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Bioethics of Cloning

In the concept of bioethics the words “bio” (“life, living”) and “ethics” paradoxically connect. Ethics is a philosophical knowledge, a division of the philosophical science of morality, of the public consciousness that regulates relations between people from the standpoint of good and evil, proper and improper behavior. Bioethics arises as an attempt to develop biomedicine guidelines, following which one could prevent the negative consequences of development of medical and biological sciences, the use of medical technologies to the detriment of both the individual and humanity as a whole. Bioethics is just beginning to unfold both as a special knowledge and as a social institution (Vaughn, 2016). In the future, the role of bioethics will increase, since it is a practice that leads each person to make decisions that are connected with the boundaries of their own existence in difficult, vital situations. In the history of culture there were relatively few situations before, when an ordinary person found himself in a situation of difficult life choices. Modern development of science, however, required such a choice to be made from everyone, and it is virtually impossible for a modern person (Vaughn, 2016). Bioethics teaches the way in which this choice must be made. Cloning is believed to be useful thing for the humankind, as it can help to make the life of the members of society better, but in the same time, some individuals are afraid of it and are sure that it is dangerous for all the people.

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Definition, History and Examples of Cloning

Since the invention of the term “clone” in 1963, genetic engineering has experienced several colossal leaps: specialists learned how to extract genes, developed a polymerase chain reaction method, decoded the human genome and cloned a number of mammals. The word “cloning” comes from the Greek word “????” – “twig, offspring”. This term describes a number of diverse processes that allow to create a genetic copy of the biological organism or its parts (“Special Issue”, 2015). The appearance of such a copy may differ from the original, but from the point of view of DNA it is always completely identical. The blood group, the properties of the tissues, the sum of qualities and predispositions remain the same as in the first case.

The history of cloning began more than a hundred years ago, in 1901, when the German embryologist Hans Spemann managed to divide the two-cell embryo of the salamander in half, and grow a full-fledged organism from each half. Thus, scientists learned that in the early stages of development each cell of the embryo contains the necessary amount of information (Hurlbut, 2017). A year later, another specialist, a US geneticist Walter Sutton suggested that this information is in the cell nucleus. Hans Spemann took this information into account and 12 years later, in 1914, successfully conducted the experience of transplanting the nucleus from one cell to another. 24 years later, in 1938, he suggested that the nucleus can be transplanted into a denuclearized egg (“Special Issue”, 2015). Then the development of cloning practically stopped until 1958 when the British biologist John Gurdon succeeded in cloning a clawed frog. To do this, he used undamaged cores of somatic (not participating in reproduction) cells in the body of the tadpole. In 1963 another biologist, John Haldane, first used the term “clone”, describing the work of Gurdon. At the same time, the Chinese embryologist Tung Dizhou conducted an experiment to transfer the DNA of an adult male carp into a female egg and received a viable fish. Consequently, the scientist was given a title of “the father of Chinese cloning.” After that, several successful experiments were conducted on the cloning of living organisms, carrots grown from an isolated cell (1964), mice (1979), sheep, whose organisms were created from embryonic cells (1984), two cows (1986), two more sheep named Megan and Morag (1995), and finally Dolly (1996) (“Special Issue”, 2015). However, for scientists, Dolly became more of a question than a solution to the scientific problem.

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It is essential to understand the difference between the cloned copy and the original. Identical twins appear when the developing embryo divides into two (or four) embryos and each of them subsequently independently develops into an adult organism in the womb of the mother. In general, clones are very similar to identical twins, only they are not born simultaneously, but at different times by different mothers and can appear after the biological death of their original (Krimsky, 2015). A clone is created based on a genetic program – DNA, which is contained in the cell of an adult or deceased organism. All cells of our body are the descendants of a fertilized egg that originated at the time of our conception. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the cells of our body are completely identical. Whenever a cell divides, genes, DNA molecules are copied inside it (Hurlbut, 2017). During copying, there are always errors, mutations – just as typos that occur when you rewrite a long text. When dividing an organism cell like that of a human or a sheep, about 50 new mutations that do not exist in the DNA of the parent cell appear spontaneously in the DNA of the daughter cells. Thus, the udder cell genes from which Dolly was derived are in fact not completely identical to the egg genes from which her mother developed (“Special Issue”, 2015). After Dolly fish, frogs, rodents (rats and mice), dogs and cats, pigs, horses and cows were cloned. On January 24, it became known about the cloning of primates, long-tailed macaques. In general, this procedure is applicable to any organism, just in each specific case it takes a long time to select the optimal conditions (Hurlbut, 2017). There are no fundamental problems in the cloning of people. If to put such a task, there will be a necessity to optimize experiments on placing genetic material from adult cells in an egg that is devoid of its genetic material (“Special Issue”, 2015). However, cloning people is prohibited because of ethical problems.

Arguments for Cloning

As for cloning, there are a lot of disputes and discussions, so even the relevance of this topic is proved by a simple example – the number of existing films and serials about cloning (“Jurassic Park”, “X-Files”, “Aliens”, “Clone” .). Cloning organs and tissues is the number one task in the field of transplantology, traumatology and other areas of medicine and biology (Krimsky, 2015). When transplanting a cloned organ, one should not think about suppression of the rejection reaction and possible consequences in the form of cancer that has developed against the background of immunodeficiency. Cloned organs will be a salvation for people caught in car accidents or some other catastrophes, or for people who need radical help because of the diseases of the elderly (a bad condition of heart, a sick liver, etc.). Cloning will make it possible to cure severe genetic diseases (Vaughn, 2016). If the genes that determine any such illness are contained in the father’s chromosomes, then the core of her own somatic cell is transplanted into the mother’s egg, and then a child will appear without dangerous genes, being an exact copy of the mother. If these genes are contained in the mother’s chromosomes, then the nucleus of the somatic cell of the father will be moved to her egg cell – a healthy child will appear, a copy of the father. Lovers of all kinds of exoticism have probably always existed among the human race, and in the field of cloning there are similar lovers of exotics. Some will wish to see their own copy, their bodily “alter ego” during their lifetime. Others will want to “reborn” in a different historical era: 50 to 100 years later (“Special Issue”, 2015). A more modest but no less important task of cloning is the regulation of the gender of farm animals and the cloning in them purely human genes, “therapeutic proteins”, which are used to treat humans (Vaughn, 2016). For example, hemophiliacs who suffer from mutations in the gene that codes for the blood-restoring protein (“factor IX”). Today these proteins are extracted from the blood of donors, and those are different, including those infected with the AIDS virus. That is why hemophiliacs are considered a “risk group” for AIDS. In the latest issue of 1997, the magazine Science reported the cloning of six sheep by American scientists, three of which carried the human factor IX gene (“Special Issue”, 2015). The heroine was sheep Polly, whose gene was actively working. Considering the experience of the Scots, the Americans modified the cloning method somewhat, using the nuclei of embryonic, i.e. embryonic, fibroblasts-cells that produce connective tissue taken from an adult organism (Hurlbut, 2017). Thus, they dramatically increased the effectiveness of the method, and also facilitated the task of introducing an “alien” gene, since in the culture of fibroblasts it is much easier and cheaper to do this.

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Cloning of human biological material in the coming decades, nevertheless, can still prove useful and lose its “criminal” mystical and ethical component. Modern technologies for preserving cord blood allow people to take stem cells from it to create organs for transplantation. Such organs are ideal for a person, because they carry in themselves his or her own genetic material and are not rejected by the body. In fact, for such a procedure, there is no need to recreate the fetus. Experiments to develop this technology have already been conducted in 2006. British scientists managed to grow a small liver from cord blood cells of a baby conceived and born in the usual way. This happened a few months after its birth. The organ happened to be small, only 2 cm in diameter, however, its tissues were in a proper condition (“Special Issue”, 2015). Recreation of human biomaterial for therapeutic purposes is permitted only in the United States, India, the United Kingdom and parts of Australia. Technologies for preserving cord blood are often used today, but so far scientists have considered it only as a potential means of combating type I diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and not as a possible resource for creating organs for transplantation.

In fact, the only purpose of cloning, which is not limited to ethics at the moment, is the reproduction of extinct or endangered species. In addition, if still to reject the assumption that the fetus is already a full-fledged person, cloning can be used to reproduce and replace damaged or lost tissues and organs (Krimsky, 2015). Firstly, they will not be rejected by the body, since, in fact, they are person’s own tissues. Secondly, this process will save a huge number of lives, since people will no longer have to wait for the appearance of donor organs. Finally, partial cloning will cure some diseases that until now have been incurable, as tissues and organs that could not be replaced by strangers, for example, neurons, were damaged (Hurlbut, 2017). This method will cure including mental illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Arguments Against Cloning

Representatives of major religions oppose human cloning. In their view, artificially creating life, scientists are trying to remake the mechanisms that, from the point of view of religion, are created by God. The former head of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II is against experiments with human cloning, as he said that the path indicated by Christ is the way of respect of the member of society, and any research that will be done in any sphere should aim at knowing it in its truth, as well as to serve him, without manipulating him according to work, which is sometimes arrogantly considered to be better than the project of the Creator himself (“Special Issue”, 2015). For a Christian, the mystery of being is so deep that it is inexhaustible for human cognition. Fears of believers and church ministers are caused not only by the fact that in such experiments a person steps outside the traditional ways of reproducing his species and, in fact, assumes the role of God, but also that even in the context of one attempt to clone tissues using embryonic cells, several embryos must be created, most of which will die or be killed. Unlike the cloning process, which is predicted not to be mentioned in the Bible, there is information about the birth of a person’s life in canonical Christian texts (“Special Issue”, 2015). Because of this, the destruction or death of an embryo can be considered a murder, and this contradicts one of the biblical commandments: “Do not kill.”

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Cloning of farm animals is not dangerous, but with the appropriate development of technology it is convenient and profitable. The problem arises if to start thinking about human cloning. With the animal it is easy, for example, the person can be sure that steak’s quality will be the same for decades. Usually, as a rule, majority of people do not care about the question whether the cow that became the source of the steak had feeling or thoughts. However, we perceive people as individuals. In fact, the personality is formed not only by genetics, but also by the upbringing, time and place in which a person was born and formed, by various random causes and encounters and other factors (Vaughn, 2016). Therefore, human clones will not be the same person. For example, identical twins resemble each other externally, but, of course, they are different people with their own lives, addictions, different dates, places and causes of death. The result of possible reproductive cloning of representatives of the species Homo sapiens, which humanity can face, is unachievable from the point of view of bioethics (Krimsky, 2015). The matter is that when it comes to reproductive cloning, it is meant not only to obtain an exact genetic copy of one of the representatives of Homo sapiens, but to form some important personality traits that, of course, depend not solely on genetics but also on the effect of the social environment that is unique. This is not only about the ethical risks arising from the use of cloning technologies, for example, increasing the risk of mutations. The main problem is the impossibility of reproducing an integral individual with the totality of all the genetically programmed and socially generated characteristics (Krimsky, 2015). Bioethics negatively concerns the issues of reproductive cloning, because it contradicts such key principles as, for example, the autonomy of the individual. This science can break this principle not only with cloning, but also with any manipulation of human DNA. Besides, there may be a conflict between the interests of living people and future generations of mankind. The question of the status of new objects, in particular the relationship of parenthood, kinship, their relationship with the” original personality “has not been resolved. Neither legal nor property issues are outlined (Krimsky, 2015). The emergence of such situations severely limits the transfer of advanced technologies developed at the natural-science level into the sphere of social practice.

Generally, cloning cannot completely repeat the consciousness of a person, as not every part of the process of its formation depends on genetics. As a consequence, it is impossible to be sure in the complete identity of the both donor and cloned personalities, and therefore the cloning’s practical value is generally lower than it was described by different science fiction writers who saw it differently in their minds. It is essential to understand that for all the humankind it remains unclear how the place for a cloned person in society should be created. Obviously, person that was born on the basis of donor genetic material would require his or her own place and special attitude with the emergence of special legal and public niches (Krimsky, 2015). Its existence would change the functioning of the familiar system of such things in life as family, as well as social relations in a higher way than, for example, registration of same-sex marriages (“Special Issue”, 2015). There is one more aspect, warning about biological danger. That is, according to some scientists, in the long term, cloning can lead to irreparable genetic changes in humans, which can play both in our favor and against us. The latter means that the disappearance of mankind on Earth is possible, due to unpredictable adjustments of the gene pool of the cloned individual.

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Another problem is the uncertainty of the success of each cloning. A copy of a person can happen to be a monster. If a clone is recognized as a person, and this monster should be legally recognized as a full member of society, the responsibility for the result of cloning must therefore be assumed by all of humanity. One cannot exclude the possibility that cloning technology can lead to appearance of dangerous people who decide to replicate their kind. Even some dictators of countries, using their power, will be able to create their own copies with the help of this method (“Special Issue”, 2015). Such cases in the history of mankind are known without cloning (it means external resemblance), and with this method it will be even more terrible. Finally, it is simply inhuman to clone people to use their organs for transplantation to sick people, because they are also people.


One of the main tasks of bioethics should be an attempt to awaken a sense of responsibility for the social forms in which these situations arise and unfold in modern society. The scientists’ cloning (obtaining genetic copies) of animals poses the question of the admissibility and probable outcomes of human cloning. The realization of this idea, which is met with protest from many people around the world, can become destructive for society. The main goal of human cloning is to obtain own embryonic stem cells, as well as organs and tissues grown from such cells. In general, it is difficult to understand whether cloning is a good or a bad idea. From the point of view of cloning of individual organs, this procedure is more justified than others, as it can allow to increase the life expectancy, survival, and endurance of the human body.

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