Cloning: ethical and legal issues

The birth of Dolly the lamb in 1997 sparked one of ht greatest furors to influence the discipline of medical law and biomedical ethics since its very beginning. Dolly was the first example of an adult mammal genetically copied (or cloned). In this regard much controversy related to human cloning has arisen, especially in terms of ethics of stem cells’ donations. (Boyle&Savulescu 2001) Another important issue, with has arisen, lies in the fact that a possibility of cloning is likely to distort existing family structures. (McGee 2001)

Furthermore, in case we are able to influence people’s genetic make-up, our perceptions of what is a human being are likely to alter irrevocably. Even before Dolly was cloned, scientists expressed a concern that cloning opens a Pandora’s Box in terms of growing potential for exploitation clones as sources of spare body parts. (Savulescu 1999) Ethical issues, mentioned above relate not only to reproductive (aimed at creating a new animal or human being), but to therapeutic (aimed at somatic cell nuclear transfer in terms of curing diseases) cloning. The main issue related to therapeutic cloning is connected with embryo research. Opponents of therapeutic cloning claim that it is inhuman to create and then destroy embryos in order to conduct research due to the fact that embryos should be treated as humans from the moment conception.

Nonetheless, the opposition to therapeutic cloning and even reproductive cloning of animals is incomparable with the opposition to cloning of human beings. To prove this statement I would like to refer to the example of the USA Congress, which approved of the production and consumption of meat from the cloned animals in 2006. Despite serious objections, which followed the decision, it is still in force.

As opposed to cloning of animals, reproductive cloning of human beings was legally prohibited worldwide. A protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine prohibits the cloning of human beings (Additional Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine on the Prohibition of Cloning Human beings 1998) along with the UNESCO Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, which specially disallows cloning as being contrary to dignity of a person. (UNESCO Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights 1997) Furthermore, the European Union removed all the incentives to carry out research related to reproductive cloning by passing the Directive on the Legal protection of Biotechnological interventions.

According to the Directive, the human body at the various stages of its formation and development, and processes for cloning human beings and modifying the germ-line genetic identity of human beings are not considered to be patentable. However, an element, isolated from the human body or and/or otherwise produced by artificial means is patentable. Such allowance was made in order to avoid prohibition of production specific medicinal products, which are produced thanks to “technical processes aimed at obtaining elements similar in structure to those, existing naturally in a human body”. (Directive of the European Parliament and of …
Posted by: Howard Maclaren

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