Human cloning has become a stark reality with few countries allowing doctors to race in producing human clones. In the most recent news, Stemagen claims that it has succeeded in creating the first cloned human embryo using the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) technique. It's only a matter of time for a cloned human embryo to enter the realm of human society.
Although it's difficult to prevent
any rogue doctors from pursuing 'their dream', with the current state of
the art, they still need to rely on women to bear cloned fetuses and
bring them to term. These 'mothers' must now ask themselves whether they
want to reduce their roles to that of 'marsupial pouch carriers' for
cloned human beings, perhaps leading to gene pool deterioration and
eventual weakening of the human race.
Women have always played a vital,
irreplaceable role in human reproduction. But since the beginning of the
new millennium, the sophisticated and modern technology of human
cloning has begun to encroach on this natural monopoly. One might argue
that the 'clone bearer' is nothing more exotic than a surrogate mother,
which is a condition accepted in many modern situations. But there are
fundamental differences between natural mothers, surrogate mothers, and
clone bearers, and women should be aware of them.
A natural mother has maternal
feelings and concerns for her baby's welfare after birth. A surrogate
mother faces the moral issue of aiding an infertile couple to bear a
child, and on a larger scale, to perpetuate the human race. In the case
of human cloning, a clone bearer must also shoulder the burden of
psychological and emotional effects of a new familial order, the social
impact of introducing an exponent to the human race, and the various
ethical stances on cloning.
Procreation should not be mistaken
as replication, for natural reproduction creates originality, whereas
reproductive cloning duplicates the original. Even in-vitro
fertilization, the medically assisted method in bringing forth newborns
is still in line with the former. The survival of a species by natural
reproduction is an evolutionary process that has been tested over
hundred millions of years while cloning has just been a recent
scientific laboratory experiment that manipulates cellular genetic
structures under a microscope.
Generally, parents want to raise a
mentally and physically healthy child to immerse in our society. While
having a cloned child might satisfy the infertile couple's immediate
longing, it could impose enormous long-term psychological and emotional
effects on both the clone and the parents, resulting in identity
confusion and relationship problems.
Technically speaking, if the clone's
progenitor is a male, he would be looked upon not as the clone's father
but as an older brother, and his wife not as the clone's mother but as a
sister-in-law. As for the other parent, could he or she not help fall
in love with the clone, a younger version of the spouse? This perplexing
familiarity in relationship binding could possibly foster an intimate
environment for incestuous practice. Furthermore, watching one's own
clone mature over the years could bring back unsettling memories or even
evoke damaging rivalries.
Moreover, parents might mistreat
their cloned children for not meeting their expectations, instead of
loving them unconditionally. They might raise a clone just to be used as
a commodity, like an organ donor for an ill family member or a
replacement for a lost loved one.
Besides being psychologically
confused, the clone could suffer depression due to mental and emotional
stress. Although environment is conducive to the development of a
person's character and abilities, the clone would lose autonomy and
individuality because his traits and abilities would be known,
constraining him in personal growth and self-expression. Unfortunately,
the clone would live out his life in his progenitor's shadow, like an
heir of a famous personality, who tries to step out of his parent's
shoes to stand on his own two feet.
As the newest minority member, a
clone entering our imperfect world where people are still striving for
universal human rights could easily become the victim of social
injustice, medical experiments, or even human abuse. As man has
supplanted the role of God in fabricating a clone, the clone could be
perceived as sub-human and could be treated worse than a second-class
citizen. To protect and ensure that clones will survive the potential
barrage of discrimination, maltreatment, and injustice, legal rights for
clones have to be well established throughout the world. Are we really
ready for that?
As scientific facts on experimental
reproductive cloning have started to accumulate around the globe, the
foreseeable consequences of human cloning mirror the wild imagination of
science fiction. From a medical point of view, the genetic defects are
inevitable, as experimental cloned animals have shown subtle
abnormalities in gene expression. Cloned mammals have shorter lifespans
due to telomeres shortened with each cell division. Moreover, the
surviving clones have developed severe abnormalities such as obesity,
malfunctioning organs, deficient immune systems, diseases, and hidden
genetic defects. Even in the research for therapeutic cloning to treat
human diseases, basic cellular functions of an embryonic stem cell often
failed, resulting in tumor growths or deformed tissue due to the
unstable state of its genome.
Before perfecting a lab product,
many human clones will be sacrificed just as numerous embryos were
destroyed to achieve the ideal specimen. Furthermore, the popularity of
human cloning would lead to eugenics, cloning for specific human
attributes, which dangerously challenges nature in the evolution
process. Worse still, human clones would undergo human abuse if
eugenicists produced an army of superior warriors or perfect servants to
serve the human race.
And yet our greatest fear lies in
that clones breeding with humans would taint the human gene pool,
reducing human diversity itself, which is against the very principle of
evolution - the survival of the fittest. With a weakened human gene
pool, the human species would suffer unknown ailments and deficiencies,
threatening the very survival of the human race.
Considering all the perils of human
cloning that could affect individuals as well as society, women must
reject any scientist's genetic tempering with natural reproduction. If not, the price we pay is irreparable, for Nature won't be so forgiving.
(First published on UniOrb.com, January 19, 2008)