Dolly the Sheep, the first such animal to be cloned was big news first in 1996 quickly developed several genetic birth defects and had to be put down seven years after her birth. Imperfections in the cloning process made Dolly suffer a number of diseases that cast a shadow on the prospect of cloning for several years up until just recently. And now Dolly, or rather four clones exactly like her, is once again walking the Earth.
The death of Dolly the sheep raised several questions about the ethics of cloning a creature if the process was imperfect and would ensure genetic defects that would cause it to suffer. But now with the development of these new clones, it seems many of the problems once recognized by Ian Wilmutt and Keith Campbell – the heads of the project in Roslin Institute, Scotland – have been worked out. And now an army of cloned sheep can be made all exactly alike.
The move was one part experiment, and one part attempt to prove that cloning has been improved a great deal since Dolly the sheep first walked the Earth. And now with the cloning process improved a great deal, the ethics of cloning a human being will have to be resolved without the ability to fall back on the idea that such a process is not advanced enough to allow for clones to survive. In essence, the existence of four healthy cloned Dollies will mean the ethical debate will happen on new ground. And movements such as Redline, an anti cloning organization propose that the line should not be drawn at mere safety, but at human identity.
To better understand the cloning debate it will be important to take into consideration the intricate and difficult questions that are raised by the debate. First, there are those who are for the cloning of humans and animals for numerous reasons. These individuals advocate the right for a “donor” to give up their cells in order for a perfect replica to be made for themselves. Some suggest the line should be made where human clones are grown and then allowed to live perfectly autonomous lives as offspring would of their donors. A far more disturbing prospect is raised when some suggest that the process could also be used in order to allow human surrogates to be grown like cattle and then used for organ donation purposes. While this is a horrifying alternative often proposed in anti cloning circles, the actual likelihood of such a program being used in order to allow a select few to harvest organs from their own clones. This form would be known as therapeutic reproductive cloning. The old body would have the brain removed and replaced in a newly grown body. The most obvious major point of controversy here is that the cloned body would then lose its brain. Of course this would be by most definitions of the word, murder. Still, proponents of therapeutic reproductive cloning suggest that the process could be engineered where the brain of a clone would never be allowed to develop, and as it grew the autonomic functions of the body would be controlled by a computerized brain. Such are the dilemmas that will no doubt be one day raised by a human race seeking immortality. Proponents suggest the matter can not be wholesale disregarded because they are uncomfortable, however, as the ultimate answer could lead to a world where death is virtually nonexistent.