THE ETHICS OF HUMAN CLONING
© Copyright 1999
Saint Vincent College
RS 350: Independent Study
Fr. Thomas Hart, O.S.B.
January 13, 1999
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Mary Had A Little Lamb
Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was slightly gray
It didn’t have a father, just some borrowed DNA.
It sort of had a mother, though the ovum was on loan,
It was not so much a lambkin as a little lamby clone.
And soon it had a fellow clone, and soon it had some more,
They followed her to school one day, all cramming through the door.
It made the children laugh and sing, the teachers found it droll,
There were too many lamby clones, for Mary to control.
No other could control the sheep, since the programs didn’t vary,
So the scientists resolved it all, by simply cloning Mary.
But now they feel quite sheepish, those scientists unwary,
One problem solved but what to do, with Mary, Mary, Mary.
Anonymous Post on the Internet
Would the Real Definition of Cloning Please Stand Up?
William Blake posed the question in one of his poems: "Little Lamb, who made thee?" Dolly, the sheep cloned by the team at the Roslin Institute on July 5, 1996, has quite a different answer to the question, because she was quite literally made. She was not the work of nature, but of man, an Englishman. Dolly became a "celebrity, the butt of countless jokes, a symbol of modern science, and a source of hype and even hysteria." Do people really understand what this means for technology and the future of science, or are they motivated by the fear of a cloned human being and all of the misconceptions that surround it?
Over the years, many things have happened. It has become harder, not easier to pin down the true definition of human cloning. The word "clone," derived from the Greek klon refers to asexual reproduction, also known as vegetative reproduction. Cloned molecules, cells, plants, and animals are all genetically identical copies produced without any intervention from the sexual process.
Searching through the American Heritage Dictionary, we find the definition of a clone to be in four parts: (1) A group of genetically identical cells descended from a single common ancestor, such as a bacterial colony whose members arose from a single original cell as a result of binary fission; (2) An organism descended asexually from a single ancestor such as a plant produces by layering or a polyp produced by budding; (3) A replica of a DNA sequence, such as a gene, produced by genetic engineering; (4) One that copies or closely resembles another, as in appearance or function.
The National Bioethics Advisory Commission defines cloning in its simplest sense as "the making of identical copies of molecules, cells, tissues, and even entire animals." Human cloning has been defined as the asexual replication of an individual human being at any stage of development. Human genes, cells, proteins, and tissues are routinely cloned for biological and biomedical research.
U.S. Senator Campbell introduced a bill that defined human cloning as follows: "the terms ‘clone’ and ‘cloning’ mean the practice of creating or attempting to create a human being by transferring the nucleus from a human cell from whatever source into a human egg cell from which the nucleus has been removed for the purpose of, or to implant, the resulting product to initiate a pregnancy that could result in the birth of a human being." The popular usage of cloning is "a duplicate, or cheaper imitation, of a brand-name person, place, or thing."
Can We Separate Fact From Fiction?
Why do four out of five Americans think that human cloning is "against God’s will" or "morally wrong"? Why are they frightened? People have a muddled sense of what cloning is; they confuse the popular meaning and the context of biology.
Much has been written about clonal humans. Most is the work of science-fiction writers, philosophers, theologians, and lawyers. "We have in some sense been softened up to the human cloning idea—through movies, cartoons, jokes and intermittent commentary in the mass media, some serious, most lighthearted." (See Appendix A.)
Many misconceptions about human cloning come from science-fiction. From movies like Sleeper and Boys From Brazil, one can infer that only dictators will be cloned. Other misconceptions may be that (1) Clones will grow from zygotes to adult size in a few days, or sometimes, instantaneously (Multiplicity); (2) On emerging from their pods, fully grown clones will have no emotions and will be murderous zombies (Invasion of the Body Snatchers); (3) Cloned women will be tall, thin and beautiful (Stepford Wives); (4) If a good man or woman is cloned, their clone will be evil (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde); (5) The scientist who clones a mammal will be killed by a clone, usually in his own lab environment (Jurassic Park and Island of Dr. Moreau).
People also fear cloning because a clone is an imperfect imitation of the real thing. For instance, a character in the movie Multiplicity states that "Sometimes you make a copy of a copy and it’s not as sharp as the original," and in Bladerunner, synthetic people were produced that were identical to the humans except they had no empathy. The Human Research Embryo Panel in 1994 concluded that "Popular views of human cloning derive from science-fiction books and films that have more to do with cultural fantasies than actual scientific experiments." Experts have rushed in to reassure the public that the clone would in no way be the same person or have any confusions about his identity. The brain cannot be cloned or duplicated from a DNA blueprint. "They are pleased to point out that the clone of Mel Gibson would not be Mel Gibson."
Is It Time to Clone a National Bioethics Advisory Commission?
In 1997, after the announcement of Dolly, President Bill Clinton extended the life of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) until October of 1999. The Commission is a 17-member panel, fairly evenly balanced between scientists and non-scientists. There are seven women and ten men, five M.D.s, one professor of psychology, nursing, and religious studies, two pediatricians, two official bioethicists, a famous senior physician, an M.D./Ph.D. of genetics and five others. Two of the M.D.s, Bernard Lo and Ezekiel J. Emanuel, had expertise in clinical medical ethics. Two more of the M.D.s, Alexander Capron and R. Alta Charo, are law professors plus one M.D., Lawrence Miike, has a law degree and is the Director of the Hawaii State Department of Health. Jim Childress is a professor of psychology, nursing and religious studies at the University of Virginia. There are two official bioethicists: Patricia Backlar from Portland State University and Tom Murray from Case Western Reserve University. The famous senior physician, Eric Cassell, is a clinical professor of public health at Cornell University Medical College. David R. Cox, a professor of genetics and pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and Arturo Brito, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami School of Medicine, round up the two pediatricians on the Committee. Three Ph.D.s on the Committee consist of a Senior Staff Scientist from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Carol W. Greider), a professor of psychology at Temple University (Diane Scott-Jones), and the Vice Provost for Health Affairs at the University of Michigan (Rhetaugh Graves Dumas). To round off the non-scientists, the final three members include an advocate for the mentally ill (Laurie M. Flynn), a business officer of a pharmaceutical company (Steven H. Holtzman), and the founding president of the Richmond Bioethics Consortium (Bette O. Kramer). The Chair of the NBAC is the President of Princeton University, Harold T. Shapiro, Ph.D. A list of these members and of the staff of the NBAC can be found in Appendix B.
When confronted with the prospect of a cloned human being, the need for this Committee becomes apparent. All new technologies require some regulation; I think most would agree that with this new technology, regulation is at the top of the list of what needs to be done. The NBAC is set up to discuss all aspects of the ethical, moral, political and legal ramifications of this new science. The President noted that "any discovery that touches upon human creation is not simply a matter of scientific inquiry, it is a matter of morality and spirituality as well." The NBAC sought out the advice of leading scholars from various religious traditions, such as Leon Kass and Gilbert Meilaender. The Committee recognized that the various religious traditions are what shape our moral views and many of our ideas and inspirations.
The Committee continues to deliberate about the issues of cloning a human being, but they put out a report in June of 1997 concluding that "to clone a human being was at this time . . . morally unacceptable."
B. The History of Human Cloning
Cloning is not a new concept; it has been around for quite some time. There are many occurrences that have led us to the point we are at now: is a cloned human being in our future?
Cloning Has Not Been Recently Added to the Dictionary
Cloning is an old story, primeval in history. Dictionaries commonly define clones as organisms derived from other organisms and continuing the same genetic make-up. In the early nineteenth century, Thomas Robert Malthus wrote that the population of humans tends to exceed available resources. Charles Robert Darwin suggested in the middle of the nineteenth century that the reproductive potential of a species is great. He also believed that the generation of enormous numbers of individuals played a role in evolution. How, then, would it benefit mankind were humans to be cloned at the workbench of the cell biologist?
The use of "nuclear transplantation" as a means toward cloning animals was first developed by Drs. Robert Briggs and Thomas King working at the Institute for Cancer Research in Philadelphia in 1952. These doctors used frog eggs, because the eggs of a frog are very large and readily accessible to manipulation.
The idea of human cloning filtered into public consciousness in the late 1960s. It was not the kind of knowledge that invoked fear though; it was more comical than anything.
In 1966, Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel laureate geneticist, wrote an article in the American Naturalist. He gave detailed eugenic advantages to human cloning and other forms of genetic engineering. A year later, Lederberg devoted a column in the Washington Post to the prospect of human cloning. The column sparked a small public debate; Leon R. Kass wrote in and argued with Lederberg. Kass stated that "the programmed reproduction of man will, in fact, dehumanize him."
The idea of human cloning was firmly planted into public consciousness with the 1970 publication of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. He wrote "One of the more fantastic possibilities is that man will be able to make biological carbon copies of himself . . . Cloning would make it possible for people to see themselves anew, to fill the world with twins of themselves . . . There is a certain charm to the idea of Albert Einstein bequeathing copies of himself to posterity. But what of Adolf Hitler?"
In May of 1971, James D. Watson wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly called "Moving Toward the Clonal Man." Even back then, he expressed the concerns of human cloning.
In the 1973 movie Sleeper, Woody Allen parodied cloning, one of the many examples of how cloning has been taken to an extreme.
Accusations that scientists have been working secretively and without chance for public debate are invalid, because successful cloning of certain invertebrates, like frogs, were cloned and publicized as early as 1975.
The 1978 movie The Boys From Brazil, based on a book by Ira Levin, had a Nazi plot to clone an army of latter-day Adolf Hitlers. The book In His Image: The Cloning of a Man by David Rorvik was also published in that year. This book was about an aging millionaire who did not have an heir, but succeeded in creating "not exactly a son."
In 1979, not even a cloned white mouse existed, but many scientists knew that most, if not all, of the procedures for mammalian cloning were at hand. Cloning became entrenched in popular culture in the 1980s.
In 1983, Davor Solter and James McGrath established a protocol for transferring nuclei from one mouse embryo to another. This was critically important for two reasons: (1) It demonstrated the general feasibility of using nuclear transfer technology in mammals, and (2) It introduced a modification of the technique used in frogs that greatly increased the rate of embryo survival. They published an article in the journal Science in 1984, stating "the cloning of mammals by simple nuclear transfer is biologically impossible."
Steed Willadsen used nuclear-free unfertilized eggs, rather than one-cell embryos, as recipients for donor nuclei in 1986.
Really, How Much of a Surprise Was Dolly?
Starting the 90s off with a bang, an announcement was made that a portion of the U.S. Human Genome Project’s Budget will be set aside each year for studies of the social and ethical implication of genetic research. The Human Fertilization and Embryology Act of 1990 states that an embryo cannot be created outside the human body without authorization. Many feel that this law was intended to outlaw human cloning, as it uses cells taken from adult organisms.
Two George Washington University scientists, Jerry Hall and Robert Stillman, announced in 1993 that they had "cloned human embryos." We must keep in mind, though, that embryo cloning is a far cry from adult cell cloning. Also in 1993, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Revitalization Act nullified the requirement for ethics board scrutiny of IVF (in vitro fertilization) research proposals.
In February of 1994, the National Advisory Board on Ethics in Reproduction (NABER) decided to convene a workshop on human cloning by embryo splitting at the National Academy of Sciences. In this year, the United States also passed a law that federal funds were not to be used to create human embryos. Also in 1994, Neal First at the University of Wisconsin used the donor cells of a cow from a late embryonic stage and produced four calves. One of his technicians did not provide the donor embryo cells with their proper nourishment. As a result, the donor cells stepped out of their normal cycle of growth and divided; they paused in a type of hibernation phase known to scientists as G0. Could this mean that the cells in G0 are more amenable to cloning than others? Keith Campbell and Ian Wilmut were intrigued by this possibility.
Wilmut and Campbell obtained lambs after nuclear transplantation of nine-day-old embryo donor cells. They reported their results in a March 1996 paper entitled "Sheep Cloned by Nuclear Transfer from a Cultured Cell Line."
On July 5, 1996 at 5:00 P.M., Dolly was born. The donor cell was the mammary gland of a six-year-old ewe. This was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.
Between 1996 and 1997, a law was passed that US Federal funds were not to be used for research on human embryos if they will be harmed or destroyed.
Just before the existence of Dolly was announced, the movie Multiplicity was released. On February 27, 1997, an article published in Nature made many people nervous and opened up a whole new world of debate. Through the efforts of the Scottish scientists Ian Wilmut and K.H.S. Campbell and their team at Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, they successfully cloned a sheep, which they named "Dolly." This had an unusual effect on public opinion and led to statements being issued by ethical committees and government authorities. This issue is frightening to many because it is new and not well understood; however, some have called attention to the need for guaranteeing freedom of research. There is even a prediction that the Catholic Church may one day accept cloning. Approximately thirty hours after the news of Dolly (Feb. 28th), John Marchi announced a bill to make human cloning illegal in New York state.
President Bill Clinton was quick to jump on this issue when he placed a ban on the cloning of human beings on March 4, 1997. On May 18, 1997, he asked Americans to remember that "science is not God," adding: "Our deepest truths remain outside the realm of science." "We should resist the temptation to replicate ourselves." Clinton also extended the life of the National Bioethics Committee until October of 1999. Almost a month later, on June 7, 1997, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission issued its recommendations concerning human cloning. It recommended that a ban be placed on all efforts to create a child through cloning or "somatic cell nuclear transfer." The Commission also recommended that this issue be reevaluated after a study and reflection period of three to five years. Since they felt that there would be a need for public discussion on this issue, they formed the Human Cloning Conference to aide in the general publics’ understanding and awareness of cloning.
Oregon State University issued a report on how comfortable, or uncomfortable, several religions were with the idea of human cloning on June 16, 1997. Their report entails all the various responses from the many different religions around the world.
Scientists from Hawaii reported on July 23, 1997 that they had made dozens of adult mouse clones and had even cloned some of those clones.
In August of 1997, two important announcements were made. The team at the Roslin Institute announced that they had accomplished their goal. The first lamb with a human gene was called Polly, because she was a Poll Dorset Sheep. Also, the Wisconsin Company reported the birth of a group of entirely healthy calves cloned by a new improved protocol one-hundred times more efficient than the Wilmut approach. The implications for the feasibility of human cloning are as clear as can be.
Charlie and George, the two, long-lashed, week-old, genetically engineered calves, became the latest cloning sensations on January 21, 1998. The scientists on this project announced that they gave life to the calves using an efficient new method that offers the hope of broad and lucrative medical benefits.
On January 24, 1998, Dr. Richard Seed won the public eye for advocating human cloning. He announced that he was going to start a human cloning clinic. His opponents are calling him the "modern-day Dr. Frankenstein."
On January 27, 1998, Mr. Campbell introduced a bill to the Senate, the "Human Cloning Prohibition Act." It was referred to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources and is intended to prohibit the cloning of human beings.
A month later, on February 12, 1998, Cardinal William Keeler spoke to Congress on the aspects of human cloning. He feels that cloning is "disrespectful to human life in the very act of generating it." He also feels that all the medical possibilities that cloning would provide could be accomplished through other scientific means.
On Monday, August 24, 1998, the chairman of the Dutch Biotechnology Industry Group NIABA, Gerard van Beynum, urged his colleagues to resist the temptation to create large herds of identical animals and to beware of the dangers that are attached to cloning. He says that "the driving force of why species improve themselves is a change of genetic information. The normal breeding system is the driving force of the world." "If you interfere with that system, you will be in trouble . . . it’s the same as inbreeding." Van Baynum was involved in the birth of Charlie and George, his country’s first cloned calves. The Dutch government withdrew permission for any further research after this breakthrough. Van Beynum explained the proscription by blaming emotions and saying that they overwhelm rational decisions. He also believes that, used properly, cloning techniques could lead to tremendous medical benefits. The Dutch scientists are now continuing their research in the United States.
In the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on Wednesday, August 26, 1998, there was a story about a wealthy couple who have decided that their 11-year-old collie-husky mixed breed named Missy is the ideal pet and offered Texas A&M University $2.2 million dollars to clone their beloved dog. They expect it to be at least two years before they have puppies, because a dog’s reproductive physiology is much more complicated than that of other animals. If the research is not completed in two years, the couple is willing to go up to as high as $5 million dollars to "hopefully" complete the project. The researchers’ justification for this experiment is that the research on Missy could lead to a more reliable supply of dogs to guide the blind and to assist in search and rescue missions. Also, they will learn more about canine reproduction and improve contraception and sterilization methods.
A PBS documentary called Faith and Reason aired on October 27, 1998, an hour-long special on human cloning to gain perspectives on this controversial issue.
The latest news on human cloning broke on November 13, 1998, when the announcement was made that a small biotechnology company used cloning techniques to create an embryo out of human and cow cells. The work was conducted back in 1995 and 1996. One of the many questions being raised was whether or not they disregarded a ban on the use of Federal funds for embryo research. The Worchester company produced one cloned human embryo—perhaps the first ever made—and performed the unprecedented cross-species hybridization of a human cell and a cow egg.
Where is the Road Ahead Going to Lead Us?
What does the future hold for us with this prospect of cloning human beings? There are mixed opinions, but there seems to be an overwhelming sense of fear.
Carson Strong, a professor of human values and medical ethics in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee, Memphis, stated the following: "I don’t foresee any attempts in the near future to clone human beings," "but all the scientists say that the technology for cloning human beings is coming down the road."
Dr. Richard Seed has now actually offered himself up to be cloned and his wife is actually approves. Dr. Seed is making many people very nervous, because he insists that he cannot be stopped.
Davor Solter retracted the statement he made more than a decade ago. He stated that "cloning mammals from adult cells will be considerably harder but can no longer be considered impossible; it might be a good idea to start thinking how we are going to make use of such an option."
Ian Wilmut has said quite simply: "It would have been naïve to think it was possible to have prevented this."
C. Cloning Laboratory Procedures
Back in 1979, many scientists felt that most, if not all of the procedures for mammalian cloning were at hand. Since nearly all mammal eggs are the same size, the cloning procedure ought to be applicable to most mammals, including humans. They also felt that cloning humans would be newsworthy, but that eggs in abundance would be difficult to obtain.
There are several types of cloning that have been practiced for quite some time, such as, molecular cloning, cellular cloning, and types of embryo cloning. Embryo cloning can be divided into three forms: blastomere separation, blastocyst division (twinning), and nuclear transfer. Somatic cell nuclear transfer, the cloning technique used by the Roslin Institute to clone Dolly, is a form of nuclear transfer.
At the molecular and cellular level, scientists have been cloning human and animal cells and genes for decades. The scientific justification for this form of cloning is that it provides greater quantities of identical cells or genes for study; each cell or molecule is identical to the others.
Molecular cloning of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the molecular basis of genes, is a fairly routine occurrence for molecular biologists. DNA fragments containing genes are copied and amplified in a host cell, usually a bacterium. There are many scientific experiments that rely on the availability of large quantities of DNA molecules. Molecular cloning is the mainstay of recombinant DNA technology. It has led to the production of many important medicines, such as insulin to treat diabetes and tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to dissolve clots after a heart attack.
In cellular cloning, cells are grown in a culture in a laboratory to make copies of them and are derived from the soma, or body. The genetic make-up of the resulting cloned cells, called a cell line are identical to the original. This procedure, like molecular cloning, is also very useful in the testing and sometimes the production of medicines, such as insulin and tPA.
Molecular and cellular cloning of this sort do not involve germ cells (eggs or sperm); therefore, they are not capable of producing a baby.
The cloning of animals can be divided into three separate categories: blasotmere separation, blastocyst division(twinning), and nuclear transfer.
Blastomere separation involves the splitting of the embryo soon after fertilization (2-8 cells). Each cell is called a blastomere and is able to produce a new individual organism. Totipotency is characteristic of blastomeres, meaning they possess the total potential to make an entire new organism. This characteristic allows animal embryos to be split into several cells to produce multiple organisms of identical genetic make-up(Refer to Figure 1). This process is important in livestock breeding.
In twinning, or blastocyst division, an embryo that has already been formed sexually is split into two identical halves. The two parts can be transferred to the uterus. If both halves develop, then, at most, one blastocyst gives rise to identical twins.
"In Nuclear Transplantation, a nucleus is transferred from each blastomere of a four- to eight-cell or later-stage embryo into the cytoplasm of an egg from which the genetic material has been removed(enucleated egg)." The membranes of the blastomere and an enucleated egg are fused together artificially. The nucleus from the blastomere enters the egg cytoplasm and directs development of the embryo.
Nuclear Somatic Cell Transfer
The Roslin Institute used a variant of nuclear transplantation. The nucleus that programmed the creation of Dolly was transferred from the adult sheep mammary cell, not from an embryo. Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer involves the nucleus of a mature, but unfertilized egg being removed and replaced with a nucleus obtained from a specialized cell of an adult (or fetal) organism. Since almost all the hereditary material of a cell is contained in the nucleus, the renucleated egg and the individual into which that egg develops are genetically identical to the organism that was the source of the transferred nucleus. An unlimited number of genetically identical individuals-clones-could be produced by nuclear transfer.
Dr. Ian Wilmut and his fellow researchers from the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh created an experimental protocol that forced the donor cell into a quiescent state to prevent it from replicating its DNA or dividing. They arrested the donor cell in an inactive state by culturing it with very few nutrients. The fusion occurred between an adult ewe’s mammary cell ("donor cell") and an enucleated, unfertilized ewe egg ("oocyte"). This fusion was induced using a series of electrical pulses, which also simulated the activation signals that occur normally in fertilization, initiating embryonic development. This developing embryo was cultured for six days and then transferred to a recipient ewe. The ewe carried the embryo to term. Out of the 29 implanted embryos, only one resulted in the live birth of a lamb.
There is an interesting webpage created and maintained by Arthur Kerschen that discusses how to clone a human being. He says that it is not a joke; he gives the list of materials and the procedures needed to clone a human.
D. Issues Surrounding Cloning
Lee Silver stated "The idea that humans might be cloned was called ‘morally despicable,’ ‘repugnant,’ ‘totally inappropriate,’ as well as ‘ethically wrong, socially misguided, and biologically mistaken.’" Yes, many issues arise when confronted with the prospect of human cloning, as expected. This is why there is a need for committees to review the issues and formulate a plan to regulate or even ban the new technology. There are religious, moral, ethical, social, legal, political, and other such issues surrounding human cloning. There are also issues of the potential benefits or disadvantages of cloning.
The Legal and Political Issues That Surround Cloning
The legal situation varies between different countries. There are laws against human cloning in Spain, Germany, Canada, Denmark, England, Norway and the UK. France promises to form such a law should anyone attempt to clone a human being. Human cloning is not illegal, however, in the United States. There is currently a ban on the research that could lead to human cloning and there are to be no federal funds used for embryo research.
Federal regulations governing the use of human beings in research also apply to human cloning. It is up to the Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), committees appointed by institutions (such as universities) where research is conducted, to enforce the laws against cloning. Federal Law also states that any clinics using assisted reproduction techniques must be monitored. There are also regulations on the number of manipulations made to eggs or embryos.
After the announcement of Dolly, legislation was proposed in Congress pertaining to human cloning for Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
There is also an argument by some about wrongful life. "The idea of ‘wrongful life’ is simply that an infant has been harmed and/or wronged by being brought to birth in a less than satisfactory condition or adverse circumstances. The alleged wrong can give rise to legal action for compensation.
The actions being taken to create public policy for human cloning are done with respect to the ethical issues of creating a child in this manner and to American tradition and the common good.
The Religious Issues That Arise With the Prospect of Human Cloning
"Should we clone human beings?" This question sends an electrical charge into our religious sensibilities. It shocks us into theological reflection. It may not be immediately clear what we ought to think, but human cloning is a serious moral issue in need of resolution.
Most religious thinkers who recommend public policies on cloning humans propose either a ban or restrictive regulation. Their views differ significantly; not all religions look at human cloning in the same light. Many leaders of several different religious traditions in the U.S. say they are uncomfortable with the idea. Some say that "human cloning is an idea whose time has not come yet." Others say that their community distrusts the science.
A recent 16-page report was released by Oregon State University’s Program for Ethics, Science and the Environment. They considered the views of not only Jewish and Christian faith traditions, but also African American, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Islamic and Native American understandings.
Native Americans stress the importance of the community over the individual; they believe that individuals exist as members of a specific cultural group. They fear that the narcissistic members of our society would abuse the new technology. A Native American, Abraham Kahikina Akaka, said that the aboriginal people of the world who feel that their "kind" is somewhat of an endangered species may embrace cloning. Being able to clone the best of their race may be a blessing to them.
The Orthodox Christian views are that cloning adds a "third party" to the conception of a child. They feel that a cloned child "will not be the product of love, but of scientific procedures." They also question whether or not this new person will have a soul or not. Orthodox Christians also ask "if genetic material from other animals is added to human DNA, would this make the resulting offspring non-human?" Fr. Stanley Samuel Harakas said that "mixing human DNA with animal DNA would be something more than ‘Playing God.’ It would be ‘Playing the Devil.’" Rev. Demetri Demopulos, geneticist and pastor, stated that "Much has been made of cloning humans for medical purposes. This has ranged from making another copy to supply ‘spare parts’ in organ transplantation to creating embryonic cells from mature cells for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Neither is a moral option. We cannot store living human beings in an ‘organ bank’ to make withdrawals as we will." Someone else suggested that "If cloning promises to cure genetically carried diseases or even eliminate human hunger, Christians surely could not be opposed."
The main issue with the African Americans is "Can we trust the science?" Marian Gray Secundy, professor and director of the Program in Clinical Ethics at Howard University, said that "Ethnic Americans are extraordinarily suspicious and distrustful of any new scientific technologies. This is particularly true for, but not confined to, the African American community. The history of scientific abuse and medical neglect carries with it a legacy that is permanently imprinted on the collective consciousness of these groups."
Ronald Y. Nakasone, a Buddhist priest stated "The Buddhist response to the possibility of cloning human beings is not if, but when . . . Would we accord a cloned person the benefits enjoyed by those who are born naturally? I would hope so." Buddhist and Hindu traditions feel that our priorities are out of sync.
The editor of Hinduism Today, Acharya Palaniswami, said "Most Hindu spiritual leaders are less concerned for the moral issues and casuistry surrounding human cloning than for the practical need. Why do this, they ask again and again. Will it help us to draw nearer to God if we have such bodies? . . . Will humankind’s inner consciousness be enhanced? They think not." The Hindu leaders applaud President Clinton’s call for a spiritual view on the human cloning predicament; they think it displays his "deep understanding of complex issues which cannot be resolved by science or politics alone."
The Islamic perspective, like that of the African Americans, says that society is not ready for this kind of new technology. "The laws and social ethics are too far behind the science." Dr. Maher Hathout stated that "The position of many Muslim scholars is not different than the one adopted by the Vatican. Many of these scholars have missed the point. Research and investigation are part of human nature and they must never be curbed . . . However, the moment this research becomes a commodity to be sold and traded like any other commodity, or used for political and cultural superiority, it is a violation of divine principles serving God and His creation."
Rabbi Barry Freundel sees two main questions to human cloning from a Judaic point of view: (1) whether to proceed with cloning technology? and (2) The question of the moral and legal status of a clone. He maintains that "with appropriate safeguards, we should exercise the capacity to go ahead, while raising questions about the ‘upside to cloning’ in terms of its scientific and human rationale." "The Jewish tradition would decisively say that a clone is a human being."
Cardinal John O’Connor, Roman Catholic Church Archbishop of New York, described the Catholic perspective: "Roman Catholicism supports all true progress in conventional medicine. It is common in biomedical literature to distinguish ‘negative’ from ‘positive’ genetic engineering. ‘Negative’ genetic engineering ‘cures’ a defect or ‘alleviates’ a pathology. This is the tradition of western medicine and all progress in that tradition is welcome. However, ‘positive’ genetic engineering is the construction and-or manufacture of a higher or better type of human . . . This is not truly therapeutic; it is not genuine medicine; it is not human progress and is not welcome."
The Ethical and Moral Issues Surrounding Cloning
The greatest moral objection placed on cloning lies in the claim that human beings may be unnecessarily harmed, either during experimentation or by expectations after birth. "John Stuart Mill regarded bringing children into being without the prospect of adequate physical and psychological support as nothing short of a moral crime." Recent polls taken of Americans after Dolly’s announcement showed that two out of every three people find human cloning to be morally unacceptable, while 56% said they would not eat the meat of a cloned animal.
President Clinton’s first reaction to Dolly was an ethical review; he would not have seen such urgency if an Intel Corporation announced the production of a new computer chip. "The science of life demands a different response, an acknowledgment of anxiety." "Ethical standards define what ‘ought to be done’ or ‘what ought not be done.’"
The ethical considerations of this new technology are rooted in the potential risk to human beings and to the potential human beings. Many fear the possibility of a diminished sense of identity and individuality. There are also concerns about a reduction or destruction of the quality of family life. There are many appeals to human dignity; questions arise when human dignity is threatened. Such questions are like: "whose dignity is attacked and how?"; "Is it the duplication of a large part of the genome that is supposed to constitute the attack on human dignity?"; "If so, we might legitimately ask whether and how the dignity of a natural twin is threatened by the existence of the other twin."
There are other ethical questions that arise from this issue, such as:
I am sure this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the ethical questions involving cloning goes. We do not yet have the answers to these questions and maybe we never will. It is still taking time to simply formulate the right questions. I personally like what Paul Ramsey has to say about the questions that have been raised: "A man of serious conscience means to say in raising ethical questions that there may be some things that men should never do. The good things men do can be made complete only by the things they refuse to do."
The Potential Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloning
With this controversial issue, the possibilities of advantages and disadvantages must be discussed. There are several advantages to the cloning of animals and to the cloning of human cells. Along with each of the advantages, however, there are disadvantages, risks, and warnings.
There are five important reasons why animal cloning might be useful: (1) to generate groups of genetically identical animals for research purposes; (2) to rapidly propagate desirable animal stocks; (3) to improve the efficiency of generating and propagating transgenic livestock; (4) to produce targeted genetic alterations in domestic animals; (5) to pursue basic knowledge about cell differentiation.
Cloning animals for research purposes is attractive to many scientists, because the experimental variation that often occurs with genetic differences is eliminated. This process is limited in its usefulness, however, because keeping a homozygous line is going to be difficult. Also, the overall process promises to be expensive for most animals.
Having a speedy method to breed favorable livestock has great commercial importance. Nuclear transfer may be the wave of the future to rapidly produce desirable stocks of animals. The ultimate consequences could be dangerous, however, because genetic diversity could be eliminated. Strict regulation of cloning would ensure that this would not happen, though.
The improved generation and propagation of transgenic livestock becomes of interest to the pharmaceutical and medical world. Genetically altering farm animals by the introduction and expression of genes from other species proves to be a useful technology for the future. For example, the milk of livestock animals can be modified to contain large amounts of pharmaceutically important proteins such as insulin or factor VIII for treatment of human disease by expressing human genes in the mammary gland. Also, transgenic animals could become useful for organ transplantation into humans.
Generating targeted gene alterations in domestic animals can be helpful in studying mutations of genes in a very controlled manner. Gene targeting approaches can also be used to ensure correct tissue-specific expression of foreign genes and to suppress the expression of genes in inappropriate tissues. It could also be used to directly alter normal genes, which could influence animal health and productivity.
Basic research on cell differentiation has come about with the arrival of Dolly. Developmental biologists will want to know which genes are reprogrammed, when they are expressed, and in what order. This may or may not shed some light on the specialization that occurs during the development of therapies to treat human disease.
The agricultural industry could reek the benefits of this new technology by having the ability to produce multiple identical copies of a cow that produces a lot of mile, a sheep that produces a lot of wool, and so on. They could create an elite stock of farm animals.
The most exciting prospect here is to modify a sheep CTFR gene to create a model of cystic fibrosis (CF) for gene therapy. In a classy move, Ian Wilmut sold the first wool shorn from Dolly to raise money for the care and treatment of kids with CF.
There are five potential uses for cloning humans or human cells: (1) a research tool to understand how genes in cells can be switched off and on; (2) growing new skin for burn victims; (3) culturing bone marrow that could be used to treat cancer patients; (4) manipulating genes to cure sickle cell anemia; (5) potential application in treating infertility.
A more controversial benefit is to provide children for lesbian couples. Normally they need an outsider to donate sperm; with cloning they would be able to avoid this.
There are several disadvantages associated with cloning, such as significant scientific uncertainty, medical risks, potential effects of aging, somatic mutation, and improper imprinting. A cloned child is not really a couple’s genetic child, but the child of only one of them. That imbalance may produce strains on the marriage the child might suffer identity confusion, and there is a risk of perpetuating the cause of sterility.
Why should we consider opposing viewpoints? John Stuart Mill says that "the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this."
The issue of cloning human beings is a very controversial one, and will outrage some and excite others. Nancy Duff, Princeton Theological Seminary, stated "Many people wonder if this is a miracle for which we can thank God, or an ominous new way to play God ourselves." A Time magazine poll asked "Is it against God’s will to clone human beings?" The poll results showed that 74% said -‘yes’- and 19% answered -‘no’." Steed Willadsen says that the role of a scientist is to break the laws of nature."
All Opposed Say "Nay"
Offensive, repugnant, disgusting, grotesque, and repulsive are the kinds of terms used by many to describe the prospect of cloning a human being. These are universal feelings of many commonfolk, intellectuals, religious officials, scientists, believers, non-believers, and even Dolly’s creator. People, such as those mentioned are repulsed by the prospect of: (1) the mass production of human beings; (2) a compromise of one’s individuality; (3) the prospect of mother-daughter or father-son twins; (4) the bizarre prospect of a woman possibly giving birth to a genetically identical copy of herself, her husband, or even her mother or father; (5) the production of a replacement for a dead son; (6) the narcissistic attitude of those who will clone themselves and (7) man playing God.
In the nineteenth century, both Thomas Robert Malthus and Charles Robert Darwin believed that the world was already over-populated. Malthus said that the population tends to exceed the available resources and Darwin believed that the cloning of humans at the workbench of the cell biologist would affect the natural evolution of man.
One author states that reproducing animals or humans through cloning is an inappropriate means of reproduction because "species survive by genetic heterogeneity." "Most of us treasure uniqueness, especially among family and friends, and survival of the species demands heterogeneity—not sameness." This same author believes that cloning humans is unethical because of the procedures required to obtain oocytes and because the transfer of the clone to the uterus of the foster mother-to-be is not without hazard.
Martin Marty says that "Crossing the new scientific horizon produces intuitions that science now possesses the key to a door most would rather have locked forever. The folk language draws on clichés: ‘Don’t fool with Mother Nature’ and ‘You shouldn’t play God.’"
Abigail Rian Evans believes we should refuse cloning humans because it is morally wrong. She listed four reasons why we should not clone human beings: (1) it is not a necessary solution to any human tragedy; (2) it fosters a reductionistic rather than holistic view of human nature while treating people as means not ends; (3) it undermines the structure of the family and human community; (4) it creates a pressure to use this technology and make it a goal.
Many feel that the first human to be cloned will not have a good quality of life. He will be treated as a freak, set apart from others, the object of tiring scientific and public curiosity, and exposed to unending physical and psychological testing.
Even Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly, is opposed to human cloning. He stated: "We think if would be ethically unacceptable and certainly would not want to be involved in that project."
Richard McCormick, a Jesuit priest and professor of Christian ethics at the University of Notre Dame said, "I can’t think of a morally acceptable reason to clone a human being." Catholic Priest Father Saunders suggested: "Cloning would only produce humanoids or androids—soulless replicas of human beings that could be used as slaves." Brent Staples, member of the New York Times editorial board, warned: "synthetic humans would be easy prey for humanity’s worst instincts."
Osama Gaber and Charles Lessman both agree that cloning of a whole human for transplantation would be wrong, but that cloning of individual cells would be very useful. Mary Seller, a member of the Church of England’s Board of Social Responsibility, says that "Cloning, like all science, must be used responsibly. Cloning humans is not desirable. But cloning sheep has its uses."
Leon R. Kass stated in his book that "the programmed reproduction of man will, in fact, dehumanize him." He also believes that we should declare human cloning unethical in itself and dangerous in its likely consequences. He says that we should do all that we can to prevent the cloning of human beings. He thinks it will change what it means to be a human being.
All In Favor Say "Yay"
James Q. Wilson says that those who approach cloning with an open mind are facing the primary question of whether the gains of human cloning will exceed the risks. He sees the gains as: a remedy for infertility and substitute for adoption; the risks are: farming organs, propagating dictators, and impeding evolution.
John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe, Director of the Bioethics American Life League 1997, said that "we believe that even a single-cell child has the dignity of all the children of God."
Homosexuals have taken up the cause to clone children. It offers lesbian couples a way to have children that their relationships do not normally permit. Cloned children will be full-fledged human beings, indistinguishable in biological terms from all other members of the species.
Michael Spector from the Washington Post wrote "Can anybody out there provide a universal definition of a good reason to have a baby?" When confronted with adversity, parents will go to great lengths to protect the lives of their children.
Even while most cannot find a sufficient reason to clone a human being, there are many who will offer their justifications. These justifications are such things as: (1) clones could be useful in experimentation, since researchers would not have to correct for individual genetic differences; (2) someone may want to be cloned for the "search for immortality" and others may want it for "spare parts."; (3) scientists or political authorities intent on "improving human stock" could use it to produce perfect children or accelerating the evolutionary process.
The Center for Theology and the National Science (CTNS) at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley told the press that cloning is potentially good, because "God could be seen as continuing to create through human agency."
"The potential benefits of cloning may be so immense that it would be a tragedy if ancient theological scruples should lead to a Luddite rejection of cloning" (The International Academy of Humanists).
A gentleman wrote an editorial stating that when his son was killed, the hospital asked if he would like them to take some tissue for cryopreservation for future cloning. He said the option seemed morally wrong and seemed to detract from the meaning of life and death. But the temptation was very real.
It is difficult to foresee what the future will hold for this new technology of cloning human beings. The ethics committees will continue to deliberate on the issues and Congress will decide what to do about the bills that have been introduced. Will Missy, the mixed-breed collie/husky, be cloned by the Texas A & M University? Will Richard Seed succeed in cloning himself? Only time will tell the answers to these questions.
The National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), and now some members of Congress, favor legislation that would not ban human cloning at all, but would prevent cloned humans from surviving. "If cloning is found to have no effect on the health or life span of experimental animals, it would be reasonable to conclude that the same would hold true for human beings. And with this conclusion, a major-if not the major-objection to human cloning will be eliminated."
Even if the cloning of humans does proceed, the success rate, at least at first, will probably not be very high. Wilmut and his team at the Roslin Institute transferred 277 adult nuclei into enucleated sheep eggs and implanted 29 clonal embryos, but only achieved the birth of only one live lamb clone.
Pope John Paul II stated recently that "the scientific mentality has succeeded in leading many to think that if something is technically possible it is therefore morally admissible.
Carl Rowen simply stated "Whatever the future may hold, I say let the scientists be free of the shackles of our ignorant fears. Let’s resist the cries for laws creating research into what we don’t know. And let’s go on singing confidently to our lover, ‘There will never, ever be another you.’"
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