Cloning refers to the production of genetically identical plants or animals. This paper examines the differences between therapeutic and reproductive cloning and whether they should be legalized in America. Several forms of cloning are available; however, this paper will be concentrated on therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Cloning is done by removing an embryo from and one individual and replacing it with a nucleus from another cell. The result of the first phase of the cloning process is called a zygote. Cloning avoids the sexual production process by directly injecting a nucleus into an egg cell of a human being without utilizing the human sperm. Reproductive cloning involves implanting the zygote into a woman’s womb and allowed to grow into a new human with genetical characteristics identical to the parent individual. In therapeutic cloning, the zygote is allowed to grow in a lab by keeping it in a dish to form a blastula which is the third stage of embryonic development (Cioffin, n.d).
There has been debate for decades over legalization of cloning in the United States with some researchers recommending the legalization of therapeutic cloning instead of reproductive cloning. If an individual was to undergo transplant of an organ, two major obstacles would need to be considered. First, an organ doctor has to be available and secondly, the immune system of the individual to undergo transplant must accept the organ to be donated. In the circumstance that the donated organ is not accepted by the immune system, the patient would need to be subjected to antibiotic treatment to suppress them. This would render the patient vulnerable to a number of diseases would be difficult to fight by ordinary immune system (Kimbrough, 2005). Light illnesses such as flu and common cold could become disastrous to the patient since they would have to undergo long antibiotic treatment to enable the immune system surmount the infection. Withdrawal of antibiotics would then result into the rejection of the organ by the immune system. Therapeutic cloning as already describe refers to the utilization of human stem cells to produce new body cells that are identical to the original cell. This has been successfully used in the treatment of many diseases and injuries. Using therapeutic cloning, research scientists clone certain body tissues of the patient and develop a new tissue in a laboratory for the patient. This eliminates the time in waiting for an organ to be transplanted as one would be developed in the lab. Further, the possibility of the organ rejection by the immune system is eliminated as the resulting organ is developed out of the patient’s own body cells. The immune system would therefore not view the resulting organ as a threat (Mary Woodard Lasker Charitable Trust, 2000).
Accidents occur regularly to individuals which may seriously hurt, for instance losing an arm. Therapeutic cloning would therefore be used to develop an arm for them. This arm would not be rejected by the body as it is developed from the cells of the patient’s body. Apart form organ transplant, therapeutic cloning can effectively be used in the treatment of diseases such as diabetes. Scientists would have to get a few cells from the diabetic patient and allow it to grow for a duration of two weeks. The stem cells of the resulting organ would then be extracted and used in curing the disease. However, this process exploits several embryos as it involves the process of trial and error in order to establish a successful cure for the disease. Moreover, several tests are required to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment, and the ability for the body to accommodate the treatment without side effects (Rovner, 2002).
Reproductive cloning involves producing genetically identical individuals from the cells of another individual. Legalization of reproductive cloning has been widely criticised as it would be ethically and morally wrong for scientists to develop new babies in laboratories and patent them. This is morally wrong since sexual reproduction has been successful over many years and the logic behind changing it has not been justified. Some scientists base their arguments of special interest traits as the basis for reproductive cloning. They believe that they can develop new humans with traits of interests such as appearance, strength and speed. However, reproductive cloning is not generally bad as it has some advantages. The advantage of reproductive cloning would be that infertile couples would clone their genes in order to have children. This would however, depend on how effective the scientists clone the genes. There are high risks that the resulting babies from reproductive cloning would suffer physical or mental disorders. Several arguments against reproductive cloning have been put forward (Dombodizzl, 2008). The process of reproductive cloning starts with a clear and certain finished products in mind. All the efforts are therefore geared towards producing that product. If a baby were to be produced in advance using certain mechanisms, the production of such baby would be treated as a means of achieving something rather than being valued. Scientist who focuses on cloning animals usually considers such animals as a means of achieving certain goals. Cloning human being would therefore be at the same risk of the approach. Moreover, for reproductive cloning to be successful several eggs are required which would render humans a source of natural resources making reproductive cloning morally unacceptable. Apart from the morality argument, high percentage of reproductive cloning often results into failure. In circumstances that the clone survives, they become prone to fatal problems within their genes. According to research studies 24 percent of cloned humans died within the first three months of their birth and another 2 percent as a result of chronic illnesses. Additionally, according to Ian Wilmut, a co-creator of Dolly, cloning of human would be criminal and irresponsible (John, 2000). Reproductive cloning technologies are still in their early phases and larger percentages usually lead to failure. These embryos become unsuitable for implantations and often die during the gestation period and at birth. Clones that end up surviving have been found to suffer from genetic and defective abnormalities such as lung problems, diabetes and improper functioning of the immune system. Reproductive cloning would therefore amount to deliberate development of genetically abnormal children which according to moral standards is impermissible. Other arguments against reproductive cloning are based on psychological harm. Proponents of this argument say that human cloning leads to psychological distress. An individual’s knowledge of the process of birth would have severe psychological effects on that individual. That individual might develop lack of self esteem because of the individual uniqueness (Yount, 2004).
The difference between reproductive and therapeutic cloning is that in the latter case the resulting embryos do not become to term. In reproductive cloning, the opposite is true as it focuses on cloning an original human. Therapeutic cloning can be used in the treatment of several diseases as already discussed above. Reproductive cloning is predominantly used to develop a new individual with identical characteristics to an original individual similar to the idea of identical twins. The major benefit of reproductive cloning is only assisting infertile couples have children (Robinson, 2005). Although this is important, the risk factor involving how to clone healthy individuals is high. Therefore therapeutic cloning is more advantageous than reproductive cloning making it worth to be legalized in medical practises as there is no human suffering associated with therapeutic cloning. Laws should therefore be made specifying rules and guidelines for using therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning should be legalized with tough rules while the use of reproductive cloning should be banned. However, many people are sceptical of the future as a result of legalization of therapeutic cloning. These people are not wrong to be afraid as new things are always scary, but it is fatal to let opportunities and advantages that are associated with therapeutic cloning pass as a result of being scared. Research on reproductive cloning should be maintained at a minimum level and allowing scientists to carry out therapeutic cloning research by funding legal research. Reproductive cannot completely be done away with, but efforts should be encouraged to minimize its research (Shepard, 2003).
Another solution that is inevitable is to adopt the approach of the United Kingdom. An embryo is regarded as an early stage of a human being. Laws should be enacted to restrict the development of an embryo to a specified period of time, for instance two weeks, beyond which the embryo is disposed. This would ensure that before the embryo reaches the fetus phase which is usually after two weeks of development, it is not regarded as human. This eliminates the possibility of the embryo developing into a human. However, the two week duration is enough for the extraction of required cells which may be necessary in the development of an organ for transplantation (UK Department of Health, 2005).
In conclusion, legalization of therapeutic cloning should be encouraged in medical advances such as in the treatment of serious illness as diabetes. Therapeutic cloning bypasses the process of making embryos in term and the expected duration for child birth. Reproductive cloning is ethically and morally wrong as it involves the growth of human in labs while they can be born through sexual production. Reproductive cloning should therefore not be legitimized through legislation in the United States. This would be achieved by legislating laws prohibiting reproductive cloning research and practise. Therapeutic cloning should be legalized and funded by the government. This would have the effect of reducing the desire to carry out research on reproductive cloning.
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