Magazine article UN Chronicle

Considering Cloning

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Considering Cloning

Article excerpt

Opposition to a ban on the reproductive cloning of human beings is based on two main types of argument: one defending individual "rights" to a done; the other, defending scientific freedom. The first approach has a fundamental flaw: it claims the right for one person to predetermine the identity of another in the name of the individual freedom of the former.

This is based on an argument which has become increasingly familiar - the "right to reproduce". First invoked in the name of infertile couples, k has been claimed by others barred by regulations on age, family circumstances and so forth from using the technology.

Claims couched in terms of competing and conflicting "rights" appear irreconcilable. Yet, when the "right to reproduce" amounts to a consumer right of access to a market product, it is simply not on the same level as, for example, the fundamental right to found a family, as stated in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 16 defends a basic component of human life against any political prohibition, not the "right" to use any technology to overcome physiological impediments to natural reproduction. Whatever the commercial pressures, whatever the compelling personal motives behind calls for cloning, they are not on the same level as the fundamental right of each new human being to a unique identity.

The principle that each human life has equal intrinsic value transcending genetic, social or any other conditions hinges on the defining uniqueness of each individual. Cloning would remove the uniqueness that ensures no one has chosen and instrumentalized another person's identity. That uniqueness is the ultimate guarantee of human liberty. A ban on the reproductive cloning of human beings does not close the door to the use of cloning techniques in embryology or the cloning of human tissue. These issues can and are being dealt with separately.

More generally, the right to freedom of research is reinforced by the collective nature of a scientific community which shares a body of scientific knowledge and the rights and responsibilities which go with it.

As the distinction between the science and technology of genetics diminishes, there are increasingly claims to the same right to apply the technology derived from science as to conduct research. This carries risks for science, as well as for society.

When the claim to freedom of research is misused to cover the use of controversial technology, this undermines valid claims to scientific freedom. …

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