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Legalization of Human Cloning: A Holistic View

Author: Nayan David pursuing B.B.A L.L.B from Northcap University, Gurugram.


Introduction:


The idea of having the power to give birth to someone exactly like oneself is still foreign and thoroughly unexplored except for how interesting Hollywood has made us to believe. In essence, there are two types of cloning; Therapeutic Cloning and Human Cloning. “Therapeutic cloning” is the cloning of ‘embryonic cells’ to obtain organs for transplantation or treating injured nerve cells. Human cloning typically means “reproductive cloning,” the use of Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) to obtain eggs that could grow and develop into adult individuals[1]. Human Cloning in its most basic sense is the process of creating an identical copy of an already existing human which has the exact same genetical traits.

The first successful cloning of a mammal from an adult somatic cell was of ‘Dolly’, a sheep cloned in July 1996 in Scotland using nuclear transfer. The first Indian clone was a buffalo named Garima and is the lovely darling of National Dairy Research Institute in Karnal. Cloning of Human is not a new area of research and has been an ongoing topic for debate since the late 1980s and yet it is still very much unexplored, there are many unknowns in this field and only proper investments in R&D can provide the answers we seek.

In order to figure out if Human Cloning should be legalized or not, one must consider a holistic approach weighing in all the factors to form a decisive opinion.

Technical and Physical Issues:


Cloning as it seems is a way out for infertile partners to have a genetic relation with their child and may just as well act as the last resort, it can be a revelation in this regard and may come as a sigh of relief. Cloning of humans may also help in a very crucial matter wherein a long-lasting genetic disease can be cured by genetic engineering as described by Ian Wilmut, Leader of the team that created Dolly, in an interview in the journal- New Scientist.[2]

But there is more to what meets the eye, the chances of the above being successful are very bleak and the implications are much more, essentially when there are huge margins of error including the chances of producing a deformed embryo or an embryo that is non-viable. It is simply because the technology to carry out such a procedure is not as developed as is required. Such a technical procedure includes more risks of the embryo being deformed than a successful birth. This can give rise to abortions and miscarriages.

In cases where the birth successfully occurs but with a life-long disease that makes the life of the child gravely difficult and painful, and then who will be liable? Who will be the guardian of the child who would require care throughout their lifetime?

On the positive side, cloning technology is potentially very useful, therefore researchers keep on trying. Companies are investing to make copies of valuable animals and to genetically modify these animals so that humans can utilize their organs.

But, as per experts, the day when scientists can easily and routinely produce cloned animals or people -- is likely far in the distant future. The simple truth is that human cloning is inherently unsafe and more than half of such experiments have not yielded the desired result. [3]

Given how failure far exceeds success in human cloning it is only right to wait for technology to further develop.

Ethical and Societal Issues:


The first and foremost question that comes to mind is the relationship of a clone with the person whose genes he/she has been formed out of, what relationship wills the clone have? The clone will be an identical copy which would mean that from emotional characteristics to physical characteristics; even the fingerprints would come out to be the same. What can the possible implications it might have?

At the heart of the human-dignity arguments, the thought of copying a person’s genome is morally problematic, the concern is based on the assumption that the autonomy of the clone will be compromised and would result in affecting the concept of ‘human uniqueness’ as it is widely believed and accepted that a genome of a person is singularly important to a person’s uniqueness. Such an act of copying the genome and compromising the uniqueness of a person down to the fingerprint can have self-explanatory legal and criminal consequences. It would violate deeply held views concerning human freedom and one’s individuality, and could result in devaluation of clones as compared to non-clones.

There are high chances that Human cloning will foster the understanding of people, and of children in general, as ‘objects’ and such understanding that people and children born of cloning can be ‘designed’ and ‘manufactured’.

As discussed earlier, géotechnique cannot be developed in humans before putting the physical security and safety of the clones and the women who bear them at a huge risk.

But, reproduction is a birth-right and if the parameters to have a safe child by means of reproductive human cloning can be developed and dealt with then the partners that are infertile and want a genetic link to their child deserve every chance to expand their family.

Legal Status:


Around 25 countries over the world have banned Human Cloning including Germany, the United States, France and the United Kingdom but some out of these have detailed laws allowing ‘cloning of animals’ for research purposes such as Israel and China.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in March 2005 approved a non-binding declaration to ban all forms of human cloning. In early 2005, when human cloning was a much relevant topic, this news was both welcomed and criticized but it showed a much required initiation towards policy making by the countries worldwide.[4]

India, as of now does not have a specific act or law for human cloning but Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) prohibited human cloning as per “National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research” 2017,[5]India allows cloning of animals and encourages research in this area. India allows use of embryonic and somatic stem cells for research purposes, allowing the creation of a human zygote by SCNT but regulated. India allows regulated research involving introduction of stem cells and somatic cells into animals.

The right way to decide the legalization of Human Cloning is only by a thorough discussion of all factors that hold a stake but first, we need the technological means to make it happen and if and when we do; society and law might follow suit.

As of now only time have all the answers.

[1]- https://www.pnas.org/content/112/29/8879

[2]-https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18124352-600-the-moral-imperative-for-human-cloning/

[3]-https://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/11/science/in-cloning-failure-far-exceeds-success.html

[4]- https://www.un.org/press/en/2005/ga10333.doc.htm

[5]-Lahiry S, Sinha R. Indian national guidelines for stem cell research (2017): Summary. Indian J Med Paediatr Oncol 2019;40:153-4

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