As we enter the 21st century, technology is advancing at a rapid pace. From smartphones to smart cars, everything is rapidly developing and the science behind cloning is doing the same thing. Ever since the first sheep was cloned back in 1996, Dolly the sheep; animal cloning is being implemented on an industrial scale now. Due to various commercial gains, massive amounts of funding have gone to this sector and the results show for itself. The best traits of each animal are being preferred while cloning to increase profits for these giant corporations. This, in turn, is raising many people to ask if humans could also be cloned at this massive margin.
There are many benefits to human cloning, aside from the obvious impacts in medicine as human clones could be resistant to virus outbreaks or major diseases, and the increase in life expectancy. Despite this fact, scientists are increasingly being left with a dilemma; do we really need human cloning?
Many people have raised serious doubts on the aspect of human cloning, and various ethical issues are raised while talking about this topic. One common misconception is that a human clone would have the same characteristics as the person ‘it’ was cloned from. That it would be completely identical to the donor. But the truth of the matter is that human characteristics are not influenced by DNA, rather from the individual’s environment and habitat, among other factors.
Currently, most countries have banned any sort of human cloning, with some countries like UK introducing provisions that a cloned human embryo cannot be allowed to develop after 14 days. So, there is a very lively debate going on around the world about should we allow human cloning or not. This kind of cloning represents a threat to human individuality, and humans should not be playing “GOD”. Essentially, if we take nature’s role out of giving birth, we might be playing a dangerous game as none of us knows the true consequences of such dastardly actions.
Human cloning is also banned in religions such as Islam as it is considered “haram”; meaning “forbidden” in English. This is because a human clone is not considered a real human being.
The United Nations General Assembly in 2005 gave out a Declaration on Human Cloning; this bans all kinds of cloning done on humans as they threaten our values and way of life, and pose a direct threat to human dignity. Thus, many countries are bound to respect such a kind of declaration.
To this, no human has ever been successfully cloned. Despite that, in 2008, scientists successfully managed to create the first of its kind; five mature human embryos using stem cell technology. This was done not to actually clone a life, but rather to study the initial stages involved in cloning a human.
Another possible problem that may arise if the ban on human cloning is lifted is the potential for illicit cloning. This is a very disturbing thought indeed. The biological matter could be stolen, like red blood cells and the clone could be reproduced via a surrogate womb. This might sound like a far-fetched idea now, but stranger things have happened before. Such a disgraceful act would be highly unethical and such criminal acts could be a staple of the future. Black markets could spring up catering to the high demand of human cloning as it is relatively quite inexpensive to do such a thing. Sporadic cults could pop up doing cloning in a clandestine manner.
People might also want to clone a family member who has recently deceased, raising the alarming possibility of cloning dead people. Thus, making our genes live on in future generations.
There is also the possibility for the doppelganger effect. For example, there might exist identical clones of a single genetic code, thus people with the same facial characteristics could be common place in the future. And the more clones that are out there, the bigger this problem is going to get.
Last but not the least, the most practical application of human cloning is that it should serve as an alternative way of assistive reproduction; helping couples who are infertile to have a baby. This could be similar to the first “test-tube babies” from the 1970s. Just like how the public was first outraged at the prospect of test tube babies during that time, and then later became normalized to this notion; I suspect human cloning will follow a similar suit. But we should be prepared to face the consequences of our actions, as no one really knows how the first fully functional human clones will be like.