I have received your letter and understand you have some questions about the cloning of humans. Hereinafter, I will discuss the Canadian regulations pertaining to the cloning of humans, social aspects, ethical aspects, and further elaborate on legal aspects on the practice of human cloning.The term cloning describes a number of different processes that can be used to produce genetically identical copies of a biological entity. The copied material, which has the same genetic makeup as the original, is referred to as a clone (National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2006, para. 1). Clones do occur naturally, however when talking about artificial cloning, there are three different types, gene cloning, reproductive cloning, and therapeutic cloning.
The cloning of humans, refers specifically to reproductive cloning. To perform reproductive cloning, scientists extract a mature somatic cell, for example, a skin cell from organism they wish to clone (in this case a human). Subsequently, scientists will remove the DNA-containing nucleus from a host oocyte (egg cell) and inject the DNA extracted from the donor organism’s somatic cell; This process can be completed in one of two ways. The first way utilizes a needle to remove the DNA from the somatic cell in order to inject it into the oocyte. The second tactic employs an electrical current to coalesce the complete somatic cell to the empty host oocyte. Both methods allow the oocyte to develop into an early stage embryo in a test tube before inserting the oocyte into a mature female.
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The end goal is for the mature female to give birth to an organism, known as the clone, with an identical genetic makeup as the donor of the somatic cell. Canada has very specific regulations regarding the cloning of humans. These two main regulations are as stated under section 5(1) and section 9 of the AHR Act, no person shall knowingly: (a) create a human clone by using any technique, or transplant a human clone into a human being or into any non-human life form or artificial device (b) create an in vitro embryo for any purpose other than creating a human being or improving or providing instruction in assisted reproduction procedures (Government of Canada, 2009, para.
3). Section (a) refers to any and all purposes of cloning, specifically both therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning is the process in which a cloned embryo is synthesized with the intention of harvesting stem cell in order to treat possible disease or disabilities in the donor of the somatic cell. The practice of reproductive cloning refers to the insertion of a host oocyte containing the donor’s DNA developed into an embryo into a mature woman’s uterus with the intent of creating an individual with an identical genetic makeup. Section (b) prohibits the creation of an in vitro embryo with any other object outside of establishing a pregnancy, for example during a in vitro fertilization, or after an embryo has been frozen for a period of time; or providing instruction perhaps in a clinical trial or to train a embryologist.
In the case of providing instruction, both donors of gametes must consent to the use of the embryo for instruction and the embryo must be destroyed in the lab directly after. Speaking from a social aspect there are several different sentiments taken by different religions in regards to human cloning. For example, from a conservative Christian standpoint, cloning of humans is morally incorrect in the sense that scientists are viewed to be attempting to play God. The Christian Church strongly believes that there is only one God who excises sovereignty over all and that his will is expressed verbatim in the bible. Subsequently, the bible does not commend cloning or the creation of life through artificial means. Furthermore, cloning can cause significant problems concerning identity and individuality.
In spite of the fact that our genetic makeup does not determine our identities, instead it being the environment and the way in which these clones are raised that will determine their disposition; these clones will have no individuality in their genetic makeup. These clones will be genetically be a carbon copy of their “mother” or “father”, yet our genetic idiosyncrasy is paramount source of our sense of self and the way in which we regard ourselves. The clones may find themselves in a position where they feel as if their lives are overshadowed by that of their progenitor. If the two individuals turned out to lead similar lives, the cloned person’s achievements may be seen as derivative (Kennedy Institute of Ethics, 2002, para. 75). In a situation where the clone is created with the intent to replace a deceased progenitor, the clone may feel a heavy burden to conform and live up to the expectations from the life of their progenitor.
The idea of cloning human, although considered scientific process, has also brought up the prospect of a “new eugenics”. The term eugenics is recognized as, the selection of desired heritable characteristics in order to improve future generations (Britannica, 1998, para. 1).