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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - Therapeutic cloning: the moral status of embryos

from Section 1 - Cloning

Summary

Objectives

In reading this chapter you will:

distinguish reproductive and therapeutic cloning;

consider arguments for and against therapeutic cloning;

learn more about validity and the analysis of argument;

start to apply the moral theories outlined in Chapter 4;

consider whether it is always wrong to kill one of us;

reflect on the moral status of the embryo;

reflect on the difference between therapeutic cloning and abortion.

Clones get bad press. From the re-creation of Hitler in The Boys from Brazil to the ‘spare part’ clones of Kazuo Ishiguru’s Never Let Me Go, no one has a good word to say for them. The idea of cloning triggers, for most people, a visceral recoil (a version of the ‘boo’ or ‘yuk’ response discussed in Chapter 6).

In somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) the nucleus from a somatic cell (an ordinary body cell) of an organism is inserted into the de-nucleated egg of another (female) member of the same species (or even that of another species as with chimera), and triggered into developing as an embryo. Clones can also be produced by ‘twinning’, by splitting apart an embryo. If done early enough each clump of cells will develop into a separate individual. This happens naturally to produce identical twins. In this chapter and the next we shall be discussing only clones produced by SCNT.

The possibility of using this process on mammals generates the possibility of creating, from every cell of a human adult, a baby genetically identical to that adult. From the hair follicle you left in your hairbrush this morning it would be possible, in principle, to create many babies, each genetically identical to you.

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