Organ Cloning Ethics

January 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Ethics

Therapeutic cloning, which is also known as organ cloning, is the process of creating new human organs and tissues, never newborn babies, from the cultivation of stem cells. As such, the resultant organ has an identical gene structure as the recipient such that there are theoretically little chances for rejection. This definition is important in the discussion of organ cloning ethics since the general public tend to confuse therapeutic cloning with gene cloning, two different approaches resulting in two different results.

Root Cause of the Ethics Issue

The ethics issues arising from therapeutic cloning is the result of the debate about the sources of stem cells. Keep in mind that opponents of organ cloning assert that the human pre-embryos are the beginning of life itself and, thus, harvesting the stem cells by killing these pre-embryos is tantamount to murder.

Of course, there are other sources of stem cells including bone marrows, umbilical cord blood, and spare embryos from infertility treatments. But the main problem with these sources is their limited usefulness, viability and flexibility in organ replacement. Embryos and pre-embryos appear to be the most viable sources of stem cells with the most potential in therapeutic cloning.

And that’s where the contentious debate regarding organ cloning ethics begins. There is still no consensus about the morality of human embryo destruction at any stage in order to collect beneficial stem cells.

Sides of the Ethics Issue

As can be expected in a democratic society where everybody has the right to his own opinion, there are many sides to the ethics debate on organ cloning. Often, you may be compelled to choose on which side your vote will be cast on as the issue at hand can appear black and white with little gray areas in between.

On one hand, you have the sector in the organ cloning ethics debate that says human personhood starts at conception. Thus, cloning that results in the creation and the destruction of a pre-embryo is similar to killing a human being itself. The rationale is that when the pre-embryo is planted inside a woman’s uterus, it has a one in four chance of developing into an infant.

By extension, killing a human life even in the form of a pre-embryo in order to extend the life of another human being is immoral. Therapeutic cloning is then deemed unethical and must be stopped despite its possible benefits.

On the other, you will see the side of the organ cloning ethics debate with the assertion that the pre-embryo neither requires nor deserves any particular moral and ethical attention in whatever form. The pre-embryo itself is just a collection of cells with DNA but without the organs, limbs and brain that will make it human.

Yes, the pre-embryo can be human but only when it is allowed to develop until the point where it develops self-awareness. Other than that, it can be used for beneficial purposes especially in improving the quality of life and even in extending the life of other humans.

As you wade deeper into the organ cloning ethics debate, you will encounter middle grounds including one that asserts any potential benefit must be weighed against the sense of respect for the developing embryo. It is your choice in which side of the debate you wish to stand on.