Moral Arguments on Cloning


Ethics and science are at ground zero of human cloning.

Earlier this year, an ethicist and scientist examined three moral arguments related to human cloning in a column on the MSNBC Web site.

The ethicist is Glenn McGee, editor of The Human Cloning Debate. He is also the Breaking Bioethics columnist for MSNBC.com. He serves on the staff of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and has written for BCE.

The scientist is Ian Wilmut, the Scottish biologist who in 1997 successfully cloned Dolly the sheep.

McGee and Wilmut explored human cloning through three different human reproduction models: the reproductive freedom model; the pediatric model; and the adoption model. 

The reproductive model relates to "the right to choose one's progeny." It is the right to reproductive freedom without state interference.

"The central tenet of reproductive freedom is the fairly obvious fact that the reproductive life is central to self-identity, flourishing, and free expression more generally for individuals and families," they wrote.

Advocates of this model hold that it would be discriminatory and inappropriate for the government to restrict human cloning for individuals and families who are infertile.

Unlike the reproductive model, the pediatric model focuses on society's responsibility to care for children, not the rights of procreators.

"Parents ought not expose future children to the sorts of hazards experienced by the first offspring in animal human cloning experiments," McGee and Wilmut wrote.

"The litmus test for human cloning, from the pediatric perspective, is the interest of the clone," they wrote. "If it can be argued that the human child born through a new reproductive technology will be significant[ly] imperiled in a preventive way, those who argue for the interest of the clone will hold that the procedure was unwarranted."

McGee and Wilmut argued that "neither the pediatric nor reproductive rights model speaks to the question of how to regulate or debate human reproductive technology."

The adoption model recognizes the reproductive rights of parents and the responsibility to protect children, even future children. This model "can move the debate about cloning and new reproductive technologies from its present, highly politicized rancor into a more constructive arena in which interdisciplinary and bipartisan consensus may be possible."

Since the process of adoption is a unique way to enter a family (as cloning would be), McGee and Wilmut maintain that this model "gives communal imprimatur to the creation of a family."

While McGee and Wilmut support a "short-term ban on clinical human cloning," their concern in the article was "to argue for a way in which human cloning restrictions might take shape."

Robert Parham is BCE's executive director.

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