Cloning, and Especially Human Term Paper

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Cloning, and especially human cloning, is a hot political topic. Raising a litany of legal and ethnical questions, cloning is also an issue that has become shrouded in fallacy, myth, and misunderstanding. Media attention to cloning has in many cases distorted the issues, making it seem as if science labs are manufacturing monsters and mutants. Moreover, cloning is a broad term that encompasses a range of related yet categorically distinct scientific enterprises. Narrowing the definition of cloning is essential for public policy and legislative intervention. According to the Human Genome Project, cloning can be easily broken down into three types: recombinant DNA cloning; reproductive cloning; and therapeutic cloning. Of the three, the media focuses the most attention on reproductive cloning, the technology used to create Dolly the sheep in 1997. Therapeutic cloning also receives a significant amount of media attention because therapeutic cloning is used to harvest stem cells. Policy analysts and legislators must learn how to distinguish between the different uses and types of cloning, as misinformation, misunderstanding, and informational ambiguity can lead to disastrous policy initiatives.

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Recombinant DNA technology has been used since the 1970s and has become "common practice in molecular biology today" (Human Genome Project). Also known as molecular cloning or gene cloning, DNA cloning implies the transfer of DNA molecules into self-replicating host cells, usually bacterial plasmids. Plasmids are used to "generate multiple copies of the same gene" for research purposes (Human Genome Project). Because recombinant DNA technology does not raise many ethical eyebrows, it has yet to become a significant public policy issue and legislation usually does not address, let alone limit, DNA cloning.

Reproductive Cloning

Term Paper on Cloning, and Especially Human Cloning, Is a Assignment

Reproductive cloning is, however, a controversial political issue. In the wake of the Dolly incident in 1997, California became the first state to ban reproductive cloning. Many states have since followed suit, including Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Virginia (National conference of State Legislatures). South Dakota currently has the toughest anti-cloning laws in place in the country (Johnson). No federal reproductive cloning legislation has passed. The 2001 Weldon-Stupak bill (introduced to the Senate as the Brownback-Landrieu bill) is a conservative measure that would ban any and all nuclear transplantation into human eggs (AAAS). According to the AAAS, sufficient outrage from the scientific community and those in favor of stem cell research has created deadlock in Congress. President Bush has vocally supported the Weldon-Stupak and Brownback-Landrieu bills. The Specter-Feinstein bill offers a compromise, permitting therapeutic cloning but criminalizing human reproductive cloning (AAAS). A lack of legislation does not signal advocacy of human cloning but might indicate the need for further research and clarification of terms.

The National Conference of State Legislatures summarizes reproductive cloning as "cloning to initiate a pregnancy." Although that statement is itself value-laden and potentially emotionally-charged, reproductive cloning does entail embedding a "reconstructed egg" into the uterus of a living female of any animal species (Human Genome Project). The process is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), because the genetic material from the nucleus of a somatic cell (any adult body cell) is transferred to an egg. The nucleus and genetic material of the host egg have been removed, but the egg still retains its mitochondria. Because mitochondria contain some genetic material a cloned organism is never actually an exact genetic duplicate of the donor (Human Genome Project). Contrary to popular belief, reproductive cloning does not actually produce a true "clone."

Reproductive cloning is expensive, "highly inefficient," and has a high failure rate (Human Genome Project). Moreover, cloned organisms may experience extreme discomfort from infections, deformities and disabilities. Cloned animals like Dolly die young. Animal rights may be one of the most pressing ethical issues to be taking into consideration by governments that are in the process of drafting policy or legislation related to cloning. Cost may also be a significant factor for policy analysts because legislation may affect the allocation of federal monies for cloning research.

The real monster is human cloning. As the potential to reproductively clone human beings looms in light of the animal studies, governments have been quickly enacting legislation to ban all forms of reproductive cloning. Human cloning has been almost universally denounced by major medical and scientific organizations including the American Medical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Human Genome Project). The federal government funded the National Bioethics Advisory Commission to provide a summary report of reproductive cloning in 2002. The Center for Genetics and Society states that "by 2001, few people were arguing that human cloning was a distant prospect." Moreover, both Democrats and Republicans advocated a legislative ban on reproductive cloning "though some legislators limited their concerns to the manifest physical dangers that cloning would pose both to cloned children and to the women intending to become pregnant with them," (The Center for Genetics and Society).

Therapeutic Cloning

Like reproductive cloning, therapeutic cloning also raises important bioethical and policy questions. Also known as embryo cloning, therapeutic cloning is a research-oriented practice that involves the harvesting of stem cells. Stem cells may be harvested from cloned human embryos. Some if not most proponents of cloning and cloning research tout the social benefits of stem cell research. Michael J. Fox offered the most recent celebrity endorsement in favor of research into therapeutic cloning. Because therapeutic cloning research and the stem cells they produce can possibly be used to treat major debilitating diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, the process is championed by the AMA. The AMA, which denounces human cloning, urges lawmakers to not throw the cloned baby out with the bathwater: "The potential benefits of therapeutic cell cloning are enormous, and this research should not be jeopardized with human cloning activities." Some of the controversy surrounding stem cell research has less to do with the ethics of therapeutic cloning and more to do with misunderstanding the differences between reproductive and therapeutic cloning.

Stem cell research and therapeutic cloning are generally not supported by the most conservative elements in America. However, Nancy Reagan has spoken out in favor of stem cell research because her late husband had Alzheimer's disease. Most of the arguments against therapeutic cloning center on the fact that the blastocyst must be destroyed during the process of extracting stem cells. The blastocyst is embryonic but not fetal. Arguments against therapeutic cloning therefore resemble arguments against abortion. Both abortion and therapeutic cloning raise existential questions that lawmakers cannot be expected to answer, questions such as where does life begin? Existential, ethical, and religious issues do, however, cannot be entirely extricated from the lawmaking process. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) summarizes the conservative position on cloning and cloning research: "Religious conservatives argue that human embryos should be afforded a moral status similar to human beings and should not be destroyed, even in the course of conducting research." The conservative view contrasts sharply with that of the AMA and other groups that avow the enormous benefits of therapeutic cloning.

At the extreme left wing of the cloning debate are those who support all types of cloning, including reproductive human cloning. The Human Cloning Foundation offers a libertarian view of the cloning controversy, stating that religious and personal freedoms should be protected at all costs. In addition to raising awareness about the various medical breakthroughs that might occur if cloning is permitted, the Human Cloning Foundation also offers some radical reasons to advocate human cloning such as "making our children live longer, helping them to be resistant to cancer, heart disease, any familial diseases, and all the other problems that can be cured using what we learn from human cloning technology," (Smith). The Human Cloning Foundation also cites cloning as a "cure for infertility," a way "to become a better parent," a way "to have a better sense of identity," and even as a "step towards immortality."

Costs and Benefits

The University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center outlines a handful of potential benefits of human and non-human cloning. Cloning animals could offer researchers the opportunity to study specific diseases in more depth in order to find cures. Similarly, animals are "currently being genetically engineered to produce drugs or proteins that are useful in medicine," a process sometimes referred to as "pharming," (University of Utah). Cloning can also be used to revive endangered or extinct animal species for environmental or aesthetic purposes. In fact, some interest has been shown in cloning deceased pets (Smith; University of Utah). Many of the touted benefits of cloning are far from being manifest, and it would cost an enormous amount of money to produce any noticeable success.

Lawmakers may need to evaluate cloning policy by using a cost-benefit analysis and a utilitarian ethic. The costs of liberal cloning legislation are both financial and ethical. Financial costs of cloning are normally exorbitant because of the high failure rates of reproductive cloning. However, therapeutic cloning is costly too. Public policy must take financial issues into account because it could… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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