Genetic Engineering and Cloning Ethics


Like nuclear fusion and the discovery of life in space, today new advancements in the study of molecular biology is a breaking new ground with the possibility of mammal cloning extending to humans. In the past it was considered impossible to confront natural circumstances that place limitations on human needs such as those of having children with no impoverishments or disabilities. However, laboratory experiments with genes have altered the scenario and the general perception that goes with the probability of parenting a child. Similarly, farm animals can also be found with the desirable qualities of the owner. This discussion develops an insight into the details involved in genetic engineering and mammal cloning with the objective of presenting an ethical argument on the various issues surrounding these developments. On the bases of moral laws and philosophy, the discussion seeks to indentify and assess the ramifications of allowing the activities associated with cloning and genetic engineering to proceed. The discussion uses the three broad common theories in its approach to the discussion, thus: consequentialism which is divided into Deontology and Teleology, Casuistry and Utilitarianism.

Genetic engineering is the deliberate manipulation of genes of living organisms under artificial conditions with the intention of producing new but similar organisms with specific desired characteristics. Genetic engineering involves the biological modification of the organism’s traits by fusing that particular organism’s nuclear cells; Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) with another that carries the desired qualities thereby producing new cells that act as source of a new life form. Cloning on the other hand refers to the duplication of genes of a particular organism in order to produce a replica of the original specie. Genetic engineering and cloning are related in the sense that they both lead to development of a new life form, totally different from the original parent though through artificial processes. Moreover, the physical appearance of the parent is not lost in the new life form is not lost.

Until Dr. Jerry Hall and Robert Stillman of George Washington University entered into a debut of human cloning, developments in genetic engineering and mammalian cloning had not generated major debates in academic and social world. Since the successful experiment of Hall/Stillman studies, cloning and genetic engineering raises a number of ethical and moral questions due to uncertainties that it poses on human existence and farm activities. Hall/Stillman cloning was meant to help parents who could not naturally produce children get children through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Consequently, cloning became primarily essential for parents who would want children replacement or want themselves duplicated.

Ethical issues concerning Genetic Engineering and Cloning

A number of issues have been raised by theologians and philosophers among other scholars on both social and environmental implications of the process of genetic engineering and cloning. The end results of this processes which includes clones and GMOs have not been spared either. Most of the problems arise from the purposes of developing clones and GMOs in the first place. Thus, the two primary purposes of advanced genetic and molecular biology; cloning for replacement and parents’ duplication, reflect on the depth of inadequacy that exits in the lives of humans and their present environment. While genetic engineering aimed at improving the existing variety of plants and animals may be tolerable to a large extent, cloning of humans and higher mammals may “cause more harm than good” in the words of Dr. Ian Wilmut ( Beauchamp and Childress 1)

Casuistry Theory on Cloning and genetic engineering

Casuists may argue that cloning humans in order to harvest their organs may be a suitable option for surgeons, but this raises ethical questions. In as much as it drives from the premise of necessity of organs to transplant to patients. The use of organs from other animals such as pigs may suffice the process. Despite research findings which indicate that cloning improves the probability of matching organs from 25% to about 100%, the principles of maleficence which advocates for least harm to specimen prohibits what may appear as rearing of humans for the sake of mutilation. First of all it can be totally unbearable for a person to be brought for a few decades, only to learn on one fateful day that their body parts were meant for extraction to be implanted in another’s body. Justice would have faltered in its course in determining the beneficiary of organs harvested from the clones such as eyes, the heart, kidney and uterus. It must be considered that the clones may have to undergo extremely painful process from their initial development to how they are treated prior to fulfilment of the goals they are designed for (Cohen 41).

The rationale behind, cloning advanced from the premise that genetic engineering produces improved species that are more adaptable to the rapidly changing conditions of the environment sounds good from the onset of advanced biomedical studies. However, farm animals cloning and that of humans could be considered as disrespect for the individual’s autonomy as they infringe on their choices and motivation to act on their free-will. While engineering the new genetic make up of the clone, it is also challenging to establish whether they consent to the whole process. Even if there is a provision to present their views, ethical principle demands on the relative time of “when do they consent?” and whether their decision has any imperative impact on the ultimate outcome. In the end, the subjects are rather conditioned to act in a certain way instead of eliciting an appropriate response. For example, it may not be wrong to “buy” a child with exaggerated abilities such as talents and Intelligent Quotient, or a pet with feature that are just fit to a person’s taste, but there is a major problem associated with commoditization of humans a animals which can only mimic some of the traits of either parents- it violates against the fidelity of the resulting specie (Mackinnon 55).

Consequentialism Theories


Kantaism approaches to Deontology which emphasizes the use of universal laws and rules to justify actions also contradicts the nature of associations which may exist between the “clonee” and the cell/DNA donor. Since genetic engineering negates God’s law tailored toward human procreation in the institution of marriage. Consequently, it infringes on the conjugal union of couples in the process of developing copies of their children (Twins). The natural process of sexual reproduction is at stake here as parents are likely to get involved in immoral behaviours such as stopping to carry pregnancies while men may hire or rent wombs in order to get children through DNA fusion par se (Cohen 11).

This move which is only at a distant future is bound be in total disregard to the biomedical principles of fidelity which as it is incoherent with the social and medical practice. Such practices as the protection of matrimonial rights which are considered important in every society may then be overstepped by cloning. This is due to the fact that human cells are common in most public social places in saliva, sweat and even other forms of wastes. In one visit to a doctor if the diagnosis of a patient’s illness involves taking of samples for testing, then the patient eventually ends up leaving a lot of his or her cell in the hospital. Ultimately, any individual who wishes to clone a child with traits resembling another person with whom his or her interests are intense, he or she would not be bound to do exactly that with or without their consent (Mackinnon 69).

Eventually, genetic engineering places a lot of power in the hands of fallen humans. In the opinions of theist who believe in creation theory, God’s command to humans that they should multiply and feel the earth may seen as a rule that has lost its meaning in the face of cloning and developing of genetically modified breeds of plants as witnessed by artificial production of life forms instead of creating conditions that allow for natural propagation to prevail in giving forth new generations. Confusion arises when a clone does not know how to refer to his maker; the person with who biologically inherited characters are shared. They may not call them mothers or fathers because it is their DNA which was used and not their natural reproduction cells (Cohen 75).


Telos refers to the human purpose to live by reason. Acceptable human acts are based on rational judgement. One form of genetic engineering associated with cloning and development new breeds of mammalian creatures lies in the field of stem cell research. The issue of using stem cell in repairing damaged tissues is right. However, stem cell research is bound to generate cures for some deadliest and agonizing illnesses. This possibility is against deeply rooted moral philosophies of most societies who hold strong beliefs based on their religious faith. The main problem here lies in the use of embryonic stem cells in the engineering of clones and other genetically modified species. Essentially, in the process of stem cell related genetic engineering, the embryo is actually destroyed. This act is viewed as breaching the principle of non-maleficience; since every embryo is capable of becoming a human being, stem cell harvesting which involves damaging of the embryonic cell is considered as murder. As long as the debate on when life begins remains in the scientific and medical realms, life is still considered sacred from its simplest form- the embryos, to complex form- grown normal functioning rational being. From the basis of beneficence principle, it is argued that not all embryos take part in fertilization.

Conversely, the most beneficiaries of this form of cloning are the pioneer companies which have patented artificial creation from its onset. This defies the postulations of teleogical theory which outlines that the female and her embryos some of which are lost during menstruation deserve the benefit of the research. When the DNA of a donor is used to generate a new creature that is then transferred to the womb of a barren woman, then it increases the chances of the woman to produce children. How the child will relate to his surrogate mother becomes another major problem. As soon as the foetus grows the mother may learn that her ability to give birth is likely to be accompanied by a number of complications. This may lead to implication of the doctors who would be seen to act against nature, though in futility, leaving them at the mercy of the gods. It is widely believed that cloning is like playing God. Many societies across the ages have often believed that it is the choice of God to see who will have children and who will not. The timing of what God as planned also matters across the continuum of child bearing by parents. Therefore, it would be philosophically disturbing to have humans created artificially for parents whose concerns are in the hands of a supreme being who cares for them so much that they are granted freedom to do as they wish but maintain his reverence (Mackinnon 87).

For such reason that lies in the conscience of many faith believers, cloning is bound to interfere with human dignity and respect as it may lead to “new stigmatization” associated with “clones”. Hence, cloning as division of genetic engineering is bound to contradict the principles of justice and fidelity by propagating asexual artificial reproduction (Milgram and Rantala 76 ).


As the society progresses through growth and developments in technology, it is hoped that advancements in the field of medicine propagated by biomedical research will bring better life, promote simplicity in treatment and diagnosis of maladies, make life more convenient, and that these developments will exalt human knowledge, create more happiness, pleasure and generate commensurate gratifications to individual desires. One of the objectives of cloning is to create beings with as close resemblances as possible with humans so as to facilitate medical processes of tissue repair and organ transplant. This practice is aimed at making the resultant process more productive and the patient guaranteed an equal or even much longer life span. The acts of granting an individual life at the expense of another is already accepted as murder and very little can be debated on that. For a fact, what laws already prescribe as wrong is just that wrong. It would be in vain to create clones with the hope of maximizing human happiness on earth as an ultimate consequence to their demise. It is not ethically profound to justify that organ harvesting from a clone is much fair than having a normally reared human volunteer to give one. The net effect is relatively the same in both cases the individual is subject to harm and pain (Mackinnon 88).

On the other hand, blastomere separation for reproductive cloning has its own repercussions on the family in which this procedure is done. First, the psychological problems associated with the clone and its original twin are enormous; the original twin- in this case the one who was born out of a natural process may think of himself or herself as inadequate in various aspect as one reason that led to their parents clone him in another copy. This defies the principle of individual autonomy since the achievements of the original may be measured against the clone who already has exaggerated potential. The question of, how for instance does the original cope with relating to his twin? S/he could be a sibling to the original in what sense? Brother? Not enough because the original close kin is a DNA donor by virtue of parents’ will. Moreover, it is the moral obligation of parents to produce babies sexually (naturally). It may also be confusing for the original to call the clone sister going by the same hypothesis. In the case of replacement cloning, it may be in the wish of parents to replace a dying or dead child. The new child may then be produced with “customized” modifications to suit the parents’ desire. Ultimately, the parents may remain with the memory of the dead child always because it will be evident in the living clone (Stanley 48).

Soon enough the clone learns that he is not an original and is merely treated as an image of long dead person. Utilitarianisms’ principle of non-maleficence and individual autonomy is again put in the balance as indicated by the stigma faced by this clone. What the parents required of the original now become the demands imposed on the clone with dire consequences of limiting the clone to certain interests which may be non-existent. In an attempt to perpetuate human happiness, people may want to clone even from long dead heroes and heroines. This notion which is advanced from the utilitarianism theory is actually possible. Moreover, the fears of cloning-humans-turned-monsters with disastrous consequences like Adolf Hitler as portrayed in the films Jurassic Park or Brave New World and the Boys from Brazil can be real. Utilitarianism theory also projects the possibility of manipulating cloned kids to become slaves without their consent. In case this happens, and it is highly unlikely because cloning is an expensive process that is undertaken for specific purposes, then it is bound to go against the principles of justice and moral laws designed to grant every individual his or her autonomy (Milgram and Rantala 113).

Ethical approaches to the problems associated with Genetic Engineering and Cloning

Application of genetic engineering in creation of human clones is in essence an over extension of eugenics. Most of the ethical limits admissible given the present evolutionary age of human existence cover stem cell research; dolly and GMO farm/garden plants. These philosophical propositions are not merely based on the opinion that, a major divide between biomedical practitioners and religious, persons in the general public is created by lack of understanding in the details involved in genetic studies but on the projections indicated by recent developments in this field which display dire ramifications in human’s social realms. It is profoundly ethical to challenge Mother Nature in producing more food; by manipulating the genetic make up of existing animals and plants in order to create new breeds that would meet available demand (Milgram and Rantala 72 ).

People naturally need food to survive and generating more even to reserve for the future is fair enough for all. However, attempts to stretch the longevity of mankind through cloning techniques and production of duplicates is comparable to retrogression in the age of mass production tailored toward reducing disparities in human wants. Reasoning from generally acceptable premises and universals leading to normative conclusions on the controversies surrounding cloning may offer some good judgements on the trends in genetic engineering. Since cloning is bound to stumble upon and interfere or intervene in the mystery of human existence. In addition, the origin of life on earth may still remain largely unknown even after Darwinian theories. Equally, the provision for decision making on the basis of human values, situation variables and empirical data should suffice for biomedical practitioners and researchers who would heavily rely on clinical consequentialists to draw results and generate relevant information (Stanley 25).


Medical advancements in the genetic engineering draw controversies mainly from the means and the ends of the processes involved and the clones themselves. Ultimately, the most important decisions on weather to proceed with cloning in genetic engineering or not and on the policies to be adopted by nations regarding the path taken by these advancements will forever depend on the acts and consequences of genetic engineering and cloning as the an option to normal life. For untold reasons, philosophers and theologians predict major pitfalls for adopting the process on human beings. Human are complex creatures with will, reason and spirit. Most people who are not considered very knowledgeable or who have significant impairments generally operate by instinct and intuition. In the mind of a clone, the thought process might be the centre of such limitations and those super-humans may either be very irrational or extremely rational and short term while making complex decisions. Similarly, full clones or semi-clones are likely to develop mechanisms which are less likely to resonate with natural conditions and process. For example, they could be sterile just like the Genetically Manufactured Organisms-plants which normally lack seeds. In the event that this is true, parents/”clonees” may lose their confidence in the process that they venture on to guarantee them security for existence in the future (Slowther , Johnston , Goodall and Hope 3 ).

Works Cited

Beauchamp, T. and Childress, J. (2001) Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 5th Ed, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cohen, Daniel. Cloning. Brookfield: The Millbrook Press, 1998. Print. Web.

Mackinnon, Barbara (Ed.). Human Cloning: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy. llinois: Board of Trustees of Illinois, 2000. Print.

Milgram, Athur and Rantala, M. Cloning: for and against. Illonois: Carus Publishing Company, 1999. Print.

Slowther A, Johnston C, Goodall J. and Hope. TA practical guide for clinical ethics. Oxford: The Ethox Center, 2004. Print.

Stanley, Debbie. Genetic engineering: the Cloning debate. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2000. Print.

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