Human Cloning-Ethical Issues

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Human Cloning-Ethical Issues

General assembly adopts United Nations declaration on human cloning by vote of 84-34-37

Press Release

By: United Nations

Date: March 08, 2005

Source: United Nations. "General assembly adopts United Nations declaration on human cloning by vote of 84-34-37." March 3, 2005. Press Release GA/10333. Available online at 〈http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2005/ga10333.doc.htm〉 (accessed January 30, 2006).

About the Author: The United Nations (UN) is an organization established on October 24, 1945. The fifty-one founding countries (as of 2006, 191 member countries) were committed to the preservation of peace through international cooperation and providing collective security.

INTRODUCTION

Cloning is the creation of a creature using the genetic material of another creature. The genetic compositions of both are identical. Cloning leapt to public attention in 1997, with the cloning of the first mammal, a sheep named Dolly.

With the realization that cloning was achievable, public concern about the possibility that a human could be cloned grew. As of 2006, it is still in the realm of potential rather than reality, although in 2004, a sect known as the Raelians claimed to have accomplished the feat (no evidence has ever been provided to support the announcement). However, in 2001, a company called Advanced Cell Technology successfully cloned human embyronic cells, which were allowed to undergo several rounds of division before the growth was ended. While not yet recognizable as an embryo, the experiment demonstrated that the process was possible.

The prospects of human cloning has focussed concern on the use of humans for the therapeutic benefit of others. As two examples, cloned humans could be used as a source of donor organs and tissues, and offspring could be tailored. Such prospects have inspired calls for the banning of cloning research. However, others express the fear that this limits the pursuit of intellectual curiosity, and potential cures for diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes.

Not surprisingly, many theologians and religious leaders support the banning of human cloning, with the view that a human is a human from the moment of conception.

In 2005, the UN adopted the Declaration on Human Cloning by a vote of eighty-four in favor, thirty-four against, and thirty-seven abstentions. The declaration prohibited all techniques of cloning, arguing that these violated human dignity and were not protective of human life. The lack of consensus and comments by some representatives that affirmed the right of cloning research made it clear that the passage of the non-binding declaration by no means settled the issue of human cloning.

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SIGNIFICANCE

The UN vote on the Declaration on Human Cloning is representative of the debate underway in the society at large. Opinions for and against human cloning are deep, passionate, and vocal. The debate goes to the very heart of what it means to be a human being and when human life begins.

The knowledge that adult stem cells also hold the potential to be manipulated into the tissue of choice holds some promise to resolve the use of stem cells, since adult cells could be obtained from donors without harm. As of 2006, the use of adult stem cells is in its infancy, with much work still to be done before these cells can be of therapeutic use.

Despite the fervor of the stem cell debate, the area remains a hot topic of research. In January 2006, for example, it was revealed that most of the groundbreaking stem cell research reported by South Korean researcher Dr. Hwang Woo Suk was fraudulent. Suk's actions speak volumes upon how important a breakthrough in stem cell research would be to the researchers accomplishing the feat.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Cole-Turner, Ronald, ed. Human Cloning: Religious Responses. Phoenix: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997.

Kass, Leon R., and John Q. Wilson. The Ethics of Human Cloning. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute Press, 1998.

McGee, Glenn. The Human Cloning Debate. Berkeley: Berkeley Hills Books, 2002.

Naam, Ramez. More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. New York: Broadway, 2005.

Nussbaum, Martha C., and Cass R. Sunstein, eds. Clones and Clones: Facts and Fantasies About Human Cloning. New York: W. W. Norton, 1998.

Waters, Brent, and Ronald Cole-Turner, eds. God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2003.

Periodicals

Annas, G. J. "Politics, Morals and Embryos." Nature no. 431 (2004): 19-20.

Vogel, G. "Scientists Take Step Toward Therapeutic Cloning." Science no. 303 (2004): 937-939.

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