Should Therapeutic Cloning be banned?


Throughout time, humans have designed, engineered, and created many of the luxuries that people in the world take for granted. The next step for some researchers today is human genetic engineering, most notably therapeutic cloning. This process involves obtaining a human embryo either from aborted babies or the umbilical cord at birth and taking the stem cells, thus killing the embryo which causes concern. As a society we need to ask ourselves, is this another breakthrough that should be promoted or an ethical downfall that must be brought to an end? The argument posed in the debate for therapeutic engineering is that the benefits of being able to grow organ replacements and heal damaged tissue in order to promote longer and healthier lives far outweighs the ethics of using human embryos. Our group on the other hand believes that although the benefits are pointed in the proper direction of ending suffering for those with certain diseases, the morality of killing the human embryo is unacceptable. Certainly obtaining human embryos for the extraction of stem cells is unethical. Here we examine the scientific process, history, and ethics of therapeutic cloning. We make our argument against this cruel process by providing diagrams, relevant examples, and background information. Ultimately, we believe that this type of research is not acceptable and should not be allowed to continue under any circumstances.


Modern genetic engineering has a relatively short history in the broad picture of the medical field. To better understand genetic engineering as it is today, one must review where it began. Nearly 60 years ago, in 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick launched the era of genetic engineering with their publishing of the structure of DNA, most notably the discovery of the double helix. In 1956 the fermentation process was perfected in Japan, leading to a more thorough understanding of DNA replication. Then, in 1966, scientists learned that a series of 3 nucleotide bases determines each of the 20 amino acids. It was in the early stages after this discovery that the National Institute of Health formed a Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee to oversee research. In 1993, the first human embryos were cloned. Since research began, a variety of animals have been cloned, including mice and frogs. Three years later, in 1996, Dolly, the first cloned mammal, was born using a process known as nuclear transfer. Soon after Dolly’s birth, President Bill Clinton banned human reproductive cloning research in the United States. (3) With the banning of reproductive cloning, should therapeutic cloning also be banned?


Therapeutic engineering has had a troubled past, mainly due to the ethical situations that arise when dealing with human embryos. The late 1990’s and early 2000’s gave rise to this new research in the area of cloning organs for transplantation in humans. The process involves extracting stem cells from human embryos, thus killing the embryo, which leads to the ethical debate. However, this process does not create a human, but a replacement organ. In 1998, researchers from John Hopkins University reported separating human embryonic stem cells which could have the potential to become any type of cell in the body. This radical step in research is very controversial due to the process of obtaining stem cells, but its results proved to be very useful because of their application to repairing damaged or even cancerous cells.

What seemed to be another major breakthrough in the development of stem cells occurred in 2004 when scientists from South Korea cloned embryos as a source for stem cells, not human cloning. This again opened the door for therapeutic engineering, known to the science community as somatic-cell nuclear transfer. A year later, these same South Korean scientists developed a method to produce more usable stem cells from fewer human eggs. Both reports were published in Science, a reputable scientific journal. However, in the same year, 2005, a University of Pittsburgh researcher Gerald Schatten discovered errors in the research done by the South Korean scientists and their research was retracted. This proved to be a setback for the development of therapeutic engineering.

In 2006, researchers from Wake Forest discovered a method to harvest stem cells without destroying the embryo, which would help to ease the ethical debate. They also determined that these cells could be applied to solving deficiencies in the brain, liver, and other vital organs. More recently, therapeutic engineering has a more focused approach on tissue development for solving problems associated with various diseases. As of today, stem cells are currently being used in bone marrow transplants to help those suffering from leukemia. Research is being performed in the area of organ regeneration, but there have been no major breakthroughs that have allowed this technology to be performed on human patients. [9]

Since the discovery of therapeutic engineering, there has been much political debate over the funding of stem cell research. When President George W. Bush took office in 2000, he ordered a review of the funding originating from the National Institute of Health. He allowed limited funding of current embryonic stem cell research to continue, but demanded that no new funds be generated for this research. Over the years, a handful of states including New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida were the first to institute funding for stem cell research. In 2005, the House passed a bill to ease the restrictions of stem cell research that President Bush set in place. In 2006, Bush used his veto for the first time in office when the House tried to expand funding for embryonic stem cell research. This battle went back and forth for the duration of President Bush’s term in office leading to a second veto in 2007.

With the election of President Obama, there is new hope for increased funding in stem cell research. Obama’s policy centers on the possibilities of future cures in which stem cells may play a significant role. In 2009, the President issued an order to revoke some of Bush’s guidelines set in place at the beginning of his presidency and to have a full review of the funding process. His bill would allow responsible and safe stem cell research, to the extent of current laws, including the use of human embryonic stem cells. However, there are still many guidelines that Bush implemented, which are still in effect today, thus limiting the amount of research allowed to be performed. Once again, genetic engineering research has reached a barrier and will have to wait for further debate and consideration. [6]

Scientific Process

The process to accomplish therapeutic cloning is very similar to that of reproductive cloning. The process involved is called somatic cell nuclear transfer and it takes two sets of human DNA to make it. First, the nucleus of a somatic cell (a body cell that is not a sperm or egg cell should be taken from a patient who needs a certain transplant) and an egg cell must be removed. The nucleus from the somatic cell is kept while the rest of the rest of the somatic cell is discarded. However, for the egg cell, the nucleus is discarded and the rest of the cell is kept. Next, the somatic cell nucleus is inserted into the egg cell and an electric shock is applied to start the division process. After several mitotic divisions, the pre-embryo is allowed to develop and produce many stem cells. Finally the stem cells are removed from the pre-embryo killing the pre-embryo, and the stem cells are encouraged to grow into tissue, organ, or body parts. After the stem cells have developed they can be transplanted into a patient in need. The process for reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning are basically the same except in reproductive cloning the pre-embryo is inserted into a surrogate mother while in therapeutic cloning the stem cells are removed and the pre-embryo is killed. Figure 1 illustrates the process of reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning. [16]

Figure 1: Process




Genetic engineering involves ethical issues. In debating the ethics of genetic engineering, we have to always ask ourselves these questions: Are we blurring the lines between species by creating transgenic combinations? Are we imposing pain and suffering on sentient creatures when we create certain types of transgenic organism? And if we blend, either intentionally or not, nonhuman animal and human DNA in transgenic organism entities sharing intelligence and sentience never before seen in nonhuman animals, should these entities be given rights and special protections? Are there any religious concerns as majority of Americans are religious one way or another?

Genetic engineering is nothing but a new bio-technique. In the process, genetic material is scientifically extracted and engineered to realize a purpose. The isolated genes then are implanted to a new species to develop transgenic. Current transgenic allows scientists to develop organisms with capabilities to grow new functions that do not normally exist in the species. [11] Transgenic can be broken into three categories: plant-animal-human combinations, animal-animal combinations and animal-human combinations. [5] A simple example of a plant-animal-human transgenic combination is that the DNA of mouse and human tumor fragments are inserted into the DNA in tobacco, thus giving the harvested plants a potential vaccine against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Also, scientists use other transgenic plants to create edible vaccines. [5] For example, by inserting human protein into bananas, potatoes, and tomatoes, scientists can create fruits and vegetables with edible vaccines against hepatitis B, cholera, and diarrhea. [5] In spite of its revolutionary nature in improving our daily food quality, its ethical issues remain a concern. For example, when boundaries between human and nonhuman creatures are blurred and all the bio-manufactured products are put on the shelf of our grocery stores, is it against our moral standard to eat the products that contain human DNA? Another legitimate concern is whether the bioengineered food would cause health problems associated with transgenic.

Here is another good example of ethical issue involving genetic engineering. A company called Calgene developed a genetically engineered tomato called Flavr Savr in the US and Europe. [7] The tomato is engineered to stay firm for a long period of time and is able to maintain firmness even within days of ripen on the vine. It has been put to the market. It was the first commercially grown genetically engineered food and was granted a license for human consumption. [7] It certainly violated moral standard. First, by extending the shelf life of the tomato, the sellers are able to cheat on the customers and giving them a false impression on the freshness of the tomato. Also, by growing the crop further away, possibly in another country, the companies are able to avoid from regulatory controls of labor and environmental laws. [12] Ethical concerns certainly loom over the new technology and its production.

Another debate on ethical issue in genetic engineering is about creating living creatures out of genetic material. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and teacher of Alexander the Great has an enormous impact on the Western thought toward ideal of animals and plants. [1] He states that “nature makes nothing without some end in view, nothing to no purpose, it must be that nature has animal and plants made for the sake of man”. [12] This ideal that animals and plants are created for humankind either by God or the processes of nature has dominated western attitudes to animals, plants and the rest of creation for many centuries. According to animal right groups, any moral beings should understand that animals are members of the moral community, and should not be used as food, clothing, and especially research subjects, any form of cruelty is unethical for any kind rational beings. [2] It is even more dangerously unethical to create living creatures. Think about the situation when genetic engineering technology has developed to a level where human beings can be cloned, and a technology of blending nonhuman animal and human genes is used to create living creatures. All this will lead to the emergence of a different type of breed. If we apply Aristotle’s idea that all animals are made for the purpose of the man, it would result in that the cloned pre-embryo could be used for organ harvesting, creation of living organisms and using them as labor or slaves or even prostitution. Plus, due to its potential economic benefit within the new industry, its unethical threats are almost impossible to prevent. Certainly, its potential moral concerns cannot be ignored.

Perhaps the biggest ethical concerns are heavily involved in religions. Since overwhelming majority of Americans are religious, Christian, Jewish and Muslim in particular. Now matter whose god they believe in, most people would agree that it is wrong to “play god”. [17] Obviously, according to the religions, creation of life is entirely beyond the role of human beings. Cloned human beings are not really human beings. They are abominations. Even in Buddhist or Hindu religions, it also violates their beliefs of reincarnation. [17] In short, because genetic engineering promotes crossing species boundaries and creating living creatures out of genetic material and against beliefs of most of the religions, certainly, it has triggered a serious debate over its ethical legitimacy.


There are several reasons why we should and should not continue research into therapeutic cloning. Stem cells can be made to grow new nerve cells to combat dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and even strokes. Eventually therapeutic cloning can be used to produce replacement limbs for those who lost a limb in an accident. Brand new organs can be grown and provide for the patients as soon as they needed it, instead waiting for the matched organ which may take months even years. It will greatly increase the survival rate of the patients. Also, by growing the organ with the same DNA as the patient, the new grown organs will not be seen as a foreign object and will not rejected by the patient’s immune system. Blood cells can be altered to combat blood disorders such as diabetes. Yes, therapeutic cloning can help save lives by providing essential body parts, but how long will the cloned body part be useful?


The cloned body part may cause problems and may only be noticed after several years of use. There are too many risks and resources needed for therapeutic cloning to be applicable. For therapeutic cloning to be used, hospitals would need a large numbers of human eggs to be extracted from women. Extracting eggs from women is painful, costly and sometimes unreliable. Even if there were a large supply of human eggs, the stability of the eggs with the infused somatic nucleus is very poor and can require hundreds of attempts before obtaining a viable egg. The Somatic cell nuclear transfer procedure currently cannot be automated, and has to be performed manually under a microscope using a pipette and is very resource intensive. Human error will always be a factor and costly. President Clinton banned human reproductive cloning in the United States; if research continued for therapeutic cloning, it would not be long before someone clones a human.


Through the history, scientific process, and ethical examination, we have proven that therapeutic human cloning is immoral and should not be accepted by any means. The emotional, religious, ethical, and scientific damage caused by the process of obtaining the stem cells far outweigh the benefits. Although the technology may eventually be able to save lives, it does not come without a detrimental cost. Each time a human embryo is examined, the embryo is in fact killed, which from an ethical standpoint should not be permitted. It is as if doctors and scientists are able to play the role of God to decide what happens to the embryo’s which from a religious viewpoint alone is wrong. The possibility of this process creating living organisms is immoral and could eventually be damaging to humankind. As the genetic engineering revolution of foods has proven in the past, tampering with life is extremely dangerous with the high possibility of being deadly. Currently, nearly eighty percent of Americans believe we should not pursue human genetic engineering and we should “listen to what medical students, the great majority of Americans, and the international community appear to be saying…[We] don't want to run the huge risks to the human community” [13]. If only we would heed such wise advise. As a nation we cannot stand by and let this process continue. Instead, we must be assertive and let our voices be heard to those politicians involved in making such tough decisions about funding.


1. “Aristotle.” Wikipedia. 30 June 2010 <>
2. “Animal Right.” Wikipedia. 30 June 2010 <>
3. “Cloning Timeline.” The New York Times Company 30 June 2010
4. David, Karen. “The Ethics of Genetic Engineering and the Futuristic Fate of Domestic Fowl.” The Alliance for Animals. 30 June 2010
5. “Ethical Issues in Genetic Engineering and Transgenic” July 1, 2010 <>
6. “Federal Policy.” Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009. 30 June 2010 <>
7. “Flvr Savr.” Wikipedia. 30 June 2010 <>
8. Glenn, Linda. “Ethical Issues in Genetic Engineering and Transgenics.” 30 June 2010
9. Godoy, Maria“Key Monents in Stem-Cell Debate.” Cell and Science
10. Mann, Charles, “The First Cloning Superpower.” Wired. 30 June 2010
11. Manohar, Uttara.“Genetic Engineering Ethics.” 30 June 2010
12. McDonagh, Sean. “Ethics and Genetic Engineering.” VOICE. 30 June 2010
13. Pray, Leslie. “Embryo Screening and the Ethics of Human Genetic Engineering” 2008
14. Robinson, B. “Terapeutic cloning: How it is done; possible benefits.” Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 29 October 2005. 30 June 2010 <>
15. Smith, S.E. “What is Therapeutic cloning?” 30 June 2010
16. “Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer.” Wikipedia. 30 June 2010 <>
17. Sorresso, Damien. “Genetic Engineering: Medical Research or Playing God?” 30 June 2010
18. “Therapeutic Cloning.” Explore Stem Cells. 30 June 2010


** Alan O'Donnell**

Religion has historically been something that has impeded the creation of new and important scientific discoveries. An example would be that of Galileo’s work with a heliocentric universe model. For a long time the Catholic Church defended that the universe was centered around the earth, which is known to be incorrect. When Galileo brought evidence up that would negate this fact he forced to “curse and detest’ his opinions and placed under house arrest.
In this paper they cite Aristotle and his idea that animals and plants are made for the purpose of man. However, this quite the opposite, animals and plants have evolved to a state where they can thrive in their environment and humans have learned how to use these creatures to our advantage. Humans are not the only organisms that use other species to their advantage, many animals and plants rely on other organisms for their survival as they have evolved to. Evolution has always been an issue with the church due to the fact that it opposes the main idea that a god has created the earth and everything inside of it. Since Darwin’s publication of his theory of evolution there has been mounting support for the theory, making it generally accepted idea now.
Using religion as the deciding factor in scientific morality has and will cause possible major advancements to be overlooked or denied.

Lauren Darnell

It is clear that Group 1 put a lot of effort into their assignment. They make very good supporting arguments against therapeutic cloning throughout the body of the paper, mainly using the argument of ethics. I agree with their conclusion the therapeutic cloning research should not be allowed to continue in the United States. The reoccurring ethical issue they use is that the removal of stem cells results in fetal mortality. This raises moral and religious concerns, both of grave importance. Another issue they point out is the use of genetically engineered foods in markets. At first glance, this may appear highly beneficial. Taking a deeper look, however, one will discover the negatives of such items. The group mentions specifically cheating consumers and avoiding labor controls and environmental laws. Both are important moral issues that need to be taken seriously by the country as a whole. Religion is the final ethical issue of the paper. This could, in fact, be the most important issue surrounding therapeutic cloning. Religion is such a huge factor throughout nations and communities. Therefore, it is vital to respect religious beliefs and standards of those worldwide. All in all, I believe nature should be allowed to take its course without human intervention.

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