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The benefits and harm from the discovery of cloning

Of Dreams and Nightmares: In 1997, the first animal ever cloned from a nonsex cell of another adult the benefits and harm from the discovery of cloning was presented to the world. While still allowed in some countries, research on the cloning of humans is illegal in others, and president Bush has called for a halt to its federal funding. Still, privately funded research is permitted, and the first human embryo was cloned from adult skin cells in November, 2001 by the Advanced Cell Technology company.

Though only a 6-cell embryo was cloned, and the development of stem cells for therapeutic purposes failed, many fear this is just one step closer to the eventual cloning of humans by somebody, somewhere. The efforts by Clonaid, a company founded by people who believe that the benefits and harm from the discovery of cloning are a mixture of human and alien genes, makes some doubt the wisdom of scientists.

The most controversial stem cell and cloning issues relate to 1 whether the procedure is for therapeutic or reproductive purposes, 2 the safety of the procedure, and 3 when human life actually begins. Because of personal moral and religious beliefs about the latter, many people want to end further research with embryos.

However, many do not view the relatively few embryonic cells that exist during the first few days or weeks of embryonic development as a real human being yet. To them, the benefits of using stem cells to produce healthy tissues and organs for therapeutic purposes is extremely worthwhile. Since many moral, ethical, and religious issues surrounding stem cell and cloning research can already be found in relatively nontechnical books by Silver 1998 and McGee 2000the following will stress some of the psychosocial, legal, and emotional issues that may have to be carefully considered Stem Cells and Cloning: Cell division during the first few days of embryonic development produces stem cells that are not yet specialized and still have the potential to become any organ or tissue.

If collected and allowed to divide indefinitely in culture, they can theoretically be prompted to become any type of specialized cells that are needed. For example, if injected into a patient, they might replace damaged cells in the brain or heart and improve or save a life.

If allowed to grow into tissues or organs, much needed transplants would become more readily available. Specialized stem cells also have been found in adults, but current research indicates they are not plentiful, are difficult to isolate and purify, and might be limited in the number of tissues and organs they can produce. However, many who oppose the use of stem cells derived from a human embryo or fetus, may accept their use for therapeutic medical purposes if obtained from adults.

Enough people recently viewed the potential benefits to be so valuable that President Bush approved federal funding for limited research. Ideally, future research will result in ways to improve adult stem cell effectiveness and preclude the need of an embryo or fetus. However, this would not be a problem with cloned stem cells, since cells with identical DNA would be available.

Cloning occurs when the DNA from the nucleus of an egg is replaced by the DNA from a body cell, typically though not necessarily from another person. Of Hopes and Dreams: Why Stem Cells and Cloning? Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and Spina Bifida may also benefit, as might various communication and learning disorders. In the mental health arena, psychotic disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, as well as nonpsychotic disorders such as depression, severe anxiety, and ADHD might be helped as clearer biological causes are discovered.

Stem cell and cloning research may also result in methods more acceptable to those with moral and ethical conflicts. For example, ways may be found to make adult specialized stem cells revert back to embryonic unspecialized states.

Reproductive Reasons for Cloning. Millions more have chosen adoption. Cloning would be one more option for 1 infertile couples who do not want to use the sperm or eggs from a nonspouse, 2 elderly couples who want to avoid the higher risks of a late age pregnancy, 3 couples with a high risk of a heritable problem, 4 same sex couples, 5 couples who want another excellent child like the one they have or who is dying, and 6 single males or females who want to be a sole parent.

Of Conflicts and Nightmares: Why Not Stem Cells and Cloning? To McGee 2000 and Silver 1998the need to reproduce and parent is so strong for some people that if cloning a human becomes possible, it definitely will occur.

Yet, several states and countries have banned this sort of research, and various religious and political leaders have voiced strong objections. House of Representatives has voted to ban research on human cloning, and the White House has urged the Senate to do the same. Still, cloning is legal in many countries and can be funded privately.

Although cloning is offensive to some for religious or moral reasons, it is also opposed for safety reasons. Successful cloning has occurred with a variety of animals, but not without a very high error rate. Dolly was the final product of the cloning of 277 eggs and the death of many embryos and fetuses. Over time, other problems might arise.

Errors during their collection, development, or placement into a recipient might also result in physical or the benefits and harm from the discovery of cloning disabilities, perhaps during the developmental period.

If humans could be successfully cloned, would a certain error rate ever become acceptable? How many destroyed embryos and fetuses would be tolerated? More germane to the field of developmental disabilities, how many would be defective at birth or during the developmental period? Parents would pay a heavy emotional price, as well as related financial expenses; especially if those opposed to cloning lobbied to restrict or end government funding.

If funding continued, how would this affect the funding for the noncloned developmentally disabled, given budgetary limitations? Possible Repercussions of Cloning: If disabled, there are additional issues. Because humans have not yet been cloned, the following is speculative and is meant to raise awareness of some very important questions and consequences that might have to be addressed. Many moralists agree that the safety and best interest of the cloned child is primary. A sense of these is offered in the recent film A.

Artificial Intelligence by Kubrick and Spielberg. This resulted in a variety of personal and social reactions that would likely fit a healthy cloned child as well. If unhealthy or disabled, reactions would probably have been even more negative. Conflict would be less for two gay women if one donated the egg and uterus, while the other donated the body cell. Finally, there would be less conflict yet about parentage, if a single man donated the body cell and hired a woman to provide the egg and uterus, or if a single woman cloned herself.

However, these might result in the most social disapproval.

Cloning Dolly the sheep

It would be critical for parents to present a united front and total acceptance of the cloned child, but given parent scenarios such as those above, there are apt to be occasional blunders. Some young and older children have limited tact and would say things that are hurtful. Relatives, Close Friends, and Others: Although most close relatives and friends would try to be careful, those more distant or antagonistic might be less cautious and maybe purposely hurtful at times.

Even if banned from any more visiting, the damage would already have been done. Casual neighbors and acquaintances, as well as their children, would have little reason to be tactful or hide their prejudices.

Given that the larger community includes people who abhor cloning, the potential for hurtful remarks and behaviors is vast.

This would likely be most intense during the many years that cloning would be uncommon, possibly feared, and still opposed for moral and religious reasons.

Would the family be shunned, insulted, or discriminated against by their church and congregation? By preschool day care providers and children? By many teachers during the school years?

By the police and courts, especially if involved in a felony? By doctors, nurses, and other providers of physical and mental health services? By real estate agents? Since cloning is so expensive and would serve the reproductive needs of only a small minority, it would be a long time if ever before it became common enough to change current attitudes.

Unscientific surveys, such as those on the Internet or in magazines, suggest that most people feel that cloning should be banned.

  1. Although cloning for reproductive purposes might result in more loss than gain for the developmental disabilities field, stem cell research for therapeutic purposes offers real hope for both prenatal and postnatal disabilities.
  2. Yet it is through the possibility of affecting this image that humans have of themselves and the potential for transforming so-called 'human nature' or the human 'essence' that the social controversy arises over the legality of this new threshold achieved by biotechnoscientific know-how.
  3. And if it is a good, its preservation through cloning can be justified reasonably, thereby making this good available to others and reducing illness and increasing well-being for more humans.

Although the sample of subscribers may not be representative of the overall American population, and the cloning questions were broad or vague, a recent MSN Internet survey of 100,000 people indicated that rejection would be very common. This was also suggested by a preliminary 21 item survey that I recently gave to 24 people from three states.

About half were professionals involved with developmental disabilities. If aware of the potential sources of harm, parents would be faced with many difficult decisions. Since various health providers were likely involved during cloning, pregnancy, and delivery, how confidential would the situation remain? Should the family move to a large city for more anonymity?

Home school the child? Tell their most trusted, secretive friends, relatives, and other family members? Even tell the child? If so, what should be said and how? What if the parents disagree? If only the clone was ever told, such a secret would be a huge burden. There would always be the fear of being found out and the ensuing publicity, rejection, and possible harm. If held secret from the child, what would happen if it was later discovered?

NADD Bulletin Volume V Number 4 Article 2

Would there be a fear of disability or death due to genetic errors just waiting to be expressed? Issues related to religion, dating, and becoming a parent would also have to be addressed over time. For example, some people might be cold or rejecting in church and be very vocal in offering an opinion about whether there is a soul and afterlife for a clone.

During adolescence, friendships and dating might be very limited because of fear by the prospective partner, peer pressure, and parental prohibition. How many community parents would fear a pregnancy and wonder whether the offspring would be unusual, unhealthy, or less-than-human? A legal specialty would probably evolve to address many conflicts. What if neither of the married or unmarried couple want custody, or a third party DNA or egg donor now wants full or joint custody?

What if a third party wants to remain anonymous, but the clone sues to uncover the identity? Nonparenting issues would also arise over time. Discrimination arguments related to education, housing, and employment might affect current interpretations of Civil Rights or American Disabilities Acts. Inheritance might become an issue if there was no will and the clone was a result of DNA donated from a sibling. Would a female clone who wants children have to get permission from her mother, since genetically, they would also be children of her mother?