On February 24, 1997, the world was shocked and fascinated by the announcement of Ian Wilmut and his colleagues. A press release stated that they had successfully cloned a sheep from a single cell of an adult sheep. Since then, cloning has become one of the most controversial and widely discussed topics. The issue that gets the greatest focus is human cloning, and there has been an onslaught of protests and people lobbying for a ban on it. However, there is a real danger that prohibitions on cloning will open the door to inappropriate restrictions on accepted medical and genetic practices. Therefore, the banning of cloning is unjust.
The most popular objection to human cloning is the assumption that science would be playing God if it were to create human clones. This argument refuses to accept the advantage of biological processes and to view the changes of the world. Religious objections were once raised at the prospects of autopsies, anesthesia, artificial insemination, organ transplants, and other acts that seemed to be tampering with divine will. Yet enormous benefits have been gathered by each of these innovations, and they have become a part of human¡¦s daily life. The issue of playing God has already arisen when a doctor selects a patient on a waiting list for transplant and leaves others to die, and when the doctor puts their patient under life support whenever they are in coma or they are near death. The moral issue of cloning is similar to the past issue faced by the society such as nuclear energy, recombinant DNA, and the computer encryption. There have always been religious and moral objections to new technologies and changes merely because they are different and unknown to humans.
The public not only worries about science playing God, but also fears that the cloned child¡¦s autonomy and individuality will be reduced because it will have the same DNA as another person. One of the more eloquently stated fears about the loss of uniqueness is a consideration for the rights of the clone to a unique and untried genotype. Moreover, the cloned individual will be saddled with a genotype that has already lived. He will not be a fully surprise to the world, and other people are most likely to compare his performances in life with that of his clone source. But the child who results from cloning will not be the same person as the clone source, even if the two share many physical characteristics. Its uterine, early childhood, and overall rearing environment and experiences will be different. Given the importance for nurture in making a person who he is, the danger that the person cloned will lack a unique individuality is highly fanciful.
When Ian Wilmut and his colleagues announced they had successfully cloned a sheep, president Clinton immediately banned federal funds from being used for human cloning research, stating that, ¡§Any discovery that touches upon human creation is not simply a matter of scientific inquiry, it is a matter of morality and spirituality as well. Each human life is unique, born of a miracle that reaches beyond laboratory science.¡¨ However, president Clinton has failed to see the benefits of human cloning. Cloning can directly offer a means of curing diseases or often a technique that can extend means to acquiring new data for the sciences of embryology. European researchers reported that they had developed a method using cloning technology that could help many infertile women to have babies; they do this by inserting the nucleus of one woman ¡¥¡¦s egg into another woman¡¦s egg. This would allow an older woman to have a baby that is genetically hers, but using the resources of a younger woman¡¦s egg. Human cloning can also enable couples in, which one party has a serious hereditary disease, to reproduce without transmitting the disease to their offspring. A baby girl is born free of the gene that causes Tay-Sachs disease, even though both her parents are carriers. The reason? In the embryonic cell from which she was cloned, the flawed gene was replaced with normal DNA.
Two years after Ian Wilmut has announced his discovery, a group of European scientists reported that they had cloned six calves using a new technique that allowed the animals to start life biologically younger than the aged cells from which they were derived. Like Dolly, the claves are clones of the original DNA donor, exact genetic copies rather than individual mixtures of male and female DNA. But the cattle also differ from the sheep in one subtle but fundamental way. In Dolly the sheep, scientists found that cloned cells retained the age of the donor. This time, using cow egg cells, researchers modified donor cells in such a way that the egg rejuvenated the new cells and gave them traits of youthful cells. Such techniques might eventually be used to create long-lived body parts from a patient¡¦s own cells. This is one of the many ways in which human cloning can be beneficial to mankind. Dr. Richard Seed, one of the leading proponents of human cloning technology suggests that ¡§Cloning can help reverse ageing by teaching us how to set our age back to 20.¡¨ This is possible because each time a cell is cloned it is treated as a new cell with the age of zero. Therefore, cloning will enable human beings to copy their cells and have the new ones with the age of zero implanted into them when they are older. This will allow humans to live to any age they wanted and eliminate the fear of old age.
Contrary to scientists¡¦ expectations, the birth of Dolly shows that it is possible to reprogram the cell of an adult so that it begins to develop all over again. This newly discovered flexibility means it may have the ability to produce organs or tissues to repair the damaged ones; this will prove an invaluable resource, as there are not enough organs to supply the demand at present. A report has shown that an elderly man develops macular degeneration, a disease that destroys vision. To bolster his failing eyesight, he receives a transplant of healthy retinal tissue cloned from his own cells and cultivated in a lab dish. Not only can the cloned cell repair damaged vision, it can also provide an infusion of fresh bone marrow, and grafts of brand new skin. Unlike cells from an unrelated donor, these cloned cells will incur no danger of rejection; patients will be spared the need to take powerful drugs to suppress the immune system. By combining the technology behind embryonic stem cells and cloning, skin for burnt victims, brain cells for the brain damaged and spinal chord cells for quadriplegics and paraplegics can be grown. Also, conditions such as Alzheimer disease, diabetes, heart failure, degenerative joint disease, and other problems can be made curable as a result of human cloning.
At this early stage in the development of cloning, it is essential to continue the debate about potential uses and harms of cloning, and not hastily enact legislation. A true democratic society should not pass laws outlawing something before there is actual or probable evidence of harm. Though cloning research does present some dangers, it also has many potential benefits and should not be banned simply out of fear of its possible misuses. In such a situation of ongoing debate, Congress should be very slow to restrict the uses of cloning, because they are so intimately involved with personal decisions about family, reproduction and curing diseases. A federal criminal prohibition on human cloning risks depriving infertile couples of a potentially legitimate way of forming families, threatens established practices in medicine and genetic screening. Nothing that is known about human cloning is likely to be used to justify such a step.