Research in the field of embryology and genetics has exploded over the past decade. New advances about in vitro fertilization and genetic screening are leading to new procedures in which human embryo cloning will be possible in the near future. Human cloning, however, brings up many new ethical questions that will need to be addressed by the scientific community and the public before these advances can reach their full potential. Scientific advances bring social changes that many people will not be able to accept. As with any scientific or technological advance, the most important question that needs to be asked is whether or not the gains out weigh the potential losses. Will human cloning become a brave new step in fighting disease and improving the quality of life, or will it lead to dehumanization and a new genetic underclass?
Cloning humans has recently become a possibility that seems much more feasible in today’s society than it was twenty years ago. It is a method that involves the production of a group of identical cells or organisms that all derive from a single individual. It is not known when or how cloning humans really became a possibility, but it is known that there are two possible ways that we can clone humans. The first way involves splitting an embryo into several halves and creating many new individuals from that embryo. The second method of cloning a human involves taking cells from an already existing human being and cloning them, in turn creating other individuals that are identical to that particular person. With these two methods almost at our fingertips, we must ask ourselves two very important questions: Can we do this, and should we? There is no doubt that many problems involving the technological and ethical sides of this issue will arise and will be virtually impossible to avoid, but the overall idea of cloning humans is one that we should accept as a possible reality for the future.
The procedures used in cloning human embryo’s are very similar to the cloning of animal embryos, except for the zone pellucid. Several sperm cells and mature eggs cell are gathered from donors at fertility clinics, and are combined in a petri dish using in vitro fertilization procedures to form an embryo. In an alternate process, already produced embryos are gathered from fertility clinics that have embryos left over from prior in vitro clients. The acquired embryo is placed in a petri dish and is allowed to develop into a mass of two to eight cells. Next, a chemical solution is added that dissolves the zona pellucida that comers the embryo. The zona pellucida is a protective protein and polysaccharide membrane that covers the internal organs of the embryo, and provides the necessary nutrients for the first several cell divisions that occur within the embryo. After the zona pellucida is dissolved, the cell within the embryo are freed. These two to eight cells are then collected by the researchers and placed in separate petri dishes. These embryonic cells are called blastomeres, or cells that are a part of the hollow ball of cell known as the blastula. The embryonic cells are then considered new embryos, all of which share the same exact genetic information. In effect at this point the science has produced multiple copies of life that could have never before existed. Do we as a society have the moral wisdom to determine the direction or understand the implications that this science provides our species?
Cloning humans is an idea that has always been thought of as something that could be found in science fiction novels, but never as a concept that society could actually experience. “The public has been bombarded with newspaper articles, magazine stories, books, television shows, and movies as well as cartoons”, writes Tobert McLinnell, the author of Cloning: A Biologist Reports. Much of this information in these sources leads the public in the wrong direction and makes them wonder how easy it would be for everyone around them to be cloned. Bizarre ideas about cloning lie in many science fiction books and scare the public with their unbelievable possibilities. David Rorvik wrote a highly controversial book entitled In His Image. In it he describes the story of a wealthy man who decides