Human cloning is the creation of a genetically identical copy of a human. It does not refer to monozygotic multiple births or the reproduction of humans/animals 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 three commonly discussed types of human cloning: therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning involves cloning cells from an adult for use in medicine and transplants, and is an active area of research. Reproductive cloning would involve making cloned humans, for couples wanting to have a child, but cannot naturally.
Although the possibility of cloning humans had 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 cloning and genetic engineering in a seminal article in The American Naturalist in 1966 and again, the following year, in The Washington Post. 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.
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.
The first hybrid human clone was created in November 1998, by Advanced Cell Technologies. It was created from a man's leg cell, and a cow's egg whose DNA was removed. It was destroyed after 12 days. Since a normal embryo implants at 14 days, Dr Robert Lanza, ACT's director of tissue engineering, told the Daily Mail newspaper that the embryo could not be seen as a person before 14 days. While making an embryo, which might have resulted in a complete human had it been allowed to come to term, according to ACT: "[ACT's] aim was 'therapeutic cloning' not 'reproductive cloning'"
On January, 2008, Wood and Andrew French, Stemagen's chief scientific officer in California, announced that they successfully created the first 5 mature human embryos using DNA from adult skin cells, aiming to provide a source of viable embryonic stem cells. Dr. Samuel Wood and a colleague donated skin cells, and DNA from those cells was transferred to human eggs. It is not clear if the embryos produced would have been capable of further development, but Dr. Wood stated that if that were possible, using the technology for reproductive cloning would be both unethical and illegal. The 5 cloned embryos, created in Stemagen Corporation lab, in La Jolla, were killed.
In May, 2013, a group of scientists published a report of successful human cloning. The approach involved the somatic cell nuclear transfer from human fibroblasts to oocytes and resulted in viable embryos developing to the blastocyst stage. The authors managed to obtain embryonic stem cell from the blastocysts which can lead to therapeutic cloning. It remained unclear however if the cloned embryos are capable of further development as no such experiments were attempted.
In bioethics, the ethics of cloning refers to a variety of ethical positions regarding the practice and possibilities of cloning, especially human cloning. While many of these views are religious in origin, the questions raised by cloning are faced by secular perspectives as well. Perspectives on human cloning are theoretical, as human therapeutic and reproductive cloning are not commercially used; animals are currently cloned in laboratories and in livestock production.
Advocates support development of therapeutic cloning in order to generate tissues and whole organs to treat patients who otherwise cannot obtain transplants, to avoid the need for immunosuppressive drugs, and to stave off the effects of aging. Advocates for reproductive cloning believe that parents who cannot otherwise procreate should have access to the technology.
Opponents of cloning have concerns that technology is not yet developed enough to be safe, that it could be prone to abuse (leading to the generation of humans from whom organs and tissues would be harvested), and have concerns about how cloned individuals could integrate with families and with society at large.
Religious groups are divided, with some opposing the technology as usurping God's place and, to the extent embryos are used, destroying a human life; others support therapeutic cloning's potential life-saving benefits.
Australia had prohibited human cloning, 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.
Canadian law prohibits the following: cloning humans, cloning stem cells, growing human embryos for research purposes, sex selection, and buying or selling of embryos, sperm, eggs or other human reproductive material. It also bans making changes to human DNA that would pass from one generation to the next, including use of animal DNA in humans. Surrogate mothers are legally allowed, as is donation of sperm or eggs for reproductive purposes. Human embryos and stem cells are also permitted to be donated for research.
There have been consistent calls in Canada to ban human reproductive cloning since the 1993 Report of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies. Polls have indicated that an overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose human reproductive cloning, though the regulation of human cloning continues to be a significant national and international policy issue. The notion of "human dignity" is commonly used to justify cloning laws. The basis for this justification is that reproductive human cloning necessarily infringes notions of human dignity.
Denmark has not currently agreed to any genetic laws or bans and does not appear to show any interest in banning human cloning and human transgenics.
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.
Human cloning is illegal in India.
Human cloning is prohibited in the Charter of Romania's Constitutional rights. It is viewed as a basic violation of a human's right to safety of identity, and personality.
On January 14, 2001 the British government passed The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001 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. 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.
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. 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.
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 adopted.
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 March 10, 2010 a bill (HR 4808) was introduced with a section banning federal funding for human cloning. 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. Maine restricts human cloning but does not ban it.
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 and Resident Evil (film series), Jurassic Park (film), and The Island (2005 film), to comedies such as Woody Allen's 1973 film Sleeper, as well as movies that use it as a vehicle to explore issues of identity and human relationships.
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- "Variations and voids: the regulation of human cloning around the world" academic article by S. Pattinson & T. Caulfield
- Moving Toward the Clonal Man
- Should We Really Fear Reproductive Human Cloning
- The Pros and Cons of Human Cloning
- United Nation declares law against cloning.
- GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON HUMAN CLONING BY VOTE OF 84-34-37
- Cloning Fact Sheet
- How Human Cloning Will Work