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Should human cloning be allowed?
Jack Balshaw 7/17/01

National and international discussion about human cloning is being carried on now.  The arguments for both sides vary in rationality even though the decision won’t be based on rationality but emotion. I suspect the initial decision in the U.S. will be to ban human cloning but with the decision being reversed some years later.

 Added to the discussion has been the debate on federal funding for research in the use of “stem cells” for growing body parts and who knows what else.  This issue seems to be a lesser offshoot to cloning but will soon be mingled with the ethics of cloning.

 What does seem strange is that stem cell research hasn’t been too directly attacked, only regarding the use of federal funds to do research.  Perhaps, because it will be difficult to legislate against stem cell research, the discussion has been limited to trying to protect the “purity” of the federal government in regards to anything that can be related to the sanctity of human life.  The argument against cloning can more easily be supported because the creation of a real, whole, normal appearing human being is easier to relate to a Frankenstein type of occurrence. 

The whole discussion strikes me as moot however.  What with wealthy people already contracting for clones of a favorite pet, will it be long before someone wants a clone of a deceased child? With wealthy people already traveling to less developed countries for life saving transplants, can stem cell research and development be prevented world wide?  There has already been at least one deliberate pregnancy and birth in this country to create a sibling for an existing child who needed a bone marrow transplant.  Is it realistic to believe this Genie can be put back in his bottle?   

 There is a saying that, “ All the sheep can agree on vegetarianism, but until the wolf signs on, the agreement doesn’t change things.”  Somewhere in the world there will be a country which approves and will start doing cloning  and stem cell development.  Once cloning passes the point of simply reproducing a person and goes on to developing special traits such as intelligence, the world will be forced to follow.  It’s sort of like all nations but one agreeing to not develop the atomic bomb.  That one forces the others to follow.

 Stem cell R & D will most likely lead the way, but cloning will eventually be done if for no other reason then it can be done.

 I personally don’t like the idea of cloning, if only from the science fiction aspect of the possibility of a master race, or mutants with strange powers.  But I believe it’s inevitable.  Given that we probably can’t stop it permanently, what specific or positive steps might be taken to control it?

 I can’t think of any way to regulate or control it on a worldwide basis that couldn’t be defeated by those who would wish to do so.  The only way I can think of to at least keep our options open would be for governments to be the principal R & D organizations.  Governments with a vested interest would maintain local control and leave open the possibility of international diplomacy to deal with future developments. 

If independent private laboratories become the implementers, there will be little chance of any worldwide agreements in the future.  Additionally, the stem cell portion of this discussion seems to offer more direct and reasonable benefits for solving human health problems.  If governments control the research, there is much more likelihood that any benefits will be more widely distributed among the citizens of the world.

Given the lessons learned from the private sector in the energy and pharmaceutical industries, do we want scientific breakthroughs to be distributed on a market model basis by the private sector?  Will we be able to afford the cures?


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