of a cloned person as normal (Q18). Such an inhibited view was further strengthened when 70% of the educated respondents disagreed to clone their intelligent child (Q21). This shows that Indian society respects the human values and personhood of being a human. They are cautious about the pros and cons of cloning.

7. Cloning - Ethical Concerns

The Indian attitude towards cloning seems staunch as 75% of the people agreed that a cloned human being is an artificial human being even after a detailed exposition to the technique of cloning (Q3). It shows that the majority of the Indian people are traditional and somewhat dogmatic and unwilling to accept the use of technique for reproduction. However, a small percentage is enthusiastic over the commercial aspect of cloning. After the lecture program 64% of the respondents believed that cloning should neither be used for reproduction nor medical purposes. It shows that Indian attitudes are hesitant to use cloning compared to other assisted reproductive techniques like IVF, GIFT and ICSI which are considered appropriate to use (Q9).

The responses in the parenthood of the cloned persons were ranked. It was found that more than 46% of respondents considered that "no one" can function as a family of cloned humans or both the surrogate mother and donor of the ovum should function as the family of a cloned person. This revives the concept that both persons involved in the birth of a clone play important individual characteristic roles in the personality and behaviour of the cloned persons (Q28).

Discussion

Since ancient times it has been thought that intra-uterine environmental conditions have a major impact on the future development; personality and behaviour of a growing embryo. It is speculated that in the epic Mahabharta, Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna learnt how to move into the Chakravyuha in the womb of his mother. Also in an experiment performed in England, it is proved that the embryo starts paying attention to the outside environment and the activities of the mother at least after 20 weeks of pregnancy. These example confirm that not only the genes carried by the embryo but also the external environment plays an important role in the personality development of the embryo. So it is emphasized that human clones would not strictly be identical, at least a gap of one generation will definitely influence their development as they will face a different environment. Knowingly also, the traditional Indian Community is not ready to give a tacit consent to the technique of cloning because of many other ethical, moral issues and of the rights related to it.

Education on this technique after the lecture program has no doubt brought a marginal shift from the dogmatic view to a little advanced view to use the technique for medical purposes though the percentage is very small. This shows that there is a need for a correct, complete and convincing knowledge to be spread among the people. It is also required that such latest and concerned issues should be selected for curricular material without confusing statements.

Commercialization of cloning even for a good cause, as said by scientists like Dr. Richard Seed, raises a question are we not patenting ourselves for the sake of money? In the countries like America they do not give any exemption for patenting living organisms. So it is required that such laws should be made to avoid the misuse of this technique. The Indian view seems to remain relatively placid over the use of this technique, and it is emphasized to exact legal prohibitions over the commercialization of this technique will also put a question mark on the autonomy of being a human.

The technique of cloning has raised many doubts on the traditional view of childbirth. The Indian community, in particular the Tamilian Community, considers that "Born of a women" is the natural and preferable method of human reproduction. Since the news of "Dolly" becoming a mother through natural way of procreation, it has raised the matter for discussion, that no matter what be the mode of birth, if the individual has potential for normal behaviour and exist normally in the environment, it should or should not be deprived off its rights on the concern of its birth.

The question of categorizing cloning as a natural process or artificial process in difficult to answer. Ian Wilmut while cloning the sheep used the term "asexual". However in the present paper a new generic term "non-sexually sexual" has been introduced taking into considerable the involvement of both a differentiated somatic cell and a gamete.

With the advent of a new and more reliable cloning technique with which more than 50 carbon copies of mice extending upto 3 generations, a question is raised whether cloning could be related to inbreeding, will it divert the genome or maintain or reduce the genomic potential? As it is believed that during the course of evaluation the switch on and switch off of genes is related to the condition of the ovum. It is a subject matter taken into consideration.

Another conflicting issue includes the right to bring up the cloned child especially when the incidents of children like "Jaycee Buzzanca" are heard who are born out of surrogacy and later becoming "No body's child". In such cases children could neither be called as orphans nor be of parents nor of society. This is a mind boggling thought as in vitro fertilization technique is understood to have been socially accepted. There is a question mark over the future of cloned humans. The concept of parenthood needs to be debated and rights to be advocated.

We should also discuss whether we should be subjective or objective while utilizing this raging technique for either purpose. Education is the necessary tool to overcome uncertainty in the responses. The survey has high lighted sensitive areas which need immediate attention? These include the areas where judicial use of cloning would be applicable like use for medical purpose and in extreme cases of infertility. Of course we should avoid the use of this to clone humans. People are also against any alteration in the human genome tentatively, even for creating headless humans to serve as "Organ banks" for organ transplantation. The respondents also see no justification to clone world famous personalities.

Conclusion

The paper concludes with a strong plea for developing global bioethics education to address the scientific cultural needs and growing global social complexities. It also affirms the colossal ethical concerns among the Indian educated community and genuine reasons deeply rooted in the blood which impediments them to give a tacit consent for any scientific developments when extrapolated to humans and humanity. Hence the lack of text books is a major draw back to educate the community ethically. Therefore it is suggested that concerned effort must be made to develop text books as well as to conduct workshops on such important subjects.

Literature
Balinsky, Developmental biology
Darryl R.J. Macer, Shaping Genes (Eubios Ethics Institute 1990).
Darryl R.J. Macer, Attitudes toward Genetic Engineering (Eubios Ethics Institute 1992).
Darryl R.J. Macer, Bioethics for the People by the People (Eubios Ethics Institute 1994).
Nature 385, 27 February 1997.
Nature 388, 3 July 1997.
Science 275, 7 March 1997.
Science 276, 30 May 1997.
The Hindu - 2 Febuary 1998.
The Hindu - 23 March 1998.
The Hindu - 15 July 1998.
The Hindu - 24 July 1998.


Go back to EJAIB 9(3) May 1999
Go back to EJAIB
The Eubios Ethics Institute is on the world wide web of Internet:
http://eubios.info/index.html