Ethics of Human Cloning
On February 3, 1997, Ian Wilmut of the Rosilin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland cloned the 1
mammal, a Scottish ewe named Dolly. Wilmut took somatic cells from the mammary tissue
of a Finn Dorset ewe and placed them into a culture low in nutrients and containing egg cells
taken from a Scottish Blackface ewe. He added two pulses of electricity to the solution, one to
fuse the DNA of the mammary and egg cells and another to trigger cell division and
development. Once the fused cells had divided, he employed techniques of embryo transfer to
implant the embryo into the uterus of a third sheep. The ewe gave birth to Dolly, who was the
genetic twin of the Finn Dorset ewe that supplied the mammary cells.
Although critics were skeptical of Wilmut’s achievement, cloning was demonstrated again in
1998 in the laboratories of Ryuzo Yanagimachi at the University of Hawaii. Yanagimachi and
his team produced over 50 mouse clones, and some of these clones were clones of clones. The
techniques he used for cell merging and division were slightly different than those used by
Wilmut, but the overall result was the same.
To date, scientists have succeeded in cloning cows, goats, pigs, cats and dogs.
Clones have been shown to suffer from a variety of developmental abnormalities, and
scientists are still not certain what the causes of such abnormalities are.
Dolly did not suffer
from any developmental abnormalities but died of a lung infection at the age of 6.
It is important to remember that two genetically identical organisms are not literally
“identical”. A variety of factors (developmental, environmental, diet, etc.) contribute to the
development of an individual and presumably the original individual and its clone will differ
in very significant ways.
On the one hand, cloning appeals to some people because they want someone or something
identical to someone or something else (e.g., to themselves, to a spouse, child, or pet that they
have lost). Opponents of cloning oppose it precisely because of the worry of what kinds of
things will be lost if identical replicas of animals, especially human beings, can be produced.
For example, family relations will be complicated (consider Kass’ claims), the original person
will be somehow less unique, which could be damaging, the potential clone will be less
unique and may be treated differently or there may be expectations for it that will not be met
due to differences in its development from the original, which might damage the quality of
life of the clone.
After Dolly was made public, worries began to ensue as to the possibility of cloning human
beings. President Clinton spoke out immediately against the practice of human cloning.
FDA has explicitly forbid the practice of human cloning.