Human cloning

Human cloning

Human cloning is the creation of a genetically identical copy of a human. It does not usually refer to monozygotic multiple births nor the reproduction of human cells or tissue. The ethics of cloning is an extremely controversial issue. The term is generally used to refer to artificial human cloning; human clones in the form of identical twins are commonplace, with their cloning occurring during the natural process of reproduction.

There are two commonly discussed types of human cloning: therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning involves cloning cells from an adult for use in medicine and is an active area of research. Reproductive cloning would involve making cloned humans.

A third type of cloning called replacement cloning is a theoretical possibility, and would be a combination of therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Replacement cloning would entail the replacement of an extensively damaged, failed, or failing body through cloning followed by whole or partial brain transplant.[citation needed]



Although the possibility of cloning humans has been the subject of speculation for much of the twentieth century, scientists and policy makers began to take the prospect seriously in the 1960s.

Nobel Prize winning geneticist Joshua Lederberg advocated for cloning and genetic engineering in a seminal article in The American Naturalist in 1966 and again, the following year, in The Washington Post.[1] He sparked a debate with conservative bioethicist Leon Kass, who wrote at the time that "the programmed reproduction of man will, in fact, dehumanize him." Another Nobel Laureate, James D. Watson, publicized the potential and the perils of cloning in his Atlantic Monthly essay, "Moving Toward the Clonal Man", in 1971.[2]

The technology of cloning mammals, although far from reliable, has reached the point where many scientists are knowledgeable, the literature is readily available, and the implementation of the technology is not very expensive compared to many other scientific processes. For that reason Lewis D. Eigen has argued that human cloning attempts will be made in the next few years and may well have been already begun.[3]

"By waiting until the first clone is among us or about to be born, we complicate the problem immensely and guarantee that we will not be able to have the national and international conversation and debate to arrive at particularly good decisions like using protection."[3]

Notable cloning attempts and claims

  • Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, an American fertility doctor, revealed on 17 January 2004 at a London press conference that he had transferred a freshly cloned embryo into a 35-year-old woman. On 4 February 2004, it emerged that the attempt had not worked and the woman did not become pregnant.[4][5]

Ethical implications

Advocates of human therapeutic cloning believe the practice could provide genetically identical cells for regenerative medicine, and tissues and organs for transplantation. Such cells, tissues and organs would neither trigger an immune response nor require the use of Immunosuppressive drugs[6] Both basic research and therapeutic development for serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as improvements in burn treatment and reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, are areas that might benefit from such new technology.[7]

Proponents claim that human reproductive cloning would also produce benefits. Severino Antinori and Panayiotis Zavos hope to create a fertility treatment that allows parents who are both infertile to have children with at least some of their DNA in their offspring.[8] Some scientists, including Dr. Richard Seed, suggest that human cloning might obviate the human aging process.[9] Dr. Preston Estep has suggested the terms "replacement cloning" to describe the generation of a clone of a previously living person, and "persistence cloning" to describe the production of a cloned body for the purpose of obviating aging, although he maintains that such procedures currently should be considered science fiction[citation needed] and current cloning techniques risk producing a prematurely aged child.[10]

In Aubrey de Grey's proposed SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), one of the considered options to repair the cell depletion related to cellular senescence is to grow replacement tissues from stem cells harvested from a cloned embryo.

Human cloning also raises implications of a socio-ethical nature, particularly concerning the role that cloning might play in changing the shape of family structure by complicating the role of parenting within a family of convoluted kinship relations. For example, a female DNA donor would be the clone's genetic twin, rather than mother, complicating the genetic and social relationships between mother and child as well as the relationships between other family members and the clone.[11]

Current law

United Nations

On December 13, 2001, the United Nations General Assembly began elaborating an international convention against the reproductive cloning of humans. A broad coalition of States, including Spain, Italy, the Philippines, the United States, Costa Rica and the Holy See sought to extend the debate to ban all forms of human cloning, noting that, in their view, therapeutic human cloning violates human dignity. Costa Rica proposed the adoption of an international convention to ban all forms of Human Cloning. Unable to reach a consensus on a binding convention, in March 2005 a non-binding United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning calling for the ban of all forms of Human Cloning contrary to human dignity, was finally adopted.[12]


Australia had prohibited human cloning,[13] though as of December 2006, a bill legalising therapeutic cloning and the creation of human embryos for stem cell research passed the House of Representatives. Within certain regulatory limits, and subject to the effect of state legislation, therapeutic cloning is now legal in some parts of Australia.

European Union

The European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine prohibits human cloning in one of its additional protocols, but this protocol has been ratified only by Greece, Spain and Portugal. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union explicitly prohibits reproductive human cloning. The charter is legally binding for the institutions of the European Union under the Treaty of Lisbon.

United States

In 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007, the United States House of Representatives voted whether to ban all human cloning, both reproductive and therapeutic. Each time, divisions in the Senate over therapeutic cloning prevented either competing proposal (a ban on both forms or reproductive cloning only) from passing. On Mar 10, 2010 a bill (HR 4808) was introduced with a section banning federal funding for human cloning.[14] Such a law, if passed, would not prevent research from occurring in private institutions (such as universities) that have both private and federal funding. There are currently no federal laws in the United States which ban cloning completely, and any such laws would raise difficult Constitutional questions similar to the issues raised by abortion. Thirteen American states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, North Dakota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia) ban reproductive cloning and three states (Arizona, Maryland, Missouri) prohibit use of public funds for such activities.[15]

United Kingdom

On January 14, 2001 the British government passed The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001[16] to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 by extending allowable reasons for embryo research to permit research around stem cells and cell nuclear replacement, thus allowing therapeutic cloning. However, on 15 November 2001, a pro-life group won a High Court legal challenge, which struck down the regulation and effectively left all forms of cloning unregulated in the UK. Their hope was that Parliament would fill this gap by passing prohibitive legislation.[17][18] Parliament was quick to pass the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001 which explicitly prohibited reproductive cloning. The remaining gap with regard to therapeutic cloning was closed when the appeals courts reversed the previous decision of the High Court.[19]

The first licence was granted on August 11, 2004 to researchers at the University of Newcastle to allow them to investigate treatments for diabetes, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.[20] The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, a major review of fertility legislation, repealed the 2001 Cloning Act by making amendments of similar effect to the 1990 Act. The 2008 Act also allows experiments on hybrid human-animal embryos.[21]

Religious objections

The Roman Catholic Church, under the papacy of Benedict XVI, has condemned the practice of human cloning, in the magisterial instruction Dignitas Personae, stating that it represents a "grave offense to the dignity of that person as well as to the fundamental equality of all people."[22]

Sunni Muslims can potentially subscribe to considering human cloning to be forbidden by Islam.[23] The Islamic Fiqh Academy, in its Tenth Conference proceedings, which was convened in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the period from June 28, 1997 to July 3, 1997, issued a Fatwā stating that human cloning is haraam (prohibited by the faith).[24][25] Importantly, it is not incumbent upon Muslims to subscribe to the Fatwa of any authority they do not themselves choose to accept as legally binding.

In popular culture

Cloning is a recurring theme in a wide variety of contemporary science fiction, ranging from action films such as the 2000 film The 6th Day to comedies such as Woody Allen's 1973 film Sleeper. The Radiohead album Kid A has been suggested to be the story of the first human clone.[26]

Cloning has been used in fiction as a way of recreating historical figures. The 1973 novel Joshua Son of None revolves around the cloning of an assassinated American president strongly implied to be John F. Kennedy. In the 1976 Ira Levin novel The Boys from Brazil and its 1978 film adaptation, Josef Mengele uses cloning to create copies of Adolf Hitler. A Parade of Mirrors and Reflections, a novel by Anatoly Kudryavitsky, centers on the cloning of deceased Soviet premier Yuri Andropov. In the 2002-2003 animated series Clone High, the US military secretly runs a high school attended by clones of various historical leaders.

Several works of fiction portray a future in which human cloning has become the normal process of reproduction for various reasons. Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World envisions a futuristic world in which large numbers of clones are cultivated industrially and conditioned before birth for specific castes. The 2005 film Æon Flux depicts a future when the human species survives by means of cloning due to generalized infertility. In the comic book series Y: The Last Man, the spontaneous death of every male on the planet necessitates the use of human cloning to prevent the extinction of humanity.

The implications of using clones to replace deceased loved ones are explored in several works of fiction. In Margaret Peterson Haddix's novel Double Identity, the main character discovers that she is a clone of her deceased older sister. The 2010 film Womb involves a woman impregnating herself with a clone of her deceased fiancé.

A recurring sub-theme of cloning fiction is the use of clones as a supply of organs for transplantation. The 2005 Kazuo Ishiguro novel Never Let Me Go and the 2010 film adaption are set in an alternate history in which cloned humans are created for the sole purpose of providing organ donations to naturally born humans. The 2005 film The Island revolves around a similar plot, with the exception that the clones are unaware of the reason for their existence. The main character of Nancy Farmer's young adult science fiction novel The House of the Scorpion discovers that he is a clone of a prominent drug lord who plans to use his organs as a way of extending his life. The Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Similitude" deals with the moral and ethical issues surrounding growing a human clone to harvest tissue for an injured crewman. The Kryptonians of the Superman comic book series each possess three clones that provide them with body parts.

The use of human clones for evil purposes is a theme explored in the Nintendo 64 first-person shooter game Perfect Dark. Having their request for the use of the Pelagic II turned down by the US President, the evil dataDyne Corporation secretly makes a clone of him and plans to kill the original, thus having access to the vehicle to perform a deep-sea search for the Cetan ship, which contains a vastly powerful weapon. The game's protagonist, Joanna Dark, controlled by the player, kills the clone and foils dataDyne's plans. The differences between the President and his clone are that the President is wearing his suit and follows Joanna, while his counterpart is wearing only a long-sleved t-Shirt and a tie (without the suit) and flees upon sighting Joanna. The heavily criticized Spider-Man 1990's storyline 'Clone Saga', Spider-Man was cloned several times, one of whom- Ben Reilly (who was once believed to be the original Peter Parker) took the mantle of the hero.

The use of human cloning for military purposes has also been explored in several works. The Clone Wars portrayed in the Star Wars franchise depicts the use of clones to rapidly create a well-trained and expendable army. The Metal Gear Solid video game franchise involves the use of human cloning to create copies of a legendary soldier. In the Doctor Who episode The Doctor's Daughter, a tissue sample from The Doctor's arm is used to create a full-grown female soldier. The main antagonist of the film Star Trek Nemesis is a clone of Jean-Luc Picard, created by the Romulans as part of a plot to replace high-ranking Federation officials with Romulan agents.


  1. ^ Joshua Lederberg. (1966). Experimental Genetics and Human Evolution. The American Naturalist 100, 915, pp. 519-531.
  2. ^ Watson, James. "Moving Toward a Clonal Man: Is This What We Want?" The Atlantic Monthly (1971).
  3. ^ a b Lewis D. Eigen (2010). "Scriptamus, Human Clones May Be Among Us Now! Who Is Ready?". 
  4. ^ "Human clone attempt fails". Daily Mail (London). 
  5. ^ "Human cloning attempt has failed". BBC News. 4 February 2004. 
  6. ^ Lanza RP, Chung HY, Yoo JJ, et al. (July 2002). "Generation of histocompatible tissues using nuclear transplantation". Nat. Biotechnol. 20 (7): 689–96. doi:10.1038/nbt703. PMID 12089553. 
  7. ^ Cloning Fact Sheet
  8. ^ Scientists Prepare To Clone a Human; Experiment Aims to Help Infertile. Washington Post, March 10, 2001
  9. ^ Cloning touted as infertility solution, Washington Times, December 11, 1997
  10. ^ Will Knight. "Dolly the sheep dies young". 
  11. ^ McGee, Glenn (2000). 'The Perfect Baby: Parenthood in the New World of Cloning and Genetics.' Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
  12. ^ "Ad Hoc Committee on an International Convention against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings". United Nations. 18 May 2005. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  13. ^ Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002 National Health and Medical Research Council, 12 June 2007
  14. ^ "H. R. 4808 Stem Cell Research Advancement Act of 2009 -- SEC. 498F. Prohibition Against Funding For Human Cloning". Mar 10, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Human Cloning Laws". National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Jan 2008. 
  16. ^ Official text of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001 (No. 188) as originally enacted or made within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database
  17. ^ SD Pattinson (2006), Medical Law and Ethics, Sweet & Maxwell, ISBN 9780421889507 
  18. ^ "Campaigners win cloning challenge". London: BBC News. 15 November 2001. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  19. ^ "Lords uphold cloning law". BBC News Online (London). 13 March 2003. 
  20. ^ "HFEA grants the first therapeutic cloning licence for research". HFEA. 11 August 2004. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  21. ^ "MPs support embryology proposals". BBC News Online (London). 23 October 2008. 
  22. ^ Stein, Rob; Boorstein, Michelle (13 December 2008). "Vatican Ethics Guide Stirs Controversy". The Washington Post. 
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Yorke, Thom (30 July 2000). "RHMB posting". Retrieved 19 May 2007. 

Further reading

  • Araujo, Robert John, “The UN Declaration on Human Cloning: a survey and assessment of the debate,” 7 The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 129 - 149 (2007).

External links

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