Cross-Cultural Issues in Bioethics: The Example of Human Cloning

By Heiner Roetz | Go to book overview

Some Observations on Buddhist Thoughts
on Human Cloning

Jens Schlieter

Abstract: So far, many Buddhists appear to have taken a fairly neutral
attitude to cloning. It seems that, provided no harm is done to any of the
beings involved, the procedure of cloning as such does not offend reli-
gious feelings or basic value sets of Buddhists. This is evidenced by the
rather relaxed way in which the issues of therapeutic and reproductive
cloning are discussed by South and South-East Asian Buddhists. After
identifying four main characteristics of the Buddhist ethical discourse
(considering the intention of a deed and its 'karmic' consequences for the
perpetrator; the aspects of 'contextual consideration' and 'moral self-
cultivation'), the cases of reproductive cloning and cloning for research
are discussed. Finally, the article considers the impact of Buddhist ethics
on Thailand's regulative procedures. It seems that hitherto Buddhists
have not formulated specific principles of 'Buddhist' medical ethics or
bioethics; they, therefore, appear to have less influence than Western
biomedical ethics. Yet, the positions taken by Buddhists are as manifold as
those by specialists of other religious traditions.

Key Words: Buddhism, Thailand, Southeast Asia, Reproductive cloning,
Cloning for research, Intentionalism, Legal regulation.


1. Introductory Remarks: Hwang's Buddhist Justifiction
of His Cloning Research

The following observations focus on Buddhist estimations of the ethical legitimacy of human cloning. So far, many Buddhists appear to have taken a fairly neutral attitude to cloning, i.e. the biomedical procedure of artificial, non-sexual reproduction. It seems that, provided no harm is done to any of the beings involved, the procedure of cloning as such does not offend religious feelings or basic value sets of Buddhists. On the whole, Buddhists adopt much the same range of positions as those held, for example, by Christians of Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant denominations.

Before I proceed to examine the foundations and circumstances of Buddhist reasoning,1 I would like to refer to the most recent cloning research of the Korean research team led by Woo Suk Hwang, published on the February 12, 2004 in the prestigious journal Science. The article describes the team's successful application of the Cell Nuclear Transfer

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