Human cloning in the form of identical twins is the closest comparison that we have to this scientific concept at this time. Artificial cloning processes have yet to be developed, and they may never be brought to light because of the numerous ethical and moral concerns involved with the technology that would allow a genetically identical copy of an existing or previously existing individual to be grown.
Even when there are naturally duplicated “clones” that share a nearly identical genetic profile, they are not exact duplicates. Each person has different experiences, thoughts, and perspectives that combine to create a unique individual. Even people who share a similar environment with similar DNA can turn out to be very different individuals.
When looking at the major human cloning pros and cons, it is essential that we balance the need to evolve the scientific processes involved in this artificial task while addressing the ethical and moral concerns which currently exist when manually creating or changing a genome. These are the crucial points to review.
List of the Pros of Human Cloning
1. Human cloning could resolve fertility issues.
Couples who are unable to naturally conceive will be able to create children to whom they are a genetic relative thanks to human cloning. Infertility could become an issue of the past because doctors could take the genetic profile of each parent, infuse it into an embryo outside of the body, and potentially grow the fetus in a laboratory environment. This process could help countries such as Japan who are struggling with low birth rates right now.
The BBC reported in late 2018 that there was a remarkable decline in fertility rates in the developed world. In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children during their lifetime. In 2018, the fertility rate was just 2.4 children per woman. In the UK, that rate is just 1.7 children. When a country drops below 2.1 children per family, the population will eventually shrink.
2. Human cloning could lead to medical advancements.
The processes of human cloning could help to create new advances in medical science. By creating a duplicated individual, it would become possible to share genetic material which could help to prevent or cure diseases that may have a negative impact on that person’s life. It could create a new line of research that is equivalent to what we see today with embryonic stem cell therapy potential.
3. Human cloning unlocks the benefits of genetic modification.
Human cloning requires a precise form of genetic engineering. Using our current technologies, we would implement enzymes from bacteria to locate genes with in our DNA to create the necessary modifications for duplication. This technology has been in use since 2015, so it is not something from which we are completely unfamiliar. We know of five potential benefits to genetic modification within the human genome that are worth exploring.
• It could help us to begin curing genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis or thalassaemia.
• Genetic modification could also help us deal with complex diseases such as schizophrenia or heart disease.
• Human cloning could help us discover new ways to combat the natural aging process, including potential opportunities to stop it.
• Babies would no longer need to go through a genetic lottery before birth to know what their human potentiality would be during their lifetime.
• It could begin to reduce the overall cost of disease treatments around the world.
4. Human cloning could help us to recover faster from devastating injuries.
Interventional orthopedics is a non-surgical option which uses a patient’s own cells to help repair the damage that occurs during a traumatic injury. Sprains or strains to a ligament will typically heal in 4 to 6 weeks with rest, but when a tear occurs, the primary treatment option (especially with an ACL) is to apply a tissue graft at a steeper angle to encourage the healing process.
The current procedure increases a patient’s risk for osteoarthritis and cartilage damage later in life. Through the processes of human cloning, the cells can begin to rebuild on their own. It creates an opportunity for a faster recovery because doctors are duplicating the exact cells that the body requires.
5. Human cloning reduces issues of socioeconomic equality.
According to the Science X Network, up to 10% of children in the developed world are currently taking medication such as Ritalin to help with their poor self-control issues. This medication makes it possible for today’s kids to improve their educational prospects because they have more control over their behaviors. Education, special services, diet, and other social interventions are also used to correct the natural inequality that occurs through the natural reproduction process.
Moving toward human cloning would allow the next generation of children to require fewer interventions throughout their life because they would be genetically equipped to handle the challenges which might come their way.
6. Human cloning could eliminate defective genes and chromosomes.
The statistics on genetic diseases are particularly grim in today’s world. About 1% of the population in the United States will develop a specific disorder with a genetic foundation at some point during their life. Approximately 1 in 100,000 people in the U.S. have Syndrome A at the present time, with 100,000 children worldwide dealing with Syndrome B. The current leading cause of newborn death is due to birth defects. All of these issues could be reduced or eliminated if we were to embrace the benefits that human cloning provides.
7. Human cloning would allow great minds to continue benefiting humankind.
Imagine what Albert Einstein would’ve been able to accomplish if he had 100 years to work instead of a few decades during a single lifetime. Where would we be today if Leonardo da Vinci had access to modern technology with his impressive imagination? Because of human cloning, we would be able to set the stage for humankind’s greatest minds to continue doing their work, albeit as new individuals, which would help our society advance at an even more rapid pace.
Significant contributions to science, music, literature, and the arts are possible because of the technologies involved in human cloning.
8. Human cloning would help us to create more stem cells.
Stem cells are what help to build, maintain, and repair the body throughout our lives. There are processes that these cells perform naturally, allowing them to be manipulated by doctors to repair diseased or damage to organs and tissues. When they are transferred from one person to another, then the recipient sees these cells as being foreign bodies, triggering an immune response. Cloning is a way to create genetically identical cells that could help to create better health outcomes for people, especially if they suffer from a rare genetic disease.
9. Human cloning could eliminate viral epidemics.
The primary goal of treating a virus such as HIV/AIDS is to suppress the mechanisms involved that harm human health. Human cloning could help to replicate a natural resistance to these diseases, disorders, and conditions when discovered in the general population. For as long as disease has existed on our planet, there have been a select few people who have a natural resistance to specific illnesses. A mutation of the CCR5 gene, for example, creates a natural resistance to HIV.
Some people naturally resist the influenza virus better than others. Researchers even found that a group of women in West Africa remained perfectly healthy despite repetitive exposure to the Ebola virus. Human cloning would allow us to take advantage of these natural immunities to create new vaccines, medical treatments, or even children in future generations who would not be forced to struggle with such devastating illnesses.
10. Human cloning could adapt our population to changing planetary conditions.
The processes of evolution allow humankind to begin adapting to changing conditions on our planet. Future generations may be able to adapt to a warming world thanks to the slow adaptations of our genetic profile to this shift. Human cloning could speed up this process to help save lives that would normally be lost through the process of natural selection. We would be able to take the genetic profile of those who are the most resistant to any change, duplicate it, and then spread it to the rest of the population.
11. Human cloning could lead to advancements in organ transplantation.
There are over 100,000 people on organ transplantation wait lists in the United States right now. Roughly 10,000 individuals are waiting for a critical organ, such as a heart. Through the processes of human cloning, it may become possible to duplicate a patient’s needed organ in a laboratory setting to create a viable outcome. This process would also reduce the immune response that occurs after this procedure takes place because the new organ would be based on the cells of the individual instead of a random donation.
12. Human cloning could help us understand the reasons why spontaneous abortions occur.
Spontaneous abortion, which is the medical term for a pregnancy loss or “miscarriage,” is the natural death of a fetus or embryo before it can survive independently. Approximately 80% occur in the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy, with about half of the incidents involving a chromosomal abnormality of some type. Among women who are currently pregnant, up to 1 in 5 may experience this outcome. The processes behind human cloning would help us to understand more about these abnormalities, and then correct them to prevent future losses.
List of the Cons of Human Cloning
1. Human cloning might cause people to age faster instead of slower.
As cells begin to age, the information they obtain is imprinted within their physical structure. When a person begins to grow up, they generate genetic information that their genome maintains. Although we know that cloning is possible, what we do not understand at this present time is whether the information contained within our DNA could cause an artificial duplicate to develop more rapidly than normal.
If genetic age imprinting does apply to the human genome, then providing embryos with older cells could create issues with premature aging. This process could lead to new genetic diseases, potentially increasing the risk for premature death.
2. Human cloning would change how we perceive individuality.
Human cloning creates two or more individuals with the same genetic profile. Each person would have their own brains and bodies, which means they would be like any other family member within a specific genetic profile. Although each person will develop uniquely based on their circumstances, there would still be issues with individuality because of the physical similarities that exist. Other people who are not involved with the cloning process could begin to treat those who are differently within society, creating a new social class reserved only for those who are genetic duplicates of an “authentic” human.
3. Human cloning would only be available to the wealthy initially.
Although human cloning will eventually help everyone at some level, the first procedures would be available only to those with enough money to take advantage of his potential benefits. There is a general rule in the humankind that says those who have power will do whatever it takes to maintain it. Even if the technologies become affordable to everyone, those who received the benefits first will already have a distinct advantage over those who did not.
We would still have our socioeconomic divides in place, even with this science, because those with money could afford more features, add-ons, or processes than those who are struggling to put food on their table.
4. Human cloning would face the same dangers as animal cloning.
It requires over 100 embryos to create one viable animal clone in many circumstances. Although scientists have successfully brought back an extinct species through the technologies and understanding of the research in this field, the results were less than spectacular. The bucardo, an extinct wild goat, only lived for about 10 minutes after it reached a stage of meaningful life. That is why this process is illegal in most parts of the world today, relying on the research in cloning stem cells as a way to advance the science instead of duplicating entire individuals.
5. Human cloning will always have spiritual, moral, and ethical consequences attached to it.
There will always be physical risks to humans associated with the artificial cloning process. People have ethical and moral objections to this science as well. When Dolly the Sheep was born as a clone in 1997, it did not take religious leaders long to speak out against the science from the pulpit. The Roman Catholic church is against human cloning of any kind, and they have held that position since 1987. Jewish leaders do not necessarily see a fertilized embryo as having full human status.
These debates will never go away. Some people have no problem with the idea of creating human clones. Others will be fundamentally opposed to this science for a lifetime. This difference of opinion would create additional rifts in society that could become problematic in the future.
6. Human cloning attempts have been mostly unsuccessful.
When we look at the processes of genetic treatments and their outcomes, more than 90% of the efforts taken to treat humans have resulted in failure. Even when there is a successful medical treatment using genetic techniques, the individual typically needs to keep taking their treatment over the course of their entire life to continue experiencing the benefits of this technology and research. This disadvantage may go away as our understanding of this topic increases, but it is something that we must consider before advancing to the next steps as well.
7. Human cloning could contaminate our DNA diversity.
Although newborns go through a series of “chance” developments during their embryonic development stage, having a higher level of genetic diversity within human populations is beneficial to the overall health of our species. When we stay locked in closed genetic groups, then our DNA becomes contaminated with higher levels of mutations. This outcome creates a higher risk of disease later in life.
We have already seen this issue play out with the Ashkenazi Jewish population. There are five common genetic diseases which are much more prevalent in their community than in general humankind. Cystic Fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, Familial Dysautonomia, Spinal Muscular atrophy, and Gaucher disease are all severe issues with a prevalence rate as high as 1 in 10.
8. Human cloning could lead to exploitation.
The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity suggest that one of the most significant disadvantages of human cloning would be how it could lead to a new exploitation of women. Scientists would need to manufacture enough cloned embryos to create a sufficient number of stem cell lines that are viable. Women would need to be injected with medication that would help them to ovulate rapidly, and then undergo an invasive procedure to extract the eggs. Even under current circumstances, up to 5% of patients experience hyperstimulation that leads to ongoing abdominal pain and even infertility in rare cases.
9. Human cloning would initially target women who are struggling financially.
The women who would be willing to take on the health risks involved with egg harvesting procedures are those who are struggling financially. These women are not seeking to have children. They want the money associated with the procedure instead. Advanced Cell Technology paid up to $4,500 to each woman who donated eggs for their failed cloning experiments already. Amping up the research in this field would require an approach that was similar as a way to access the genetic materials that are necessary.
10. Human cloning creates people as a means to an end.
It is unethical to view humans, regardless of their age, as a means to an end. Even people who support the development of stem cells and embryonic research are opposed to the idea of creating embryos specifically for the purpose of research or to produce medical outcomes for another person. When we start to research human cloning, this is exactly what we are doing. Activated cells are still part of the human experience. Therapeutic cloning might provide medical information that we can use in the future, but the costs may be too high to see any advantages happening from this process.
11. Human cloning would change how we grieve.
Imagine a world where parents lose their child to tragic circumstances. Instead of embracing the natural grieving process, human cloning would suggest that the genetic materials could be used to create a duplicate. Although the clone would be a different individual, some parents may not treat them as such. It could create shifts in our society that alter the very way we approach the unforeseen moments of life. There is even the possibility of this science devaluing human life. Did you lose someone you love? Then create another person to limit your emotional reaction.
These human cloning pros and cons are essential to review because science is slowly progressing toward this outcome. It may be a process that becomes available in our lifetimes. When we reach this new plateau, there will be several philosophical and moral questions that each person must answer on their own. Do people have a soul? Is there a God? What happens when we die? If we can begin to find the answers today, then tomorrow’s technology will not experience implementation delays.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.