HUMAN CLONING – TECHNOLOGY JEOPARDIZED AT THE COST OF LEGALITY
The breakthroughs in science and technology have made the inconceivable notion of science-fiction i.e. ‘Human Cloning’ into a reality. The constantly mushrooming technology had built intriguing avenues by developing the first cloned mammal – Dolly the sheep using the technique of deriving and isolating valuable embryonic stem cells from embryos. However, the monumental progress of the science of cloning is gradually paving its way to human beings. This technology has embarked into opening the Pandora’s Box for multifarious legal, ethical and moral controversies.
Cloning refers to the creation of a precise genetic replica of a biological unit such as a human, animal, plant, cell or a molecule. The duplicate is developed via asexual reproduction and is hereditarily indistinguishable from the parent biological unit. The definition of this term is rather ambiguous and cryptic as cloning constitutes myriad processes.
In this article, the author discusses the science, methods, purposes and laws regarding human cloning. The article also highlights the colossal potential of human cloning along with the legal, moral and ethical dilemmas laden with this technology.
The Classification Of Human Cloning
The science of cloning is rendered through two methodologies namely, Blastomere Separation Technique and Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT). In this article, the author discusses cloning through SCNT.
Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) is a prominent branch of cloning. Human cloning via SCNT is defined as the process of transferring a human nucleus into a human ovum from which its nucleus has been removed where, the donor nucleus could be taken from a foetal stem cell or adult somatic cell. This technique is applicable while replicating adult cells and subsequently creating perfect clones of the cells.
Cloning can be conducted for two purposes which thereby define the two variants of cloningi.e. reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning.
Since human cloning has metamorphosed to the question of ‘when’ rather than a question of ‘if’, reproductive and therapeutic cloning through SCNT has kindled torrid debates on kaleidoscopic issues including the legitimacy of the practice.
Current Legal Regime For Cloning In India
The legal regime in India regarding human cloning is in the phase of augmentation and development. Currently, India is equipped with three legislations for the regulation of cloning through SCNT i.e. National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research,DNA Safety Guidelines and National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research involving Human Participant by the Indian Council of Medical Research. Therapeutic cloning is permissible in India according to the guidelines by ICMR as it can be propitious in research and for medical treatments. However, India has expressed sheer censure for reproductive cloning and the same is prohibited on the grounds of being immoral, unethical and disrespectful of the precious human life, in the National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research.
The guidelines also specify that the embryonic stem cells can only be sourced from ART and IVF clinics concerned with infertility. The legislation forbids the conception of embryos merely for the process of obtaining stem cell, as human lives cannot be a means to an end. To oversee, analyse and regulate all issues pertaining with stem cell research, the guidelines also constitute a National Apex Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy (NAC-SCRT) and an Institutional Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy (IC-SCRT).
Human Cloning – The Potential And Ineptitude
Human cloning has been in the marrow of a heated wrangle of arguments against it and in its favour ever since it came to the public eye.
Human cloning is favoured due to the invaluable benefits that would accrue from the potential clones thus created. Reproductive cloning enhances the reproductive liberty of individuals which is a right categorized under the right to life and the right to create life. Reproductive liberty refers to the right to procreate. Reproductive cloning shall enable individuals to exercise their reproductive liberty by creating a biological offspring of their own through this technology.
Moreover, human cloning shall have a mammoth impact on the field of science, health and medicine. For instance, a human clone could be created to be used as a genetically identical organ donor. Similarly, therapeutic cloning is enriched with the wherewithal to aid in medical therapies and treatments for life-threatening diseases such as spinal cord injuries, tissue damage, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, etc
The science of reproductive cloning shall also enable the evolution of cloned humans with alleviated immunity and sans any life-threatening diseases, thereby revolutionizing the society in the meta-view.
However, this piece of technology is not researched or utilized to its full potential because of legal barriers imposed on cloning. These barriers have been imposed because the lawmakers have constantly opined that the frailties in human cloning override its wherewithal.
The draw-backs of human cloning include the moral issue of man embodying the role of God and actually ‘playing God’ by producing cloned humans and infringing the primary ideals of life whilst altering with God’s plan for the world. Human cloning is also seen as an unnatural phenomenon and is considered as being against the laws of nature.
Reproductive cloning could be highly detrimental to the natural genetic diversity and could lead to a decline in a proper, heterogeneous gene pool that is usually maintained by normal reproductive practices. This insinuates that reproductive cloning could lead to the evolution of a monoculture, which is unlike the society that we see today.
The procedure for cloning is far from perfect and has fallacies which make the success of this technology extremely variable. This implies that the survival of a cloned human in a lab is yet not guaranteed. Therapeutic cloning is also laden with numerous technical issues such as the quagmire requirement of hard to obtain cells, to be acquired from three foetuses to treat a single patient. Moreover, there is a dearth of satisfactory scientific evidence to prove beyond doubt that cloning will be instrumental in treating diseases.
Therapeutic cloning is encumbered with the ethical issue of deliberately killing human embryos to harvest stem cells. The debacle around this issue also spurs up the question that whether a human embryo is equal to a living human person and whether sacrificing an embryo can be an apt opportunity cost to save a person’s life. In case an embryo is granted the same rights and dignity as soon as it comes into existence, then sacrificing them and treating them as a means to an end would be highly immoral and illegal. However, another school of thought states that granting the same rights and dignity as a living person to the life of a cell conglomerate i.e. an embryo is absurd. Moreover, the process of cloning could potentially lead to the commercialization of humans and treating them merely as organ rearing machines. If human cloning is legalized, it would be the advent of an era where life would be marketed and human life would become a disposable product or a recyclable service.
Human cloning is a technological miracle that needs to be harnessed with proper laws and legislations. Currently, the intersection of this technology and the law is subpar due to the multifarious legal, ethical and moral dilemmas surmounting it. Mankind is currently in a quandary due to the benefits that could potentially accrue from this technology and the issues regarding cloning. The role of the government and the legislators is pertinent to duly utilize this technology rather than letting it become a sacrificial lamb to laws. The role of law in reining on this life-savinglife-threatening technology paradox is para-mounting as it could prove to be a strong example and precedent on how laws are utilized to adapt the ever-growing domain of technology in the society.
Though society today is not ready to adapt to reproductive cloning, therapeutic cloning is being suppressed unnecessarily due to societal prejudices and legal hurdles. Embracing this life-saving technology by virtue of laws is cardinal for medical science and in the interest of the society at large. However, the outlook of legislators is stranding this pertinent technology which may never be able to develop and impact lives.
Human cloning is a dilemma that is in anticipation of being probed by mankind. Similar to any novel, life-altering technological avenue, it has its extreme boons and banes and the world is bereaved of unanimity in its application. Though reproductive cloning is rightly banned, therapeutic cloning is a diamond in the rough. This biotechnological tool is being hampered from thriving because of haphazard and incongruous regulations.
While technologies develop rapidly, it is the duty of legislators and the legal fraternity to contribute equally by regulating such technologies to create a balance in enabling the coexistence of myriad section and views in the society with the technology so that it does not end up in debris.
Title Image Source: Heart to Heart
This article has been written by Samridhi Talwar. Samridhi is a 4th year BBA LLB student at the University School of Law and Legal Studies, GGSIPU. Her areas of interest include Constitutional Law, Intellectual Property law, and Human Rights