Reproductive Cloning – Benefit Or Curse?

The announcement in February 1997 of the birth of Dolly the sheep (1) startled the scientific world and shocked the public. Dolly was a clone – a complete genetic copy of her parent. Cloning a mammal from an adult cell had always been thought impossible. There had been speculation regarding the possibility of reprogramming an adult cell from its differentiated state to a primitive state of totipotency. But this seemed more the realm of science fiction than science.

There was a great outcry from many public sectors, including religious figures, ethicists, and politicians. Many people believed that cloning humans would be the final outrageous outcome of the very slippery slope created by the advent of Dolly, who in fact was a friendly, mild-mannered sheep. Many religious leaders believed that human cloning would be an abomination and cloning itself should be outlawed. The debate over cloning persists and is very much in the news. For more details please visit these sites:-

The notion of human cloning immediately brings to mind well-known works of literature and film. In the dystopia of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World clones are created in vats and used to populate all segments of society. In the 2005 film The Island human clones are created to supply spare parts for wealthy individuals. The clones are fully functioning adults with hopes, wishes, and dreams. But they have no rights and are killed when needed by their respective hosts. The masses of soldiers in Star Wars represent the archetype of everything that is bad about clones. These clones are produced in huge quantities, apparently have no wills of their own, and are used for political purposes and warfare. The Star Wars Clone Wars are the fevered nightmare of opponents to human cloning.

But reproductive cloning could provide a profound benefit to families and individuals. In the United States at least 8% of women have had a medical office visit related to infertility. (2) More than 2 million men in the U.S. have been diagnosed with male infertility. More than 100,000 in vitro fertilization procedures are done in the U.S. each year. Many of these procedures are done with donated eggs and/or donated sperm.

Reproductive cloning would allow a couple to have a child genetically related to both parents. For example, the father would provide the cell to be cloned. The mother would provide the egg which would be fertilized with the nucleus of the father’s reprogrammed cell. Similarly, reproductive cloning would allow single-sex couples to have a child genetically related to one or both partners, depending on the circumstances.

Clinical reproductive cloning will not be available, if ever, for many years. Much research needs to be done. The ethical, legal, and social questions regarding reproductive cloning are profound. As a society we need to continue to debate the issues and explore possibilities and alternatives. We need to do these things in advance of scientific developments.


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