Future technology brings about moral questions
As scientific technology continues to evolve, new procedures and breakthroughs are being made. However, certain practices draw questions for their ethical implications. One such capability is the act of cloning biological organisms, particularly humans.
Campus science teacher Karen Walters, PhD, explains benefits of using cloning in research.
“Cloning can be a very powerful technique to use in research because then you can be doing research on identical organisms,” Walters said. “But just like we don’t consider human beings as good research subjects, I think cloning humans is, at least for me, stepping out of my comfort zone. You can see in plants and in research organisms how if you’ve got something really good you want to work with, it’s nice to repeat that and have that consistency.”
“You’ve developed that really awesome banana, now you repeat,” Walters said. “But it also makes the banana vulnerable because if there’s a disease that kills that one banana, it’ll kill all the bananas. So we are messing with the natural order of things there.”
You’re taking on the position of being in charge of another human life, and who gave you that right? God gives life. I don’t think people have the ability to be responsible for others like that. We’re not supposed to cross the boundary of the sanctity of human life. When you start talking about creating human beings for your own purpose, for research or therapies, that’s taking human life and subjecting it to your will in a way we weren’t designed to do. — Dr. Karen Walters
Therapeutic cloning is used in order to generate cells, tissues and whole organs to treat patients who otherwise cannot obtain transplants or other forms of medical help.
Sophomore Bekah Micu finds the way therapeutic cloning can help in the medical fascinating.
“I think it’s super interesting that we can take our DNA and be able to replicate it,” Micu said, “The way this new technology is able to help people in such a crazy way is actually really interesting.”
For instance, take an egg and remove the nucleus that contains chromosomes. Then take DNA from an adult cell and place it in the enucleated egg. The adult cell nucleus then merges with the enucleated egg. The egg is stimulated and is either electrically or chemically reconstructed to make it divide and become an embryo.
At this point, the DNA from the adult cell is ready to start over and be reprogrammed. Instead of being specialized, like a skin cell or a liver cell, the cell no longer focuses on that specific part of the DNA. It is now reprogrammed and ready to start over in a new spot. You can restart and regenerate a new cell population.
Reproductive cloning offers a potential solution to parents who can not procreate. Parents do not need to rely on the old fashioned way of making babies; it allows more options.
The most common reproductive cloning method is somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). In SCNT, a nucleus is removed from an egg, and a body cell is taken from an adult individual who is to be cloned. DNA is extracted from that body cell and inserted into the egg where it is then induced to divide either electrically or chemically, commencing the development of a new embryo: a clone.
Going a step further, once one or more embryo is formed, they can be stored in a “frozen bank”, available to start developing when the parents want. Theoretically, parent’s children could be planned out.
This is where ethical objections play in. Some believe a potential life is destroyed when an embryo is used for medicinal purposes. This leads into the idea that each human life is sacred and that we all have souls. Some believe this technology undermines “God’s place” as we take the position of unnaturally creating life into our own hands.
Walters thinks reproductive cloning causes ethical problems when you take on the position of giving another human life, as a human.
“It does raise huge ethical issues,” Walters said. “You’re taking on the position of being in charge of another human life, and who gave you that right? God gives life. I don’t think people have the ability to be responsible for others like that. We’re not supposed to cross the boundary of the sanctity of human life. When you start talking about creating human beings for your own purpose, for research or therapies, that’s taking human life and subjecting it to your will in a way we weren’t designed to do.”
Questions about the social status of a clone have been brought up. What will their status look like in society and who “owns” the clone? Some ethicists believe clones may be treated as second class citizens, created with the purpose of donating organs. If people are to be cloned, will they receive the same rights as any other human being?
Against reproductive cloning, junior Reese Brown believes it oversteps our boundaries as humans when we create anew person in an unnatural way.
“Making a new person from a person that is already living in the way cloning does just isn’t right,” Brown said. “I think human cloning has its ups and downs, but it’s major down would be that it would make people seem so emotionally unattached to other people. But the up would be allowing parents who can’t have kids a solution.”
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) January 24, 2018
Understand that human cloning does not produce an exact copy of the person cloned. Cloning copies itself and creates duplicate DNA/genes. The clone will grow in a different environment with different experiences and opportunities which shapes an individual’s ongoing behavior and psychology. Additionally, cloning technology is unreliable. It took 434 attempts before an embryo was successful in cloning Dolly the sheep, the first successfully cloned mammal.
Ethical questions surrounding cloning will probably affect those in younger generations as the technology becomes increasingly advanced. By the time current high schoolers are of age to have children, they may face the decision of reproductive cloning.
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