Human Cloning and Its Social Impacts

Can anybody imagine himself as a cloned man, a nameless and faceless identity having no parental credential in this world? It is very simple that such a peripheral identity will never be commensurable with the existing societal norms and sentiments. Human life is such that it always bears some parental and communal identity to assert itself as the successor of life and true representative of genealogical linearity. As such, sexual birth or for that matter biological birth is the abiding force for asserting one’s identity.

There has always been something fishy in scientific exploration into the possibility of human cloning. Though so far there has not been any such concrete claim as cloned human embryos been grown into fetal stage or beyond but the first claim by Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk in 2004 of creation of stem cells from cloned human embryo proved to be utterly false and simply hoax. But who says that it is beyond reach or whether in some foreseeable future cloned human beings will invade this planet?

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In 1997 a human cloning company Clonaid was founded with a sham philosophical conviction pertaining to Raelian sect of achieving immortality as the first step. On Dec. 27, 2002, Clonaid’s chief executive Brigitte Boisselier made a stupendous claim that it had successfully cloned human baby Eve who was claimed to have lasted for more than a year. But they could never establish their claim on a strong ground, so the claim went begging.

Though Clonaid’s claim went begging, it sparked serious repercussion due to wide media coverage all over the world and it created debates of ethical dimensions among the various cross sections of the people. It was reported that Florida attorney Bernard Siegel tried to move the court for appointing a special guardian to take care of Eve so that Eve might not be treated as a laboratory guineapig. But ultimately he came to the conclusion that Clonaid project was a sham. On the other hand, scientific community condemned Clonaid for premature experimentation with human embryos with the caveat that such acts result in a high risk of malformations and fetal deaths as happened in animal cloning.

Not only that, in 1997 scientists at the Roslin Institute of Scotland created a furor of sorts when they cloned a mammal sheep named Dolly. Since then the scientists continued to extend their experimentations to other species like cow, buffalo, horse and rhesus monkey. In this process, stem cells having the potential to replicate in myriad cells and tissues are harvested from cloned from cloned animal embryos. So, it seems that the days are not that far when scientists will virtually claim the reproductions of human beings from cloned human embryos.

The Clonaid project opened a Pandora’s Box for the scientific community who are engaged in human cloning. On the one hand, it is its practical viability and on the other hand, it is its ethical compatibility associated with human sentiment which is of great concern so far as the societal norms are concerned. The medical professionals have voiced concerns that the cloned individuals are very much prone to biological damage due to the inherent unreliability of their origins. Moreover, a substantial amount of expenses has to be coughed up for cloning a human life.

Apart from its practical viability, the upholders of religious views have raised strong feelings against this practice from ethical points of views. They say that human cloning violate God’s will on the natural course of human birth which sets in motion at the decisive moments of conception when the sperm and ovum unite and in this sense it is invariably meddling with sacredness of basic formation of life. Harvesting cells for embryonic cloning is nothing but tantamount to live human experimentation and contrary to godly beliefs of human way of life.

It will not be out of place to remember the Biblical episode of genesis of women. The believers say that Eve was a clone of Adam via Genesis as Lord God made a woman out of the part he had from the primordial man. But whatever it is, it is more of a metaphor of man and woman being a counterpart of each other and is in no way to detract us from the ethical view-points of human cloning. The believers apart, even our common beliefs cannot take it lying down the fact that a human life is cloned (not conceived) in vitro fertilisation which is strongly offensive to our long-cherished sentiments.

Catholic priest Father Sanders has remarked, "Cloning would only produce humanoids or androids – soulless replicas of human beings that could be used as slaves." Rev. Demetri Demophlos, Greek Orthodox Pastor and Geneticist, too, has spoken strongly against the creation of soulless replicas with a slant that "humans are supposed to be created by acts of love between two people, not through manipulation of cells in acts that are ultimately about self-love." So, love is the prime mover of conception and creation of human beings in this world.

Where there is no love lost between two people, there is no chance of a human child being born into this world and the child is always the cynosure of parental care and beauty. But who will take care of a cloned child and how will the parental love and affection be meted out to the cloned child? That is a million dollar question. Not only that, without having no emotional attachments to the parental world, how can they be integrated into the human society? They will at best spill over the categories of ‘outsiders’ – rootless, loveless, soulless humanoids or androids calculatively thrown into the vortex of hot and happening world.

Already more than 50 countries have legislated bans on human cloning. UN has recently voiced concern over the human cloning issue with strong emphasis on global embargo. Japan based United Nations’ University’s Institutes of Advanced Studies said in report that a legally binding global ban on work to create human clone with freedom for therapy would have enormous political repercussions. The rector of the institute AH Zakri said, "Whichever path the international community chooses, it will need to act soon – either to prevent reproductive cloning or to defend the human rights of the cloned individuals."

Barrister Brendan Tobin of National University of Ireland said with respect to outlawing cloning that "If the failure to compromise continues, the world community must accept responsibility and ensure that any cloned individual receives full human rights protection…ensure that society treats clone with respect…and ensure that that they are protected against prejudice, abuse or discrimination."

But that is like beating about the bush. An effort to negotiate the issue in an international convention two years ago failed on the ground of therapeutic cloning. The retractors protested against the unethically maneuvering of destruction of human embryos for stem cells. Though their demonstration against cloning was partly based on religious and moral grounds but they were mostly concerned of the facts that clones are most likely to sustain serious deformities and degenerative diseases.