The Dilemma of Cloning
Man is quickly approaching the reality of cloning a human being. Once regarded as a fantastic vision dreamed up by imaginative novelists, the possibility of creating a person in the absence of sexual intercourse has crossed over the boundaries of science fiction and into our lives. While genetic engineering has helped improve the quality of life for many people, it poses many ethical and moral questions that few are prepared to answer.
The most current and volatile debate surrounding human cloning seemed to surface when the existence of Dolly, a clone-sheep, was announced on February 23, 1997 by Ian Wilmut and colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. The cloning technique, which had never been successfully performed in mammals before, involved transplanting the genes of an adult male sheep with a differentiated somatic cell and transferring them into a female sheep's egg, of which the nucleus had been removed. Since Dolly contained the DNA of only one parent, she was deemed the "delayed" genetic twin of a single adult sheep (1). Since the spring of 1998, several other genetic clones have been announced, including the Massachusetts cell research firm's claim of "designer cattle" and the talk of a cloned mouse in June (2). Skeptics wondered, if such animals as mice and sheep can be cloned, what frontiers remains except for.....us? Recent legislation by the Clinton Administration, following the announcement of Dolly's birth put a ban on any funding whatsoever in support of science dictated toward human cloning. "Personally, I believe that human cloning raises deep concerns, given our cherished concepts of faith and humanity", the President said in a June 1997 national radio address (3). But while most research facilities maintain that human cloning is still several years down the line, supporters claim there is a great need to allow scientists to continue exploring the many positive possibilities associated with cloning. According to Mark D. Eibert, an attorney in San Manteo, California, there a great need for such support:
Fifteen percent of Americans suffer infertility, much of which cannot be cured by medicine. For example, a Consumer Reports study of fertility showed that IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) and similar technologies work with only 25% of patients
In a world blessed by cloning technology, however, viable eggs and sperm would not be needed to conceive a child-any body cell would do....Thus, cloning offers infertile couples something everyone else takes for for granted-the chance to have, raise and love their own genetic children (4).
Mr. Eibert is not alone in his support of continued funds for human cloning. Many researchers are concerned that laws prohibiting its research will threaten important discoveries-especially in the area of infertility. On March 23, 1998, the New England Journal of Medicine called the ban on cloning "seriously misguided". Also, they believe that the...